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‘Captain Canada’ Ian Millar Wins Round 1 of the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup

Overtaking Beezie Madden and Integrity in a Nine-Horse Jump-Off

Wellington, FL – January 25, 2007 – With a starting line-up of 50 riders, Round 1 of the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup provided a tough challenge on day two of the Winter Equestrian Festival. In fact, “winter” was the appropriate word as a dramatic dip in temperature produced extremely chilly conditions and heavy gray skies. Fortunately, despite some morning showers, the forecast cloudbursts failed to materialize, although a persistent icy drizzle dampened the going as the afternoon progressed. It was one of those quirky days that occasionally interrupts Florida’s winter sunshine.

Those ardent fans who bundled up and braved the chill had to wait until almost the mid-way point in the competition to witness their first clear round, and although the time limit was extended from 78 to 80 seconds following the third rider, it was still tight for many combinations that followed. Among the early exits with falls were Keri Potter riding her own Rockford I, who stumbled at the first element of the treble combination – obstacle 10a – on the 13-fence course, and Irishman Cian O’Connor who was ejected from the saddle by Irish Independent Echo Beach.

Later in the draw, Laura Kraut narrowly missed a ducking when Cedric dug his heels in at the water, fence 5, but managed to cling on and, in fact, produced the “replay” of the afternoon when she re-presented the gray who appeared to soar 10 feet into the air before he safely landed on all fours on the turf. Although their basketball score put them well down the field, the pair completed their round without further mishap.

The first clear round of the afternoon came from Kent Farrington and Up Chiqui, who won the $25,000 RV Sales of Broward Grand Prix at the neighboring Littlewood Show a couple of weekends ago. On this occasion, their round wasn’t totally hiccup-free, but they produced a steady clear.

Canada’s Mario Deslauriers, from Bromont, Quebec, riding Paradygm, and Eliza Shuford with Gustel II soon joined Farrington, although Jeffrey Welles/Medici M and Eduardo Sallas Herrera/Landdame failed to qualify, despite producing clear rounds, beaten only by the clock. It was also an “unlucky” round for Laura Chapot riding Samantha, who had remained clear until the very last – fence 13 – when the gray tipped a rail: a similar fate that had earlier also sidelined Georgina Bloomberg and Nadia following an otherwise impeccable round.

Taking two bites of the cherry, Mario Deslauriers was the only rider who also maintained a clean slate with his second ride, Available Gilmore, and was immediately followed with a faultless performance from Wellington resident Norman Dello Joio and Quriel, owned by Anthony Weight and Eleanor Belknap from Jacksonville, Florida.

Number five to join the jump-off was the handsome gray Piña Colada, ridden by Todd Minikus, while Judy Garofalo Torres sneaked by riding Oliver II, with only 4/10ths left on the clock when they crossed the finish line. Completing the line-up, as the weather continued to deteriorate, Beezie Madden with Intregrity and Ian Millar, certainly in great form, riding In Style.

Sympathy for last to go, Darragh Kerinns from Ireland, however, who’d produced a textbook round with Orlando, but exceeded the time and missed the jump-off by just 8/10ths of a second.

With eight obstacles in the jump-off, including a double combination one from home, Farrington crossed the start-line with the very reflexive and uncomplicated Up Chiqui, and had they not lowered a rail at the very last fence, their 40.297 second round would have been good enough for second place instead of being relegated to fourth.

Mario Deslauriers’s first jump-off round didn’t appear to be that fast, but Paradygm wastes no time in the air, and despite a check going to the second element of the double combination, it was a well-balanced, clean performance that stopped the clock in 41.711 seconds.

For Eliza Shuford, Gustel II’s extremely careful approach loses a lot of time negotiating each obstacle, and they also lowered a rail at the last to finish with a four-fault round in 45.337 seconds for sixth place.

Rather than changing the jump-off order, there was a considerable delay while Deslauriers warmed-up his second horse, Available Gilmore, who then entered the ring looking rather spooky, and after lowering a rail at the mid-way point, finished in seventh place with 47.430 seconds.

A nasty skid in their approach to the second fence, a liverpool, for Normal Dello Joio and Quriel seemed to set the tone for the remainder of the course, which lacked the pair’s characteristic attack and flow and their subsequent eight faults dropped them into ninth place.

