British visitors William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend were on track for a top Indoor Eventing placing at Canada’s 91st Royal Horse Show, until both dropped a rail at the last jump of Friday night’s opening round in Toronto.
And Canadian Kendal Lehari put a big kink in Waylon Roberts’ plan of repeating victory yet again in the event, putting in a foot-perfect performance to steal the glory.
Fox-Pitt, who currently sits number-two in the world eventing rankings, had a bit of a scare upon entering the ring, as he found the noise of the crowd drowned out the starting bell indicating he should begin his round.
“I was very aware that I couldn’t hear the bell to start. I couldn’t hear a thing and I thought ‘I’ve come all this way and I’m going to miss the start, that would be great!’ And then I thought I was probably going to go the wrong way… There’s a lot going on out there!” he laughed following the class.
Fox-Pitt, who rode Autorytet, praised the format and concept though, agreeing that while it was always difficult to ride a “borrowed” horse as visiting riders do, the ‘hybrid’ class at the Royal is great for the sport.
“It’s fantastic for the crowd to see what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s a very different concept and the more people know about it, the better. As a rider, even if the jumps aren’t too big, it gets you out of your comfort zone. Tomorrow I’m going to try and go clear. I didn’t even hear him have the last rail down. He’s such a good horse, we had a great time out there.”
Multiple Champion Waylon Roberts also dropped the last rail to sit in third overall heading into the second round.
Fox-Pitt won the four-star at Pau in France last weekend, and Townend is a past winner of the four-star Badminton Horse Trials and the Burghley Horse Trials.
Indoor Eventing features a modified course of rugged cross-country jumps such as hedges, walls, and a bank, combined with fragile stadium jumps, whose poles and planks are designed to fall at the slightest nudge of a horse’s hoof. Penalties accumulate over two nights of competition and at the end the rider with the lowest score overall is declared the Champion. The course at the Ricoh Stadium in Toronto was designed by Captain Mark Phillips.
• Yann Candele rode his new mare, Showgirl, to victory in the opening round of the Greenhawk Canadian Cup. Second last to go, he took full advantage of his position in the order to produce a clean, fast round on a horse he has ridden just three times before.
“I was not actually planning on going fast at all, because she is a horse I really don’t know,” explained Candele following the win. “We purchased Showgirl about two weeks ago and she just arrived from Europe. So I was not pushing, but things went well and now we get to go last tomorrow night, which was really the plan.”
Runner-up Angela Covert, of St. Lazare, Quebec, finished second on Utan. The top five placings have just a four-point spread between them.
The show’s official opening included a Royal Salute to Those Who Serve, honouring the Canadian Military and First Responders, as well as the pipes and drums of the 48th Highlanders.
On opening weekend there’s also a rodeo with bull riding, bronc riding and barrel racing, and a demonstration from Australian “horse-whisperer” Guy McLean, as well as the ever-popular Jack Russell Terrier races.
The show runs to November 10.
Horseware Indoor Eventing – Round One
Rider / Hometown / Horse / Time
1. Kendal Lehari / Uxbridge, ON / Daily Edition / 67.34
2. Lindsay Beer / Midhurst, ON / El Paso / 68.10
3. Waylon Roberts / Port Perry, ON / Bill Owen / 69.24
4. Ian Roberts / Port Perry, ON / Faolan / 69.37
5. William Fox-Pitt / Great Britain / Autorytet / 69.63
Greenhawk Canadian Cup – Round One
Rider / Hometown / Horse / Time
1. Yann Candele / Caledon, ON / Showgirl / 66.16
2. Angela Covert / St. Lazare, QC / Utan / 66.82
3. Ian Millar / Perth, ON / Star Power / 67.47
4. Jordan MacPherson / Toronto, ON / Piccobello du Val de Geer / 67.49
5. Lauren Patava / Sly / Etobicoke, ON / 69.11