What a ride....again! Today was gorgeous--the perfect day for...well, for anything, but especially for stadium jumping. Not too hot, sunny skies, and a nice cool breeze that blew intermittently throughout.
Like yesterday, there were some real surprises, some upsets, and some glorious moments. Before the stadium jumping began, it was announced that Ian Stark of Great Britain was retiring--this was his final outing. He was given the opportunity to take a victory gallop before the stadium jumping began, and the crowd gave him a standing ovation. The ovation was repeated after his stadium round, which was one time fault away from being perfect. What a way to end a career! Once again, we see how much the fans of this sport care about those who put their heart and soul into it.
Speaking of heart and soul, I was crushed to learn that Will Faudre opted not to attend the jog up this morning, which means he's retired from competition after going double clear yesterday. We all knew Antigua was a horse with a lot of heart, but also a lot of years; he's the oldest horse at the competition. I fear that his age caught up with him, and that Will gallantly chose to make sure his best friend was ok rather than to see if he could better his own record. Bravo for Will, but I'm terribly sorry for him. My thoughts and best wishes are with Antigua.
Thoughts and prayers are also with Amy Tryon and Le Samurai, who damaged some ligaments yesterday, according to the paper. David O'Conner accepted an award for her before the competition, so I know she's with her horse. Let's hope both of them come back to this event again soon.
NOW--on to the Stadium!
While I was hoping that the women would pull one out, it was the men (for the most part) who remained "rock steady" and won the day--and the event. Clayton Fredericks from Australia, who was at his first Rolex ever, took his time and had a clean round on Ben Along Time, adding only one time fault to his score, retaining his third place before the final two went. The big, powerful bay Northern Spy was strong, and I think Heidi White Carty was tired, for the pair had one rail down, but 7 time penalties, moving them from second to fourth place.
My heart goes out to Kristin Bachman and Gryffindor, here for their second time, and sitting in first place with a rail in hand. They were putting in a very nice round, when she had a rail down and, flustered, made a left instead of a right. She found herself in front of the wrong jump, but it was too late; she took it and the next one, and was eliminated. Worse than Becky Holder last year, who got caught in rain and whose horse slipped and never recovered....she went from first place to elimination. Poor Kristin, who was having the ride of her life! I hope she's not beating herself up. I thought she did a marvelous job, and I look forward to seeing her name at the top of the leaderboard once more in the future.
Suddenly, the Aussie moved from third place to first: Clayton Fredericks and Ben Along Time are the 2007 Rolex champions! Congratulations on an excellent, solid, well ridden event!
But congratulations are also in order to a few others. Another man who has nerves of steel and whose clean jumping round and two time penalties moved him up from 5th place to 2nd place: The consistent, talented Rolex "always the bridesmaid, never the bride" Phillip Dutton, who is now riding for the United States. He and Truluck had a really nice, quietly masterful ride--one of the best of the day--and once again he proved that nerves, talent, and determination go a long way. Congratulations!
Perhaps, though, the day was stolen by the dynamic duo of Karen O'Connor and the Bionic Pony Teddy. The two entered the arena to a deafening roar, and the audience had a difficult time muffling its excitement as the pair (who couldn't see over any of the jumps!) had one clean jump after another. posting one of the day's two perfect scores, and moving them up from 7th to 3rd. As the top 20 horses were called back into the arena to accept their awards, Teddy wouldn't stand still, and pawed in excitement. When David O'Connor presented his wife, Karen, with her third place award, the announcer asked how long the two had been married, and Karen answered "Ben Along Time!" to the crowd's delight. Smart woman! And another lesson in grit and talent and determination and nerves of steel breeding success.
The other perfect round was put in by Lauren O'Brien (must be an Irish thing) and Dunraths Alto. The pair jumped big and carefully, and you'd never know the pair just finished one of the most grueling events in the world. Bravo!
Several of the horses and/or riders were clearly tired. I had hoped that Sara Mittleider and El Primero would go clean, but though they jumped well, they were obviously not at their best, with three rails down and a couple time faults.
Jonathan Holling was another man who rose to the occasion and had a clear round with only three time faults. His partner, Direct Merger, was solid and didn't look tired at all.
First-timer Melissa Hunsberger, who I was pulling for, had a tough round; she was tired, her horse was strong, and she wasn't seeing her spots. She had five rails and one time fault--but I'm happy to say she was still in the top 20. Way to go, Melissa!
My brother and sister treated us to "Paradise" in Paris this evening (Paradise is a Chinese restaurant in Paris, KY, which bosts of being in the "tallest three story building in the world"). We also got a tour of Paris and the surrounding countryside (mostly owned by Clayburn farms). What a nice town. I'm really looking forward to coming again next year.
Karen, I got the monkey butt breeches!
Until next year.....