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Proving the Old Boy’s Still Got Legs, Robinson Carries Richard Spooner to Victory in the Lafarge Cup … Jean Llewellyn reports from Calgary for PhelpsSports.com
Calgary, Canada - July 7, 2006 – No stranger to the winner’s circle at Spruce Meadows, the 18-year-old Robinson thrilled the crowds when Richard Spooner rode him to victory in the Lafarge Cup – the concluding international class on day three of the ‘North American’. In fact, the wonderful old boy was still fighting at the end of the jump-off course, in defiance of his advancing years.
The $50,000 Lafarge Cup over a 1m50 Table A course saw a field of 26 whittled down to eight, with six clear rounds and the fastest two four faulters who contested the jump-off in reverse order of points and time.
German course designer Werner Deeg once again posed a number of challenges, especially the right turn to the final line, and the triple combination, fence 11 a, b and c, the penultimate test on the 12-obstacle course. Although there was plenty of room to make stride adjustments following fence 10, the line jumped towards the spectators, which seemed to affect concentration, and more than a few riders made a complete pig’s ear of the approach to the first element of the combination.
Drawn first in the jump-off, with its long serpentine lines, Beezie Madden, one of the fastest four-faulters in the first round with Judgement, gave the stallion a speedy, solid ride, but they left the ring having made a single, uncharacteristic error at the fence four vertical.
Mexico’s Federico Fernandez, riding his own 10-year-old Danish Warmblood Garibaldi, was quick out of the blocks and kept his foot on the gas throughout the round. Although Garibaldi isn’t the fastest horse in tight turns, he has a huge ground-covering stride, and apart from a minor hiccup when they rattled 11 a, they attacked the course in style and crossed the line clear in 45.78 seconds. Mary McKenzie from Lake View Terrace, CA was unable to muster the same form with Cirque du Soleil and exited the ring with eight faults having lowered rails at fences one and four.
Beezie Madden, returning with Integrity for her second jump-off ride, picked up early momentum, and avoided the Judgement error to maintain a clean slate, albeit nearly half a second slower than Fernandez. Young Canadian, Jenn Serek, a surprise qualifier for the jump-off, opted for caution and steered the longest route around the course with Shin Shin, but a fault at fence 5 and the slowest time relegated them to eighth place.
No such tactics for Rich Fellers, whose gung-ho ride with Gyro saw some gymnastic use of legs although the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood was unable to keep himself out of trouble at fence four and they finished with four faults in 45.64 seconds.
… And then Robinson entered the ring – a Gem Twist and Milton look-alike who manages to ‘wow’ the crowds wherever he appears. The long serpentine turns certainly suited this veteran campaigner who was feisty to the last, and caused a few hearts to flutter as he fought Richard Spooner’s hands in the long turn to the first element of the double combination. As the pair landed clear after the last, they were met with a huge roar, and there was no doubt the spectators were keeping their fingers crossed for Robinson when Kyle King entered the ring, last to go, with Estival. As it happened, when a rail from fence two hit the turf, there was a collective sigh of relief. It was all over and Robinson had added another victory to his long and ever-growing list of accomplishments.
There are few superlatives remaining that haven’t already been employed to describe Robinson’s achievements throughout his long career, so I asked Richard whether the horse still had the ability to surprise him. “Robinson’s always surprised me. He’s always been there for me for the past 11 years and that one horse has changed my career. He’s taught me a lot about horsemanship and riding, and when he comes out you can see how fresh he still is.” Richard continued: “He loves to be in the victory gallop, he loves to be in the final line. It means so much to him to do this that I feel it’s my responsibility to manage him carefully so he can have as many years doing this as he wants to have, and as long as he’s jumping the way he is I’m going to let him keep going and keep him, hopefully, in the winner’s circle.” Richard added: “This was a big win for him and it’s so nice to come and do it at Spruce Meadows in a major competition. He likes the environment and the crowd, and he jumps better than he would normally. It’s rewarding to win on any horse, but it’s hard to put in words what it means to me to do it with that horse.”
Assuming Robinson has taken nothing out of himself with this evening’s efforts, he will line up with Richard once again for Sunday’s Chrysler Classic Derby, the concluding class of the Spruce Meadows summer season and the ‘North American’ tournament.
Full results: www.sprucemeadows.com
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