The jets have landed, the horses have settled in and the final week of showjumping competition is under way at Angelstone. Attracting a huge field of 47 horses, the 'International' has emerged as one of the marquee events on the North American FEI circuit, with riders representing five countries.
If Thursday night's $33,500 'Gilt' Open Welcome was an indicator of the intensity of competition that will be seen on Saturday afternoon, it's clear that the thousands of spectators who will make their way to Angelstone this weekend will be in store for one of the most intense show jumping displays to ever take place in Eastern Canada.
Mexican course designer, Oscar Soberon, set a track that brought only one clear round through the first 20 competitors. As the class saw more horses take the course, more names began to be added to what would become an incredibly intense jump off featuring 10 of North America's best rider-horse combinations.
To secure the win, riders would have to negotiate a perilous inside turn during the jump off to a huge vertical on the way to the finish line. A number of riders had set a conservative pace by opting to forego the ambitious inside turn in favor of a top ten finish.
Candace King, Kelly Soleau, Georgina Bloomberg and Leslie Howard all turned in double clear rounds within one second of each other at a grouping of times at 46 seconds to set the leading pace.
The first rider to attempt the risky turn was Ireland's Connor Swail and Ariana, fresh off a recent win at last week's FEI World Cup Qualifier at the Caledon Equestrian Park. The duo electrified the crowd by putting in a double clear performance and shaving a full 6 seconds off the winning pace.
Ian Millar tested the course with the first of his two mounts in the jump-off with Star Power, but unfortunately the pairing were not firing on all cylinders and ended up with a disappointing 12 fault performance.
Not to be deterred, Millar confidently entered the ring with his second partner, Dixson, and set off on what would go down as one of the most intense jump-off finishes in recent memory.
Millar came off a huge combination and landed securely, unleashing a stop-turn maneuver that left the crowd in awe, speeding towards the finish line in the hunt for Swail's winning time, crossing in a time of 40.07 seconds, besting the Irishman by three quarters of a second.
The two competitors have enjoyed a heated rivalry in recent weeks, going one-two in a number of International competitions. Saturday's $100,000 FEI World Cup Qualifier will present yet another opportunity for Millar to continue his winning ways, which included a win at the richest event in show jumping, the $1,500,000 CP International at Spruce Meadows.
The International, presented by Groupby and Gilt Restaurant, is set to take place at Angelstone this Saturday afternoon at 4pm. The class will feature at least 40 horse-rider pairings going after the $100,000 purse and present yet another opportunity for Millar to extend his win streak.
Source: Press release from Angelstone.
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