Over the history of the ‘National’ Derby at Spruce Meadows there have been two great horse/rider combinations that have successfully scored a true hat trick in winning three times in a row.
Those show jumping heroes include Ian Millar with Big Ben and Beezie Madden with Judgment. Today, Richard Spooner (USA) and the great Cristallo added themselves to that roster.
If that horse’s name sounds familiar, it should. HE’S 19 YEARS OLD.
“He is an incredible animal—maybe once or twice now I’ve been lucky but he really is a once in a lifetime kind of horse,” said Spooner.
Asked what has made Cristallo such a great derby horse, the American rider remarked, “He fears nothing, he is incredibly brave and he just kind of drags me around—the whole course—I don’t know if you can tell but I’m just saying, ‘Whoa,’ asking him to slow down! I always try to go deep in the corners. You know, after every jump, it’s like I’m throwing a parachute out the back of a funny car to try and get some drag to actually slow us down,” he laughed.
The course, first designed by the late Pamela Carruthers(UK) and later modified by Course Designer Leopoldo Palacios(VEN) in 2007, is a test of stamina with 19 obstacles spread across 1,100m of the International Ring field. The CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby includes all of the natural elements of the International ring including the Bank, measuring five meters in length, a double of liver pools, three-meter open water, table top, dry ditch and devils dyke with three elements set at 1.45m.
Did we mention that Cristallo is 19 years young?!
Second place went to Luis Alejandro Plascencia (MEX) aboard his vastly younger 11-year-old Selle Francais mare Salamera De La Nutria.
“I have competed in the derby five times now—but because It was the first time on this mare, I was very surprised to be second. I knew she was brave, but sometimes in the derby they just don’t want to go, in many places you just expect them to say, ‘No!’”, he laughed.
“When I saw Richard go I just knew he was going to be clear so I was almost happy because I really didn’t want to have to jump off. You know when I ended up second I was so happy and it was a really, really good day for me.”
Finishing third in the derby, and capping a fantastic week at the ‘National,’ was Team Spruce Meadows’ resident rider Chris Surbey. The Canadian rode two horses in the class—Artisitic, a bay mare and Carnaval, a chestnut gelding.
“This was [Artisitic’s] first derby so I was very please with her bravery, a few mistakes, but overall I was happy with the round,” said Surbey.
“Carnaval was fantastic. I mean, when I was walking up to the in-gate Richard was jumping clear so that certainly put the pressure on, jumping clear is a very hard thing to do in the Derby. I am normally a bit slow on Carnaval so right from the start I knew I had to get on the time in case I made a mistake I would be further up the line—closer to Richard.”
The Spruce Meadows Summer Series continues next week with The Continental tournament.