|There is a quote that goes something like “Nobody said it would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.” Easy it was not this evening, for the two Champions in tonight’s Royal Horse Show. But it was most decidedly worth it for Yann Candele and Waylon Roberts, who claimed the Greenhawk Canadian Cup and Horseware Indoor Eventing titles for a record fourth and seventh times respectively.In front of a near capacity crowd in the Ricoh Coliseum, Waylon Roberts (Port Perry, ON) rode Bill Owen like a man with nothing to lose and everything to win. Sitting in third following last night’s initial round of competition, Roberts knew how costly mistakes could be at this level.“Tonight I knew I had to take a couple of risks,” said Roberts following his win. “I didn’t ride the pig jump very well but ‘Bill’ saved my butt! I was really working to get a clear round tonight because that last rail we had down last night cost us the lead coming into today. I had to change my plan a bit and I still didn’t have quite as much turning power as I would have liked, but the horse has come so far in a short period of time so I’m very pleased.”
Roberts graciously acknowledged he was in pretty good company, with Olympians and Pan-Am champions riding alongside.
“I don’t think we have ever had a competition as tight as this one,” he remarked. “It’s a real testament to the quality of riders we have here this year, and of course to Captain Mark Phillips who designed the courses and the builders here at the Royal. The atmosphere was intense in there and my horse dealt with it incredibly well.”
Tonight’s Canadian Champion Yann Candele (Caledon, ON) could say the very same thing, having just jumped three fantastic rounds on a horse he acquired less than a month ago, and who was purchased by a group of owners primarily for Candele to show on the outdoor circuit. Candele took the Greenhawk Canadian Cup for an unheard-of fourth consecutive time, finishing on an overall fault-free score of zero.
“We are just breaking in together. She has been here three days and we have already jumped three rounds and now she has a title and I am so proud of her,” said Candele. “She was purchased mostly for outdoors but for me the Canadian Championships is a big deal and there is great pride in winning it so we brought her here.”
With a starting field of 22 including the biggest names in Canadian show jumping, Candele knew he had his work cut out for him and admitted to feeling the pressure coming in as the three-time defending champion.
“It’s a championship – it’s always hard. It’s always a different challenge, it’s always pressure and you know that if you want to win the championship like this you need to be clear every day. Beth’s horse was fantastic as well so there was no room for error. Showgirl got a little bit tired and everything was very difficult in the last round. I think it was a poor performance on me and an amazing performance on her. She just carried me around when things were going wrong and wronger and she just did what she was supposed to do. I am so pleased with her.”
Runner-up Beth Underhill (Schomberg, ON) had even more reason to be excited with her reserve champion finish in the Greenhawk Canadian Cup, as it signaled the return to indoor competition for her mount Viggo following a near two-year hiatus. What’s more, tonight’s finish earned the pair one of two additional berths to compete in next week’s international division, Underhill’s “goal” coming into the Royal this year.
“It was my goal. I came here thinking I really wanted to be top-two and earn our berth in the International week – I’m really proud that we were able to do that in order to be able to stay down here and keep jumping,” said Underhill. “I really didn’t know how he would step into this ring but it just felt like he jumped better and better every round. The last round in particular he was so easy to ride and he really felt to me that everywhere he was determined to do it best. A couple of places if I didn’t get him there exactly where I wanted, he was going to help out and make it happen. The effort he gave me over the last couple of days – I am just so proud of him.”
Toronto’s Jordan MacPherson also earned the right to compete next week with Piccobello du Val de Geer, following their fourth place finish in the Greenhawk Canadian Cup.
Underhill and MacPherson will join fellow Canadians Ian Millar, Ainsley Vince, Mac Cone, Karen Cudmore, Angela Covert and Yann Candele competing Tuesday through Saturday in the prestigious international division.