Quentin Judge and HH Dark de la Hart. Photos © Spruce Meadows Media Services.
Sameh El Dahan Smokes Competition in $40,000 ATCO Structures & Logistics Cup
Calgary, AB, Canada – June 8, 2014 – The Spruce Meadows ‘National’ Tournament, presented by ROLEX, came to an exciting conclusion today 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.
The Spruce Meadows Summer Series continues with the ‘Continental’ CSIO 5* Tournament on June 12-15, featuring the $125,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ presented by Scotiabank on Friday, June 13, and the $210,000 CP Grand Prix on Sunday, June 15. The $85,000 Husky Energy Classic 1.50m will be featured on Thursday, June 12, and the $85,000 Talisman Energy Cup 1.50m will be the highlight on Saturday, June 14.
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.
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.
El Dahan and Sumas Zorro Win by Four Seconds
Setting a blistering pace in the $40,000 ATCO Structures & Logistics Cup 1.45m, Egypt’s Sameh El Dahan and Sumas Zorro, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse mare by Ard VDL Douglas owned by Joanne Sloan Allen, led the victory gallop for his first win in the International Ring. They stopped the timers in 68.557 seconds, more than four seconds faster than second place finishers, McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z (72.604 seconds). Darragh Kenny (IRL) and Picolo were third in a time of 74.295 seconds.
So how did El Dahan win by four seconds? “I really don’t know,” El Dahan laughed. “My mare is really careful, and she has a big stride. She was very neat everywhere. It was the turnbacks mainly. She was very neat to turn back and from there, I can really head to the fences because she’s very, very careful. I can just keep galloping at them. She just minds them, so it’s easy then. You drive to the fence, and she does her job. I think that’s how I won it.”
Coming to the end of the course, El Dahan wasn’t aware of how fast he was going. “I heard the commentator on the way, four fences before coming home. He said ‘five seconds,’ but I couldn’t hear if I was up or down on the clock, so I just kept coming. I thought I was slower than what it was,” he said.
El Dahan went early in the class and had to wait and see if his time could be beat, but as each competitor’s time ticked past 68 seconds, he nervously waited and hoped. “It was a long wait for me, especially at the end of the class (with) McLain Ward, Shane Sweetnam, Conor Swail. They’re all very fast riders. It was a long wait watching from out there,” he admitted.
But as the last rider completed the class and El Dahan realized he won, nervousness switched to excitement for his first five-star win and gratitude for his special horse. El Dahan has ridden Sumas Zorro for more than three years since he joined Sycamore Stables in Northern Ireland. After growing up in Cairo and competing in Europe during the summers, El Dahan made the full-time move to Europe to fulfill his goals in the sport. Business partner Joanne Sloan-Allen and El Dahan found a number of horses that they have been bringing along.
Of Sumas Zorro, he described, “I know her inside and out. She’s like my little baby. She trusts me as well; we have a really nice relationship. She’s careful, scopey, a fighter, easy to ride. She’s just a dream horse. When you sit on her, you know you’re on a superstar.”
Sumas Zorro was meant to jump in yesterday’s grand prix, but El Dahan changed her plan. “The first day she didn’t jump as good as she normally does. I think the trip took a lot out of her. We decided to give her a couple of days off, didn’t jump her in the grand prix, and I jumped my other mare,” he explained. “She was fresh for today, and I think it paid off really well. Next week I’ll move her up again to the grand prix level.”
This is El Dahan’s first trip to Spruce Meadows; he and Sloan-Allen brought four horses, two of which are showing in the national classes. This International Ring victory went to the top of his list of accomplishments. “It’s unbelievable. I’ve been wanting to come to this show for years,” he said. “I’ve been watching it on TV, and I’ve always said I’d love to ride here. It’s such a big ring and such a big crowd. With the competition that is here, the field of riders and horses, I’ve never had such a big win. It’s been like a dream come true.”
For more information and full results, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.