Todd Minikus and Piña Colada also appeared less than comfortable with the deteriorating take-off and landing areas, and a style malfunction over the first element of the double combination left them struggling for a good stride to the vertical and they lowered a rail. Their four-fault round in 44.612 seconds was good enough for fifth place. Likewise, although Judy Garofalo Torres and Oliver III gave the course their best shot, it fell short of the provisional target set by Deslauriers and Paradygm and they slipped into eighth place.

There was no doubt that a battle of the giants was about to unfold with Beezie Madden and Ian Millar going head to head. Certainly, when Madden and Integrity crossed the start line, it was by no means a hell-for-leather pace, but the gelding has a deceptive turn of speed, very efficient over the fences, although they were a little cautious in their choice of track. Remarkably, as they cleared the last and chased for the finish, they stopped the clock just 3/100ths of a second ahead of Deslauriers to claim the lead.

For anyone who’s witnessed the competitive spirit of Ian Millar, there was definitely a sparkle in his eye as he wound up the pace taking In Style to the first fence. Unlike Madden, Millar shaved the inches off every turn, choosing the tightest angles to save time. Apart from a slight rattle at the second element of the double combination, they flew the wall, having taken out a stride in their approach, then raced to the last. It was a textbook performance as they stopped the clock with nearly two seconds advantage over Madden’s time.

Asked whether she was concerned that Millar was bringing up the rear, Madden responded by laughing and said, “I’m always worried with Ian behind me.” Adding, “I thought I was a little bit conservative because the horse is still new to me and I haven’t done too many jump-offs with him. He tends to get a bit aggressive, but I thought I was efficient enough on the turns and my angles that Ian had to go a bit to beat me, and that’s what I wanted to do.” Madden continued by adding, “He’s very careful and doesn’t really over-jump, and knows where his legs are usually.”

Despite the pressure, and after being reminded that he’s been doing this forever, Millar laughed and said, “Define forever,” before adding, “It’s important to say that these high-end horses are so incredibly hard to come by, just the financial means, and there are so few talented horses that can do the work like this, so when you get one, the trick is to win with them without taking too much from them. In other words, you’ve got to manage the race-car very, very well. The three horses that were first, second and third … I thought that was extremely well done by all three riders. We gave it a good shot. You had to be plenty fast, but we left plenty in the tank as well because it’s a long eight weeks here and this is just the beginning of the year. We want these horses to last forever, so it’s management, management, management. But on the other hand you can’t stand back and not try to win. It’s a very delicate balance to strike, and that was an excellent example, what Beezie did … so efficient, and right on the money and it was going to push me hard where I could have easily had a rail.”

Asked whether the extremely tight angles had been in his plan, Millar answered, “Definitely, yes. And you had to catch just the right distance to the big pole vertical, and then you had to take the run at the last jump. You had to do it all.”

Asked whether they were surprised that we had to wait for 20 riders before the first clear in the first round, Madden said, “I was surprised. He [course designer Luc Musette] had a limit of 1.45m and I thought he did a beautiful job of building the course. It was tricky enough, and the first time we’d seen the water this year, so that was new for some horses. Probably caused a few problems, not so much at the vertical after, but the combination right next to the water made it difficult. The triple combination line was also tough off six strides, but if you did seven you risked stopping at ‘a’.”

Commenting on the size of the course for today’s competition, Millar agreed that, “I think it was built right on the money. I happened to see Mr. Musette, the course designer from Belgium, right after four or five horses had gone and he mentioned the gate under the ‘b’ element of the triple, so I think he was concerned that the horses were looking through that, stuttering and losing concentration, and I got the feeling he was wishing maybe he hadn’t put it there. However, nine clean is an excellent number in a competition like this. He is a very European course designer obviously, and if the conditions call for 1.45m then that’s what it will be. If he feels that the field is a little weak, it’ll be the technicality of the course that will go down a little bit, but never really the size. They’ll go by the book, and I saw the judge out here today because he thought that some of the jumps looked kind of stout, and he was measuring away, but sure enough they were right.” Millar continued by adding, “Many of the North American designers might have started us off a little softer on Wednesday [yesterday], but it said 1.45m in the book, so that’s what it was.”

Discussing the weather conditions, and whether they’d played a role in today’s result, Millar started by saying, “I don’t think so. Had there been much more rain, yes it would have definitely been a factor, but as it was such a light drizzle, the footing I would say stayed the same essentially. What did happen, once you get as many horses landing over the same jump, it did break up, and they’ve got their work cut out for them, the maintenance people, keeping this ground in top shape for eight weeks. It won’t be easy.”

