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Harrie Smolders & Regina Z wins $75,000 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge

Sunday, 13 November 2011

Harrie on Jos Verlooy's Regina Z enroute to victory in Toronto. Photo by Ben Radvanyi.Friday’s runner-up was the victor tonight, when Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands won the $75,000 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge with Regina Z to conclude the International Jumping division at the 89th Royal Horse Show. Of the 19 original entries in the class, just five qualified to start in the shorter, taller, jump-off course designed by this year’s International course designer Alan Wade of Ireland. Smolders had the unenviable position of being first in the ring in the jump-off to contest the jumps set between 1.40m-1.60m in height. Not only did Smolders have the only clear round in the jump-off, he also had a blazing time of 35.20 seconds, which would prove unbeatable by those to follow.

America’s Lauren Hough finished second with four faults and a time of 35.28 seconds, followed by Ireland’s Conor Swail and Dermott Lennon in third and fourth respectively. Second, third and fourth were decided by times within one second of each other.

“The times were all close in the jump off ,” said Smolders, “and I put quite a bit of pressure on them to beat my time and that’s where I think they made mistakes. The skinny high vertical off the very tight turn - you can lose a lot of speed and you have to balance the horses. But my horse is quite handy and very careful at the jumps. On the turning, that’s where she wins it.” he concluded.

Two-time Olympic Gold medalist McLain Ward of Brewster, New York, took the Leading International Rider title following a rather unfortunate rail in the first round of tonight’s class which left him out of the jump-off. “We were a little unlucky tonight,” lamented Ward after the class. “My horse jumped well but I had a rail in the first round and that’s just sport. He jumped great all week and I’m very happy with him. Being named the Leading International Rider this week really shows how consistent we were as it was actually quite a good battle this week.”

This year’s Leading Canadian Rider title went to back-to-back Canadian Show Jumping Champion Yann Candele. His horse Game Ready, owned by Susan Grange of Caledon, Ontario, was named the top Canadian Horse. “I’m very pleased to be the Leading Canadian Rider - it’s the first time in all these years that I come out on top,” said Candele.  “Every year it’s a fierce competition through the Canadian and International divisions, so it’s always a pleasure to come out on top.”

Candele, who is close friends with Eric Lamaze, made a point of mentioning what the loss of Hickstead meant to not only friends of Lamaze, but the entire equestrian community. Candele was pleased to hear of the Royal’s re-naming of the FEI World Cup to the FEI Hickstead World Cup Grand Prix starting in 2012. “It was a sad, sad week, with Hickstead, who was in my opinion one of the best of all time. Everyone is touched when you lose a horse of such caliber. To name one of the most prestigious Grand Prix here under his name is the right thing to do, and I think everyone will take great pride in that and try to win it in years to come.”

$75,000 Ricoh Big Ben International Challenge

1. Harrie Smolders / NED / Regina Z / 0 : 35.20
2. Lauren Hough / USA / Quick Study / 4 : 35.28
3. Conor Swail  / IRE / Lansdowne / 4 : 35.36
4. Dermott Lennon / IRE / Hallmark Elite / 4 : 35.65
5. Mario Deslauriers / USA / Urico / 8 : 36.79

Source: Press release from The Royal Horse Show/Michelle Dunn.

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