Beth Underhill, runner-up in the Greenhawk Canadian Cup last week,
finished second. Her horse Viggo was named Leading Canadian Horse.
TORONTO, Nov. 9, 2013 /CNW/ - America's Leslie Howard is a legend in the
sport of show jumping and she handily won the $75,000 Ricoh Big Ben
Challenge tonight at the CSI4*-W Royal Horse Show, Toronto, in front of
a standing-room only crowd of equine enthusiasts.
Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill was runner-up again tonight, following
her reserve-champion finish in last weekend's Greenhawk Canadian Cup.
Underhill's mount Viggo also received the "All Canadian Cup" this
evening, awarded to the Leading Canadian Horse in the International
Of twenty-three to start the Royal's marquee event, seven were able to
keep the jumps up to progress to a jump-off round. The crowd sensed
they were in for something special tonight when the first three clean
consisted of Team USA's three-time Olympian McLain Ward, followed by
ten-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar, and then four-time Canadian
Champion Yann Candele.
Michel Vaillancourt's outstanding course design once again forced the
riders to take all the chances and turn the impossible turns. As a
result, the clean rounds were very hard to come by. It came down to
talent, speed and more than a little bit of luck.
"My horse has been jumping well all week," explained Howard tonight. "He
was unlucky to have a rail down in the World Cup but tonight's course
was a great course for him. McLain Ward I'm sure was faster, but luck
didn't go his way with the rails, and it didn't again for Harrie
Smolders. I thought 'Wow, maybe there is a chance I could actually win
Howard truly blazed around the jump-off, practically barrel-racing the
turns she had to make to shave off the seconds. Nobody was able to come
close to her time and leave all the jumps in the cups.
A year ago, runner-up Beth Underhill could not have imagined being in
this position tonight. Her horse Viggo had been sidelined, his future
unknown. She only began competing him again this summer, progressing
through the ranks slowly, to ensure his healing would not come undone.
Her patience has obviously paid off.
"I've been a spectator myself for the last two years at this level, so I
can't tell you how good it feels to be back," said Underhill. "I'm so
grateful to have Viggo jumping at this level. He still doesn't have a
lot of experience at it, so for him to come out and show such strength
in his power, his jump and also in his mentality tonight - it was a big
step forward in this horse's career."
"You feel the electricity in the crowd. It was standing-room only
tonight," Underhill explained. "That's something we don't get the
opportunity to experience very often in our sport. To have a Canadian
contingent in those seats feels very special and definitely raised the
bar in our performance tonight. Having so many Canadians in the
jump-off speaks really well to our horse power and the quality of our
riders. We have a big three-year cycle coming up with the World
Equestrian Games next year, followed by the Pan-American Games here in
Toronto and then the Olympic Games. It really augers well for our
The Ricoh Big Ben Challenge was named in honour of Ian Millar's world
famous mount Big Ben, and tonight Millar received the Lt. Col. Stuart
C. Bate Memorial Trophy and was named the Leading Canadian Rider of the
"The Royal Winter Fair is the best, most prestigious show in North
America and one of the best in the world. And so to have any success
here is particularly gratifying, especially being the leading Canadian
rider in front of this hometown crowd."
The "Braeburn Farms" Leading International Rider Award went to Ireland's
Conor Swail, who was unfortunately unable to compete in the class
tonight following an injury he sustained during Friday night's Weston
"I think I have pulled my Achilles tendon," said Swail following the
ceremonies tonight. "Game Ready is one of those horses that even when
you are fully able to ride, you must do so very well. So tonight was
out of the picture."
"The Royal is an absolutely fantastic show. I love the atmosphere and
the crowd is very enthusiastic. And up until last night, I don't think
I have ever had a show like it in my life. I've had lots of wins but I
went in and my horses were so consistent - my horses were outstanding.
They really deserve this. It's great to be the leading rider with such
great competitors and international riders here."
Earlier this morning, the prestigious Governor General's Cup and
Lieutenant Governor's Cup classes for Canadian-bred three year-olds
took to the Ricoh Coliseum. The bay mare Sweet Be took top honours in
both classes, owned by Marie-Claude Lavallee and bred by Josee
Turcotte, both of Quebec. Sweet Be is by Sir Wanabi, who competed this
year in the Adult Amateur hunter division, winning an over fences class
with rider Vickie Robert (St. Eustache, PQ).
Tomorrow's Royal Horse Show is FREE with general admission to the Fair.
About the Royal Horse Show and 91st Royal Agricultural Winter Fair ~ A family tradition since 1922, the Royal Horse Show brings world-class
horses and riders from Canada, the U.S. and overseas, including Olympic
and World champions, to Toronto each November to compete for almost
$800,000 in prize money and prestigious titles. Over 850 horses of all
shapes and sizes participate in show jumping, dressage, indoor
eventing, driving, coaching and so much more, over the ten-days of
competition. Special features such as the President's Choice Animal
Theatre, the aMAZEing Food Journey, AG-tivity Central, Trade-Fair
shopping & educational events round out a day at The Royal. The Royal
remains a highlight of the Toronto fall social calendar, visited by
Royalty, politicians and horse-enthusiasts for generations. For
competition schedules, LIVE webcasting, results and to purchase
tickets, please visit www.royalfair.org.
$75,000 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge
Rider / Hometown / Horse / Faults : Time
Leslie Howard / Darien, CT / Utah / 0 : 37.37
Beth Underhill / Schomberg, ON / Viggo / 0 : 39.04
Yann Candele / Caledon, ON / Showgirl / 0 : 39.46
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PHOTOS AVAILABLE IN HIGH RESOLUTION
Image with caption: "American Olympian Leslie Howard and Utah took the $75,000 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge in front of a sold-out crowd to cap the international division at the CSI4*-W Royal Horse Show, Toronto. (CNW Group/Royal Agricultural Winter Fair)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20131110_C6090_PHOTO_EN_33192.jpg
Image with caption: "Beth Underhill and Viggo took second place in tonight's $75,000 Ricoh Big Ben Challenge at the CSI4*-W Royal Horse Show. Viggo was named the Leading Canadian Horse of the competition. (CNW Group/Royal Agricultural Winter Fair)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20131110_C6090_PHOTO_EN_33191.jpg
Image with caption: "Ireland's Conor Swail was named the Leading International Rider of the 2013 CSI4*-W Royal Horse Show, Toronto. Presenting the "Braeburn Farms" Leading International Rider award is Brian O'Leary, Horse Show Chairman. (CNW Group/Royal Agricultural Winter Fair)". Image available at: http://photos.newswire.ca/images/download/20131110_C6090_PHOTO_EN_33193.jpg
SOURCE: Royal Agricultural Winter Fair
For further information:
Horse Show Press Officer:
AIPS / IAEJ