July 6, 2014–The ‘North American’ Tournament CSI 5* at Spruce Meadows concluded on Sunday with an extraordinary showdown in the $210,000 Cenovus Energy Classic Derby. It was déjà vu from the ‘National’ Tournament in June, as Angel Karolyi of Venezuela and Quentin Judge of the USA battled it out in an exciting derby jump-off. Judge took the win four weeks ago and was hoping to repeat his victory with HH Dark de la Hart, but this time, Karolyi and Indiana 127 took the win. Will Simpson (USA) and Geledimar placed third.
Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) designed the derby course seven years ago with a demanding 19 numbered obstacles and 25 jumping efforts. It is an incredible test of endurance and stamina for both horse and rider, including double liverpools, a table bank, a 26-foot, steep derby bank, and the Devil’s Dyke. The course is the same for every derby competition.
On Sunday, Palacios saw 27 entries with the two impressive clear rounds of Angel Karolyi and Quentin Judge. Two more finished on four faults each. During the first derby of the summer, Karolyi and Judge jumped off following eight faults each over the main course. On Sunday, they both mastered the track.
In the 29-year history of this derby competition at Spruce Meadows, Karolyi and Judge were only the 18th and 19th riders to ever go clear over the course out of 615 entries overall. In the jump-off, the two riders returned in the same order as week one of the Summer Series. Karolyi and Hollow Creek Farm’s Indiana 127 jumped double clear over the short course in 38.13 seconds. Judge and Double H Farm’s HH Dark de la Hart had eight faults in 39.31 seconds to finish second.
Will Simpson (USA) and Monarch International’s Geledimar had just four faults over the first round course in the fastest time of 136.32 seconds to finish third. Richard Spooner (USA) and Show Jumping Syndication International’s Cristallo had four faults in 136.75 seconds to place fourth.
Course designer Leopoldo Palacios was happy with the result in Sunday’s competition and was also impressed with the exceptional efforts of the top horses and riders.
“I am very happy,” Palacios smiled. “I had 30 riders, and it is becoming popular. There were very good rounds, not only these three (Karolyi, Judge and Simpson). At the beginning I was worried, but at the end, I say it was good. It was safe for the horses, and they were jumping nice.”
Winner Angel Karolyi has been riding Indiana 127 for a year and a half and has had increasingly good results with the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Indoctro x Voltaire). Sunday’s victory was his first International Ring win at Spruce Meadows and a significant moment in his career.
“I’m glad I finally got my win in an important class like this one,” Karolyi acknowledged. “It’s a very special win for me. Not only probably the biggest win in my career, but also a horse that I really believed in. He finally is showing me this year that I was right in believing in him. This horse impressed me at the beginning of the circuit. I was second to Quentin, and he produced a beautiful round. I was not surprised that he went clear again. Obviously his horse is a very good derby horse as well. This time I’m just glad to be the winner.”
Speaking about Indiana, Karolyi added, “He’s very relaxed, very honest, and easy to keep the same pace around the whole course and not stress too much. By the end of the course he still has enough energy to keep jumping the jumps properly.”
Karolyi chose a little bit of a different tactic going into the jump-off this time around, explaining that he had planned to take more risk.
“This time I said, ‘Ok, last time I went a little bit on the safe side, a clear round,’ and now I said, ‘Ok, I got second for sure. I’m going all out, and if it works out, it works out.’ In the ‘National’ Tournament I went a bit safe and clear and he was faster. This time I thought, ‘If I lose, it’s not because I went too slow.’”
Not much changed in preparation for this week’s competition other than keeping Indiana 127 in top physical condition, but Karolyi now had experience to his advantage.
“I think more than helping him, it helped me,” the rider stated. “It helped me to ride the Devil’s Dyke properly. Last time I didn’t ride enough through it; he looked a little bit and I had ‘c’ down. It wasn’t really his fault. Both rails last time were my fault. I had an early draw; I went first in the derby. Watching a few rounds definitely helps. For the horse, it was the same. For me, it did help having one round already.”
Judge and HH Dark de la Hart, an 11-year-old Belgian Sport Horse by Kasmir van Schuttershof x Nonstop, also had the experience of their win under their belt.
“Last time when I did the derby at the ‘National’, I didn’t really have any expectations,” Judge stated. “I wanted to do well at the beginning of the week and thought, ‘If the derby goes well, great. If it doesn’t, it’s ok.’ Now when I knew I had a good derby horse, I showed him in one class this week and tried to keep him fresh and his energy up and aim him for this class.”
“I knew he had gone fast,” Judge said of the jump-off. “Before I went in, McLain Ward watched Angel’s jump-off and he said that he went fast and was quick. He said, ‘Your horse is faster naturally, but he really went fast.’ I knew I could really trust my horse those first three or four jumps, and he’s really good turning back on verticals. The ‘b’ of the double got a little bit far away, the back rail, and I think I was a little deflated for the last jump and had it down also, but the horse was perfect.”
Third place finisher Will Simpson knew that he had a good derby horse in Geledimar as well. The mare had shown in the derby three years ago as a nine-year-old and was very competitive even then.
“She’s just been on fire. The whole team at Monarch has been great,” Simpson stated. “It was just such a beautiful day out there, so I thought, ‘Well, we’ll just go for a nice ride.’ The horse went along with me. I was just happy I wasn’t in the jump-off with those two guys. They’re fighters.”
“It’s a spectacular event. It should be preserved,” Simpson said of the derby. “The course designers are usually my enemy, but I have to take my hat off to them. They have done a great job with setting the course for the field of horses. It was very, very tough today, but there were a lot of great horses in there. The result was just spot on.”