June 9, 2014–The Spruce Meadows ‘National’ Tournament, presented by ROLEX, came to an exciting conclusion Sunday with the $210,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup 1.50m Derby. Quentin Judge (USA) and HH Dark de la Hart, owned by Double H Farm, sped to victory in the class over Angel Karolyi (VEN) and Indiana 127 and Richard Spooner (USA) riding Cristallo. In the $40,000 ATCO Structures & Logistics Cup, Sameh El Dahan (EGY) and Sumas Zorro were far and ahead the rest of the field for the win.
It was an incredible final day of the ‘National’ Tournament, with a record official attendance for Sunday at the ‘National’ at 38,962. The total tournament attendance was 87,082.
There were 15 entries in the $210,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby. The course, which was designed by Leopoldo Palacios seven years ago, is the same each year. The test of endurance and stamina asks questions at a variety of jumps, including double liverpools, the table bank, the derby bank, and the Devil’s Dyke. There are 19 numbered obstacles and 25 jumping efforts on course.
Watch an intrerview with Quentin Judge
Palacios said, “I designed this course seven years ago. I (have) only had three cleans. I think it was good; I don’t see real bad pictures. Every rider has the chance to do it. I had faults almost everywhere, and I am very happy for this. The riders were wonderful today and gave the best effort. I congratulate the winners today.”
Riding out of the number one spot in the order, Karolyi and Indiana 127, owned by Hollow Creek Farm, set a respectable mark to beat with eight faults in 155.82 seconds.
Karolyi recounted, “Today, I thought he jumped a beautiful first round. I underestimated the Devil’s Dyke. I rode in a little soft, thinking I would have a big gallop towards the end. I just didn’t make it to ‘c’ and had that down. Then I lost my concentration and basically rode terrible at the last one and had the last jump down. I was glad that I had another chance to ride it, and I did better.”
Many rails fell as competitor after competitor failed to match Karolyi’s finish, until Judge and HH Dark de la Hart entered the ring.
The pair finished three seconds faster, and with eight faults, they both waited to see what the rest of the class would produce. Neither imagined that a jump-off would be in their future, but when the last two in the ring, Spooner and Cristallo and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) on Fineman, both had eight jumping faults and one time fault, Karolyi and Judge knew they would have to return to the ring.
Spooner had a plan going into the derby and stuck with it after having an early rail. He slowed down in order to hopefully finish on four jumping faults and no more than three time faults for the win, but it did not go according to plan. “I made the decision then that I was going to cough up some time, because with three time faults I would still win. When I had the rail, I bought myself an extra 12 seconds,” he explained. “He just accelerated out (of the grob). Rarely is it deep on the way out. For him, it was deep because he has no fear with that grob. Other than that, we would have had a better day, but I’m still happy with the day we had. It didn’t work out, but I think mathematically I did the right thing.”
Going first in the jump-off, Karolyi was neat in 49.70 seconds and most importantly, kept all the jumps up. Judge followed, and he rode with speed through the first part of the course in order to have time to prepare for the “Canada flag planks” jump, which he had down in the first round. With that left standing, all it took was seven strides galloping to the final oxer, which they cleared. With a time of 45.73 seconds, Judge captured his first win in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows.
Judge recalled, “I’m lucky enough I got some really good advice from McLain Ward and his team before I went in. He said it’s not crazy fast, and I didn’t need to take too many risks. But I knew I had to take time to the Canada planks (that) I had down in the first round. It’s a hard jump anyway, and I really had it down in the first round. I thought if I could go as fast as I can up until that point, I could take some time. I heard the announcer say I was two seconds up. I almost did six (strides) coming home because I wanted to get through it!”
Karolyi has been paired with Indiana 127 for a year and a half, and since the horse had some time off, he has been working on Indiana’s fitness. “He’s actually in the best physical condition I’ve ever had him in. I had plenty of horse left,” he noted.
