|The 91st Royal Horse Show officially opened tonight at the Ricoh Coliseum amid fanfare and ceremony, mixing tradition with innovation and excitement.
Caledon, Ontario’s Yann Candele is the three-time defending Canadian Champion. He had the luxury of riding second to last in tonight’s opening round of the Greenhawk Canadian Cup, and he took full advantage of his position in the order to produce a clean, fast round on a horse he has ridden just three times before.
“I was not actually planning on going fast at all, because she is a horse I really don’t know,” explained Candele following the win. “We purchased Showgirl about two weeks ago and she just arrived from Europe. So I was not pushing, but things went well and now we get to go last tomorrow night, which was really the plan.”
Runner-up Angela Covert, of St. Lazare, Quebec, knew she had to step-up to secure herself a premium spot in the order for tomorrow night’s second round.
“I could feel right from the beginning that my horse was jumping well,” said Covert of her long-time partner Utan. “I’ve never really used him as a speed horse and this is an interesting format with this being a championship. You really need to step on it a little bit tonight to determine your order for round two tomorrow. I’d say I was a little conservative, knowing who was behind me, you know Yann is always SO fast. Tonight you really had to jump a clean round.”
With the top five placings having just a four-point spread between them, tomorrow night’s strategy will be vitally important for anyone planning on taking home the Greenhawk Canadian Cup.
Kendal Lehari of Uxbridge, Ontario, put a big kink in Port Perry’s Waylon Roberts’ plan of repeating victory yet again in Horseware Indoor Eventing, putting in a foot-perfect performance to steal the glory in tonight’s opening round. Lehari and Daily Edition bested visiting British riders William Fox-Pitt and Oliver Townend, both of whom had perfect rounds, until each experienced the agony of having the last rail down on course.
Fox-Pitt, who currently sits number-two in the world rankings in the sport of eventing, had a bit of a scare upon entering the ring tonight, as he found the noise of the crowd drowned out the starting bell indicating he should begin his round.
“I was very aware that I couldn’t hear the bell to start. I couldn’t hear a thing and I thought “I’ve come all this way and I’m going to miss the start, that would be great!” And then I thought I was probably going to go the wrong way… There’s a lot going on out there!” he laughed following the class.
Fox-Pitt praised the format and concept though, agreeing that while it was always difficult to ride a “borrowed” horse as visiting riders do, the ‘hybrid’ class at the Royal is great for the sport.
“It’s fantastic for the crowd to see what it’s all about,” he said. “It’s a very different concept and the more people know about it, the better. As a rider, even if the jumps aren’t too big, it gets you out of your comfort zone. Tomorrow I’m going to try and go clear. I didn’t even hear him have the last rail down. He’s such a good horse, we had a great time out there.”
Multiple Champion Waylon Roberts also dropped the last rail to sit in third overall heading into tomorrow night’s second round. He won’t go down without a fight.
Tonight’s official opening included a Royal Salute to Those Who Serve, honouring the Canadian Military and First Responders, as well as the pipes and drums of the 48th Highlanders.
The second rounds of both the Greenhawk Canadian Cup and Horseware Indoor Eventing take place in the Royal Horse Show tomorrow evening, Saturday, November 2nd. Feature performances tomorrow night include Australian horse whisperer Guy McLean and the ever-popular Jack Russell Terrier races.
Opening weekend also includes the Ontario Toyota Dealers Royal Rodeo, Sunday, November 3rd, back once more to keep visitors on the edge of their seats. Bull riding, bronc riding and barrel racing are just a few of the highlights of this exciting afternoon, where Amber Marshall of CBC’s Heartland will co-host.