World of Showjumping
World of ShowjumpingWorld of Showjumping

Helios clinches the win in $571,000CAD Major League Show Jumping Team Competition

Sunday, 10 December 2023
CSI5*/2* Desert International Horse Park 2023

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo. Ashlee Bond and Donatello 141 for Team Helios. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.


Press release from Desert International Horse Park



Last season, Team Helios stood atop the podium as the winners of the 2022 Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ) season. Though their odds of winning a second season title in a row weren’t high, they still made sure they had the last word, winning the final leg of the tour in the $571,000CAD MLSJ Team Competition, presented by Visit Greater Palm Springs.

The team was the only one to come home on a completely clear sheet, with all three riders, Karl Cook (USA), Ashlee Bond (ISR), and Erynn Ballard (CAN) jumping clear efforts in round one. That set them up supremely to shine in round two, where Cook and Ballard jumped two fast clears, putting them in the jump-off for gold.

All the pressure came down on Bond, who brought forth her trusty partner Donatello 141 (Diarado x Lamoureux I, breeder Elke Schafers). With a footspeed not yet seen in the evening’s class, Bond set the fastest time of any rider, and only McLain Ward (USA) of the Roadrunners had the chance to challenge it. With a rail down by Ward and First Lady (Don Diarado x Lordanos, breeder Benno and Anja Vahrmann), the win went to Helios in the final leg of the MLSJ tour.

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo. Team Helios topped the $571,000 MLSJ Team Competition at Desert International Horse Park. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

“Donnie was perfect,” Bond reflected on her winning jump-off. “It was just forward from start to finish. Everything showed up right on that forward gallop and the turns were great and he was right there with me. I don’t think I left much room, so I was very proud.”

Team Helios felt like the comeback kids under the lights Saturday night. They had slipped in the rankings, but they knew they could come out and win. “I’m hugely proud,” Bond said of her team’s performance. “We all came out with our best horses and we’re all really fast riders. We wanted to win tonight and that’s exactly what we did. We came back and finished third overall so I was really proud of us.”

With Helios in the gold medal position, the DIHP Roadrunners took the silver medal, and the Trelawny Trailblazers took bronze. With the bronze medal finish, it was plenty to secure the Trailblazers the overall season title, never placing below fourth in any team competition throughout the year.

Photo © High Desert Sport Photo. The Trelawny Trailblazers took the overall win for the 2023 MLSJ season. Photo © High Desert Sport Photo.

“I’m excited we came home with the championship,” remarked Trailblazer Lillie Keenan (USA). “It was a lot of fun to ride as a Trailblazer this year and I’m really proud to ride with these teammates. We finished strong.”

Darragh Kenny (IRL) put in strong performances every time he stepped out for the Trailblazers. “It was amazing,” he said of the season overall. “We did an incredible job, everybody on the team. It was really fun. We were very consistent and that led to the overall win. I think we have a very serious shot next year. We have a sturdy team and Cara [Raether] is doing an incredible job. She manages it great and she did a super job with all of us. We’re very thankful for her.”

Nayel Nassar (EGY) was fresh off a win in Friday night’s CSI5* Grand Prix and third place in the CSI2* Grand Prix just earlier Saturday, so his confidence carried him to a double-clear performance for the Trailblazers.

“You’re only as good as what you’re riding and we always pull out the horses that are best suited for this class,” Nassar expressed. “I’m always competing with incredible riders which makes my job easier. It’s been an incredible season and we’re really happy to come home with the championship. We’ll start strategizing for next year.”

Though the Roadrunners took second place overall for the season, they still got a win Saturday night with Cathleen Driscoll (USA) taking the MVP award. She landed the Roadrunners on the podium every time she competed, helping them to two of their victories.

“I am fortunate to have a fabulous horse in Flotylla,” Driscoll said of her horse she rode in all the team classes. “She goes better with a little speed anyway, but she’s really stepped up beautifully in these 1.50m classes this year. It’s been great for her and it’s been great for me as well. It’s been a learning experience. I don’t have a lot of team experience so I’m learning to handle the pressure. I’m very grateful for the people who helped me get here and I’m super glad I was able to put in good performances all year. It’s an elite group of riders in this league and it’s a privilege to get to sit here tonight.”

Steve Hankin, President and CEO of DIHP, proudly witnessed the venue host two $1 million finals in two weeks, and his team came very close to the win on the final night of action. “The team is great,” he said of the DIHP Roadrunners. “We got off to a rough start with a couple injuries. On paper we were supposed to come in second and tried to give them a run for their money. The second half we really came on strong and we almost got there. It’s a ton of fun and the team did amazing. I feel great about the team and next year we’ll be sitting on the other side.”

Keean White, MLSJ co-founder, believes the two spectacular weeks in the desert are proof that the North American nations are moving towards a higher level of sport. “It never would have crossed my mind that we’d be where we are today, but I’m very proud,” he said of what MLSJ has become in just three years with the help of venues like DIHP. “Without partners like Steve and Matt [Morrissey], and our entire Major League team, it wouldn’t happen. I think bigger stuff is coming because as a group and as a continent we’re pushing in the same direction and it’s making a difference.”

The Trelawny Trailblazers, DIHP Roadrunners, and Team Helios took home additional cash bonuses that helped bring the prize money in the team final to $1 million, matching the prize money in the CSI5* Coachella Cup the week prior, and making Desert Holiday the biggest it had ever been, with aspirations to just keep growing.


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