Not one, not two, but three clear rounds were produced during the running of the $145,000 Cenovus Energy Classic. Statistics show that, since 1990, there have only been 14 clear rounds in 543 attempts.
Leslie Howard of the United States, aboard Lennox Lewis, posted the first clear round. Then, the nail biting started. Surely, there wouldn't be another clear round.
Enter Richard Spooner of the U.S. and his mount, Cristallo. Clear No. 2.
"Obviously, and honestly, I was hoping they wouldn't go clear," Howard said. "But in my heart, I had a feeling there would be one or two more clears."
"The horse [Cristallo] has been like the energizer bunny," said Spooner, who recorded his first-ever Derby win at Spruce Meadows last month.
"I've been graced this far with an unbelievable, solid horse."
It didn't end there, either. Under the famous Spruce Meadows clock tower entered the horse named "V" under the guidance of Katie Prudent, an American rider with an impressive riding resume and coaching credentials to match. Prudent was flawless as she attacked all the natural obstacles on the near kilometere-long course.
Her clear round made it three to return to the shortened jump-off course set by designer Michel Vaillancourt, the individual silver medallist at the 1976 Montreal Olympics.
Howard, who was first to return, completed the shortened course with one rail down for four faults and a time of 41.90.
"Going in the jump off and knowing Spooner and Prudent are behind you, you have to go as fast as you think your horse can go."
Spooner, nicknamed the "Master of Faster," was poised to take the ride to the bank, so what does he do? First jump down!
"I would have bet $100,000 I wouldn't have had that down," said Spooner, who finished with 4 faults and a running time of 39.79.
"I was flabbergasted."
That left the door wide open for Prudent. She just needed to keep all the rails up and ride into the victory circle, which she did, collecting the top prize of $35,000 with a clear round and a time of 43.20.
"Now that I'm getting to be such an old bag, it's a great win for me," Prudent joked.
This legendary horse woman just happens to be the godmother and, maybe more importantly, the coach of one of the youngest show jumpers ever named to an Olympic equestrian team. Prudent's student, Reed Kessler, who celebrates her 18th birthday on Monday, will be travelling to London to ride on the U.S. Olympic show jumping team.
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