[Calgary, CAN] American riders took center stage today to claim the top placings in the $200,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup at Spruce Meadows, the final feature class of the Spruce Meadows Summer Series.
Although all bets were on Rich Fellers and Flexible to continue their amazing streak of wins, in the end it was their U.S. Olympic show jumping teammate who relegated them to second place, beating them on time, not rails.
Beezie Madden has been nurturing her partnership with the 13 year old Dutch warmblood Simon all year, and today she guided the bay gelding through beautiful efforts to complete two clear rounds and a quick and clear jumpoff for the first place check.
Madden and Simon made all the right moves today. Photo ©Spruce Meadows Media Services
The Queen Elizabeth Cup consists of two full rounds over a 1.60m FEI course, with the double clear rounds returning for a jumpoff. Just two riders - Beezie Madden and Rich Fellers - successfully completed three clear rounds today. It’s a challenging test that resembles what the Olympic team will be asked of at the Games in less than one month, and for that reason the entire U.S. and Canadian Olympic Teams used the class as a pre-Olympic tune up.
“The jumps were all maxed out pretty much as high as they could go,” noted course designer Michel Vallaincourt.
Bright butterfly standards at a triple combination gave lesser experienced horses lots to look at. That line, which rode from a triple bar, two strides to a vertical to an oxer made for a sea of color riding in, and rails dropped often. Further, pinstriped rails at another combination also made for a visual challenge. Vallaincourt also added that the water jump was the only fence on course that didn’t have four faults or a stop, proving the point that the track was an evenly balanced challenge.
Fellers lost his grip on another first place check in the jumpoff, where, perhaps with the looming Olympics in mind, he thought twice and decided not to risk an unusually tight turn in the jumpoff, but ate up valuable time as a result. However, jumping three clean rounds today over this tough 1.60m track is no small feat, and Flexible has more than proved his readiness to jump in London.
“He couldn’t be better, he couldn’t be any better,” said Fellers.
Fellers and Flexible leave the ring to cheers after three consecutive clear rounds.
“I think it’s fantastic preparation for sure here (at Spruce),” said Madden. “In London they have three rounds just to get through the team competition and then with the individuals, it can be as many as six rounds. I think it’s looking good for us (U.S. Team.) We’ve been winning and competing against each other, and there are a lot of other competitors keeping us on our toes; Kent, Eric Lamaze.”
However, Lamaze ran into trouble with Derly Chin de Muze, his designated Olympic mount, at the aforementioned triple combination. Without his 2008 Olympic partner Hickstead (who passed away in competition last fall in Italy), Lamaze has had to scramble this year to choose a suitable horse to partner with in London, and with a stop picked up in today’s class and similar trouble at a combination last week with Derly, Lamaze is now considering riding his other horse Verdi in the Olympics.
It’s a sobering time for Lamaze, who is one of the most talented riders in the world and is regarded as a national hero in Canada. There were few dry eyes when a tribute to Hickstead played over the arena before the jumpoff; the legendary stallion is a four-time winner of the Queen Elizabeth Cup and has been sorely missed this year, by both Lamaze and his thousands of fans.
Hickstead memorial video:
Kent Farrington and Uceko have had a very successful circuit at Spruce Meadows this year, and they finished third today with one rail down in the jumpoff, but on a time that would have beat Madden’s had he gone clear.
Farrington and Uceko: definitely in the black after Spruce 2012.
Farrington candidly summed up jumping at this top international level, saying that “in a class like that, one little mistake here or there and you’re 2nd or 3rd, or sometimes 5th or 6th.”
It is true that at Spruce Meadows, even a single time fault draws a deeper line between the top riders and the rest of the crowd. But it’s for that reason that the U.S. Olympic team was chosen here, chose to stay to practice here, and will head to London as a team from here, ready to take on the world.
Top Ten - $200,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup
Rider | Horse | Nation | Round 1 faults | Round 2 faults | Jumpoff faults | Jumpoff time
- Beezie Madden | USA | Simon | 0 | 0 | 0 | 37.58
- Rich Fellers | USA | Flexible | 0 | 0 | 0 | 40.13
- Kent Farrington | USA | Uceko | 0 | 0 | 4 | 37.32
- Lauren Tisbo | USA | King Kolibri | 0 | 0 | 4 | 38.86
- Leslie Howard | USA | Utah | 0 | 0 | 8 | 63.61
- Mario Deslauriers | USA | Urico | 1 | 0 |
- Darragh Kerins | IRE | Lisona | 1 | 1
- Richard Spooner | USA | Cristallo | 0 | 4
- Christine McCrea | USA | Romantovich Take One | 0 | 8
- Lisa Carlsen | CAN | La Boom | 2 | 10