Caledon, Ontario – The only thing better than winning once is doing it twice as Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill proved at the CSI2* Caledon National show jumping tournament held May 15 to 19 at the Caledon Equestrian Park in Caledon, ON.
Hot off her victory in Thursday’s $36,500 CSI2* Open Welcome, presented by RAM Equestrian, Underhill of Schomberg, ON, returned on Saturday, May 18, to win the $72,000 CSI2* Grand Prix, presented by CASE IH. Her partner for both victories was Count Me In, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes).
“It’s so exciting!” said Underhill of her pair of victories. “Count Me In has not put a foot wrong all week. He’s been so efficient and confident in the jump-offs that he’s making my job easy.”
Underhill called on that reliability as she faced large jump-off fields on her way to both victories. In Thursday’s $36,500 CSI2* Open Welcome, presented by RAM Equestrian, Underhill was one of 10 competitors to successfully jump clear over the track set by 2016 Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil. Her jump-off time of 39 seconds flat was fast enough to hold off Ireland’s Conor Swail who stopped the timers in 39.29 seconds riding Valentino d’Elte and third-place finisher Ali Ramsay of Victoria, BC, who was also double clear in a time of 40.37 seconds riding Casino.
On Saturday, 12 riders managed to leave all the rails in place and advance to the jump-off. Erynn Ballard, 38, of Tottenham, ON, was the first rider back in the jump-off and set the pace with a quick time of 36.70 seconds riding Z Diamanty, a 12-year-old Holsteiner mare (Diamant de Semilly x Cor de la Bryere) owned by The Z Group and Looking Back Farm.
As the penultimate jump-off contenders, Underhill and Count Me In put their partnership to the test, turning and burning around the short course before galloping home in a time of 35.43, more than a full second faster than Ballard, to take the win.
“He’s a horse that gives his all every time out,” said Underhill, who has been partnered with Count Me In since he was six years old and just beginning his show jumping career. “I’ve been mindful of that in developing him. He’s sensitive and needed time to develop properly. Now we are in a place where that careful development has paid off.
“His owners, Sandy Lupton and Robb Caswell, have been fantastically supportive,” continued Underhill. “They always come to watch us and are the best supporters out there. It’s wonderful to have owners like that in Canada.”
Underhill and Count Me In scored big last year by winning the $500,000 CSI5* HITS Chicago Grand Prix and were recently members of the Canadian Show Jumping Team for the Nations’ Cup held in March at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL.
“It’s great to be back home, reaping the rewards of a wonderful education in Wellington,” said Underhill, 56, who operates Beth Underhill Stables in nearby King City, ON. “To be back riding on the Canadian Team for the first time since 2010 was, quite honestly, a dream come true. It never gets old!”
For Underhill, who represented Canada at the 1992 Barcelona Olympic Games with the great Monopoly, Saturday’s $72,000 Grand Prix victory was also memorable for another reason. Caledon National show organizers, Equestrian Management Group (EMG), was honouring 10-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar following his retirement from international competition.
“It was really touching to win the grand prix on a day when we were honouring Ian Millar,” said Underhill, who has ridden alongside Millar in team competition for three decades. “I was able to speak to him today and tell him how much he has done for our country. He was the first person I was on the team with and he became a real mentor for me. I wouldn’t be the rider I am without the support I have had from him over the years and from simply watching him. To me, it was an extra-special moment.”
The CSI2* Caledon National marked the first of week of Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) sanctioned competition of the season at the Caledon Equestrian Park, host of equestrian events for the 2015 Pan American Games. International show jumping competition continues with the CSI3* Classic @ Palgrave Phase Two from May 22 to 26.
For more information on the CSI2* Caledon National, including full results and a full competition schedule, please visit www.caledonequestrianpark.com.
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