Madden added her thoughts by saying, “I think it was the temperature and the wind making the horses a little fresher, being early in the year, than the footing having an effect.”

Asked about his motivation to return year after year, and adopting a serious tone, Millar responded by saying, “There’s no pension with that Canadian equestrian team, you know what I mean. When I was a young pup I never thought about a pension …” before laughing and adding, “I love to do it. I give the same answer all the time … I started doing this because it was fun, and it’s darn well still fun. Doing a jump-off like this is a real kick, it’s a challenge, and it’s great sport.”

Millar continued: “Does it get easier or harder? There are some extremely capable, hungry riders coming up, so to that extent you’ve got to stay right on your game for sure. So often the break point is the quality of the horse, so you’ve gotta be lucky to have, in a sense – as you’ve got to be a good horseman, a good picker, a good trainer and everything that goes with it – but you’ve got to be partnered with the top horses that can do it, that’s the real deal.”

When asked whether he’ll be going after another Olympic appearance, Millar answered unequivocally: “Definitely. Named to 10, competed in nine. Do the math! It goes to the great support teams I’ve always had. I’ve always had very loyal owners in the ownership group, which is fantastic. I must say I’ve always been connected with real sportsmen and sportswomen who really want to do it.”

Having carried the ‘Captain Canada’ nickname for many years, Millar was asked whether he thought his hero status would run to getting elected as prime minister, and he responded by laughing and saying, “Who would want to do such a thing. You stay in the tall grass. Don’t ever come out of that tall grass.”

A unique sport that pits men against women, Madden was also questioned over the age factor, given that so many riders are now competing well into their mid-life years: “I think it helps. The experience, the relationships you build, as Ian was saying, with the support staff as well as owners, family, everything, the connections you’ve made perhaps in Europe, for buying horses … also in the States, South America. I think as you get older, you get more and more of that and get more opportunities. You also have to be wise enough to snatch them up, but I think age only helps.”

Concluding, Millar agreed: “Especially the experience factor. When you’ve done many, many jump-offs like this, then you really get to know the fine points. Then again, when I watch some of these young riders, they are excellent. They are so much better in their twenties than I ever was, and that points to the fact of better training. When I was 20 years old there weren’t so many people to teach us how to do this stuff. We were still going twice around the outside, and that was the course. Then some genius thought a diagonal might be a good idea, which was bad because we all went off course for a while. So the evolution in the sport, and the technicalities, it’s like everything else … you’ve got to stay right on the game. If you ever get trapped, and are either unwilling or unable to stay with the change, that’s when you better find a new job.”



Results of Class 101 WEF Challenge Cup Round 1 - WEF/PBIEC Inaugural

January 25, 2007 – Internationale Arena - T/A: 80.00 T/A: 52.00

1 1655 IN STYLE IAN MILLAR CAN 0.00 78.204 0.00 39.936

SUSAN GRANGE

2 71 INTEGRITY BEEZIE MADDEN USA 0.00 76.951 0.00 41.708

ABIGAIL S. WEXNER

3 1517 PARADYGM MARIO DESLAURIERS CAN 0.00 78.709 0.00 41.711

MARIO DESLAURIERS

4 1711 UP CHIQUI KENT FARRINGTON USA 0.00 76.989 4.00 40.297

JAVIER SALVADOR

5 1311 PINA COLADA TODD MINIKUS USA 0.00 77.722 4.00 44.612

KARA M. TEDESCHI

6 1871 GUSTEL II ELIZA SHUFORD USA 0.00 78.790 4.00 45.337

ELIZA SHUFORD

7 1515 AVAILABLE GILMORE MARIO DESLAURIERS CAN 0.00 76.658 4.00 47.430

AVAILABLE JPRS.COM

8 469 OLIVER III JUDY GAROFALO TORRES USA 0.00 79.342 8.00 42.359

HIGHER GROUND FARM

9 387 QURIEL NORMAN DELLO JOIO USA 0.00 75.545 8.00 46.477

ANTHONY WEIGHT

10 500 ORLANDO DARRAGH KERINS IRL 1.00 80.831

DOUBLE H FARM

11 723 COULETTO K. JAMES KATHERINE MIRACLE USA 2.00 81.305

OVERLOOK FARM INC.

12 1115 MEDICI M JEFFERY WELLES USA 2.00 81.825

SHAMROCK VENTURES



PHOTO CREDIT: Ian Millar steering In Style to Victory in the $25,000 WEF Challenge Cup. Photo by PMG Pictures/Peter Llewellyn.

 

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