Devon, PA - It was another glorious day at the Devon Horse Show and 15 horses lined up for the $50,000 Idle Dice Open Jumper Stake in the storied Dixon Oval at the 2012 Devon Horse Show. This afternoon's class served as the second half of the third USEF Observation Event for the U.S. Show Jumping Team for the 2012 Olympic Games.
Fourteen combinations, 13 of which are vying for a trip to the 2012 London Olympic Games, tested Michel Vaillancourt's track and only two horses managed to leave up all of the jumps.
Charlie Jayne (Elgin, IL) cruised to an exceptional clear on Pony Lane Farm's Chill RZ adding just one time fault to seal the victory over the difficult course.
"I thought the course was big," said Jayne. "I thought the course was as technical as two nights ago. I thought it was hard and that the jumps came up quick. I thought the water came up quick and that lie was very difficult. I thought you needed some stamina, I think it was a big round two nights ago and it was bigger today. By the last line, I think your horse really needed some energy left. I couldn't have asked much more from my horse; he was amazing all week."
Chill RZ missed the USEF Selection Trials due to a laceration that required sutures, so the 9-year-old Zangersheide gelding has returned with a vengeance jumping consistently clear efforts. Chill RZ made light work of a course that took some serious jumping. Jayne's belief in his horse's ability is evident. "I couldn't ask much more out of my horse, he was amazing," said Jayne. "He was amazing two weeks ago (in Kentucky) - I think he's a world class horse."
McLain Ward (Brewster, NY) and Grant Road Partners' Antares F scored an emotional victory in the $100,000 Grand Prix of Devon on Thursday night, but on Saturday afternoon - the Dixon Oval belonged to Jayne. Ward settled for second with the 12-year-old Baden-Wurtenberger gelding who had the liverpool down at fence 11. It was the entrance to a difficult last line that claimed multiple rails.
"It would have been better if I hadn't had that jump down," said Ward. "My horse also really performed brilliantly. The comeback curve has been quick. I think I took the jump I had down a touch for granted. It's normally not a hard jump for him and maybe I was riding the triple bar already. I was a little bit upset with myself. I actually thought he jumped better today than Thursday."
They had the fastest round of the four-faulters, finishing with a time of 69.01. For Ward, who had been out for four months with a shattered kneecap, being back in the ring is incredibly rewarding. He is still chasing a spot on the Olympic Team, if he makes it - it will be his third consecutive Team and his previous two trips have yielded Team Gold medals. He heads to Spruce Meadows in Calgary.
Antares F scored the Little Big Man Challenge Trophy, awarded to the Leading Open Jumper and Ward took home The Orchard Lodge Perpetual Trophy, awarded to the Leading Open Jumper rider for their efforts throughout the week.
Christine McCrea (East Windsor, CT) and Romantovich Take One, the double Gold medalists from the 2011 Pan American Games, rocketed around to place third. They had an unlucky rail at the narrow vertical at fence seven to claim the second fastest four fault round of the day. Owned by Windsor Show Stables, the 12-year-old KWPN gelding seems to be returning to his Gold medal form, they were 6/10ths of a second off Ward and Antares' time.
"I feel great," said McCrea. "My horse jumped as well as any of the horses in the class. He jumped it easily. He felt like he had a lot of energy and he was focused. That rail was just totally unlucky; I didn't even feel him hit it. I thought he elevated well. But that's how it goes. Overall, my horse feels like he's peaking, so I'm really happy."
Beezie Madden had three horses in the class and led the way on Coral Reef Via Volo. She chose to jump the 14-year-old Belgian mare for selection purposes only - not for prize money - so her lead-off clear round (the only one of the day) was irrelevant to the final standings of the class. Her effort was nonetheless impressive - but Madden (Cazenovia, NY) felt her fitness wasn't quite as good as her other two horses and that dictated her decision. The sassy mare didn't know the difference and proved her wrong on Thursday and again on Saturday with two faultless efforts.
"She's the least fit of them all and she hadn't done a big course like this in so long," said Madden. "I thought the others were more ready. Shows you how much I know... I thought Simon was close both times. He jumped fantastic today; I don't think he touched another fence. It was a hard call, but I picked her."
Coral Reef Ranch's Coral Reef Via Volo was on the Gold medal-winning team with Romantovich Take One, and picked up Individual Silver in the process. She missed the Selection Trials due to a skin infection in Florida so she will head to Spruce Meadows in Canada to contest her second Observation Event. Each long-listed horse-and-rider combination must contest two.
"She felt right back in the groove," said Madden. "Probably surprisingly so because I thought the others were more ready. I expected her to do well, but to jump two clean rounds was impressive I thought." Madden settled for sixth on Abigail Wexner's Simon with a four fault effort and ninth on Cortes 'C'.
For live streaming, news, the link to the Long List, photos and to follow the 2012 U.S. Show Jumping Team visit;http://www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2012Jumping/
Per the USEF Selection Procedures, in order to remain in consideration for the U.S. Olympic Show Jumping Team, these athlete/horse combinations are required to compete at two of the following Observation Events listed below:
The Del Mar National Horse Show
Del Mar, California May 1-6, 2012
Kentucky Spring Horse Show
Lexington, Kentucky May 8-13, 2012
The Devon Horse Show
Devon, Pennsylvania May 29-June 2, 2012
Calgary, Alberta Canada June 13-17, 2012
Following the completion of these observation events, FEI Nominated Entries will be submitted to the FEI on June 17. Twelve athlete/horse combinations can be named to the FEI Nominated Entries. The USOC Final Entries will be submitted no later than July 6, 2012.
The 2012 Olympic Games will take place July 27 - August 12.
Photo: Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ (Amy Dragoo)