Karolyi felt that Indiana 127, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Indoctro, would have no trouble with the derby elements on course. “He’s a nice, bold jumper. He doesn’t really look at anything,” he said. “He did the Parcours de Chasse yesterday. He jumped everything very well, and we were fifth in that. I was quite comfortable going in.”
Although Cristallo, a Holsteiner gelding by Caretino x Cicero, is 16 years old, Spooner said that he still has energy to spare. “My shoulders are sore,” he joked. “I picked the wrong bit. I thought I’d put the soft bit in, it’s a long course, he’s so old, and I realized as I was walking up to the ring that it was a big mistake. He was just ravenous. He was ready to go. He’s a freak of nature. Rarely do you have a horse that has that type of endurance. He didn’t even break a sweat out there. I think the mistake I made is that I didn’t do him in the grand prix as well yesterday. He was too fresh.”
Judge has been working on “Dark’s” fitness and felt he was more than ready for this derby. “He bucked about 20 times coming out of the ring (after) the jump off, so I think I did (have lots of horse left). He’s really fit right now,” he said. “I had a really good feeling about it for the last couple of weeks. I’ve never done a derby on him, but he’s playful and he’s brave, and he really seems like he enjoys what he does. We’re lucky enough at home on our farm to have a slide bank, double liverpools, all those things. I tried to school him out there a couple of weeks ago, and he was pulling me down to everything. I thought if I was looking for a good derby horse, this might be the one.”
HH Dark de la Hart, an 11-year-old Belgian Sport Horse by Kasmir van Schuttershof x Nonstop, has been “unbelievable” for Judge. The pair won the $35,000 Husky Energy Cup 1.50m in the Meadows on the Green at last year’s ‘Continental’ Tournament, and they have been on two winning Nations Cup teams for the United States. This was Judge’s first International Ring win at Spruce Meadows.
“For sure, it’s my biggest victory. That horse is really special to me,” Judge said.
Final Results: $210,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby
1 HH DARK DE LA HART: Belgian Sport Horse / S / 11 Kashmir van Schuttershof x Nonstop
QUENTIN JUDGE (USA), Double H Farm: 8/0/45.73
2 INDIANA 127: Dutch Warmblood / G / 12 Indoctro x Unknown
ANGEL KAROLYI (VEN), Hollow Creek Farm: 8/0/49.70
3 CRISTALLO: Holstein / G / 16 Caretino x Cicero
RICHARD SPOONER (USA), Show Jumping Syndication Intl: 9/166.21
4 FINEMAN: Swedish Warmblood / G / 11 Feliciano x Beach Boy
SHANE SWEETNAM (IRL), Sweet Oak Farm: 9/168.61
5 WRIOMF: Dutch Warmblood / M / 11 Tangelo van de Zwthoen x Julius
CHRISTIAN SORENSEN (CAN), Christian Sorensen: 12/149.64
6 WORLDS JUDGEMENT: Dutch Warmblood / M / 11 Judgement x Farmer
LISA CARLSEN (CAN), Alycia Hayes: 16/157.80
7 ABSIE: Belgian Warmblood / M / 14 Corland x Heartbreaker
ANDREW RAMSAY (USA), Shalanno Farms LLC: 16/161.91
8 FANTASY: Hanoverian / M / 9 For Pleasure x Acorado
DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Oakland Ventures LLC: 16/164.09
9 ANTARES: KWPN / G / 9 Manhattan x Cavalier
PABLO BARRIOS (VEN), Stal Thijssen: 20/157.98
10 ACHIME: Warmblood / G / 9 Chin Chin x Heartbreaker
LESLIE HOWARD (USA), Jerome Guery: 20/163.90
11 RIVIERRA: Warmblood / M / 9 Cool Fontaine x Speed Clayetois
SCHUYLER RILEY (USA), van Decraen Lieven: 24/157.45
12 MAN IN BLACK: Dutch Warmblood / G / 12 Gentleman x Unknown
JACK HARDIN TOWELL JR. (USA), Jennifer Gates: 28/164.73