It’s a victory that was 40 years in the making.
Olympic show jumper Amy Millar, daughter of 10-time Olympian Ian Millar, continued a longstanding family tradition at the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto on Saturday night: she won the Canadian Championship!
It’s an inevitable goal when your father holds the record for most wins of the coveted title. Ian has captured the championship 12 times (and counting). This weekend marks Amy’s first national title.
“[The Royal] has been such a big part of my life for so long, I’ve probably wanted this for the whole time I’ve been alive!” laughed Amy. “So, it feels pretty good!
In fitting tradition, father and daughter went head to head for the honor. Ian was leading after the First Round on Friday, posting a quick and careful clear with his veteran partner Dixson. Amy and her Olympic mount, Heros, were in third position going into the Saturday’s second round, just behind Ali Ramsay and Hermelien VD Hooghoeve.
The eldest Millar predicted that Saturday’s result would depend on the course designer.
Said Ian on Friday night:
“Well, often in these championships the course designer keeps it at the same level of difficulty for the next phase and then you tend not to see a lot of change in the standings. If he really starts ticking it up [on Saturday], it will change around, which makes it a better competition. Where I stand now, I hope his course is simple tomorrow, but in the interest of the sport, let’s jack it up and make everybody jump!”
And that’s precisely how it played out.
Course designer Guilherme Jorge (BRA), the mastermind behind the 2016 Rio Olympic courses, raised the stakes, building one of the toughest tracks in recent Canadian Championship history.
“I’ve done this class I don’t know how many times, by far, this was the biggest and most difficult Canadian Championships that’s been built,” said Amy.
She believes it’s a reflection of the current roster of Canadian riders.
“When I was at home looking at the list, of the 22, there were six pre-qualified and most of the others were threats, they were players. In the past, it hasn’t been like that. This is the first time that our field has been this strong,” said the 40-year-old rider.
Among them were Olympic medalists Tiffany Foster, Ian Millar, Mac Cone and Hugh Graham; two-time 2017 FEI World Cup qualifier winner, Isabelle Lapierre; three-time Canadian Champion, Ainsley Vince and 2017 World Cup finalist Keean White. Rounding out the field were Ramsay and Laura Jane Tidball, who’ve logged top FEI ranking class finishes in the past week, and Amy’s brother Jonathon, who finished second behind his father in the 2007 Canadian Championships by a narrow margin.
In the end, Amy clinched the 2017 title with a double clear in Saturday’s class aboard her Rio Olympic partner, Heros.
“I just had to keep telling myself to ride well, jump clean, stay focused,” said Amy. “Every time the thought of qualifying for International week next week or winning entered my mind, I pushed it away and said, ‘Just concentrate on what you know. Ride well. Jump clean rounds.’ Obviously, it worked!”
As is the Millar way, Amy now has her sights set on an even bigger goal: the World Equestrian Games (WEG). And she feels her 10-year-old BWP bay gelding is in prime form to do it.
“I feel now like he is back to where he was before the Olympics. We had a bunch of things this summer that were up and down. What he did last year as a nine-year-old horse was above and beyond what he knew how to do. He did it because his heart is big, not because he knew how to do it. Then this year, it took a bit of rebuilding,” revealed Amy.
“I’m so pleased because I’ve got my eye on WEG next year. I’m pleased to have him on top form again.”
You can bet they’ll be using the same “ride well, jump clean, stay focused” strategy to do it.