Sarah Johnstone Defends Her Title at National Capital Show Jumping Tournaments

Ottawa, Ontario – For the second year in a row, Sarah Johnstone and Leonidas stood in the winner’s circle following the $10,000 Modified Grand Prix held Saturday, August 13, at the National Capital Show Jumping Tournaments taking place at the Nepean National Equestrian Park in Ottawa, ON.

The $10,000 Peel Maryborough Mutual Insurance Company/Henry Equestrian Insurance Brokers Ltd. Modified Grand Prix was Saturday’s featured show jumping event.  A total of 19 horses vied for the victory, with defending champions Johnstone and Leonidas posting the first clear round over the course designed by Mexico’s Catsy Cruz.  Olympic team silver medalist Ian Millar of Perth, ON, assured the crowd of a jump-off by jumping clear with Dryden while his student, Karen Sparks of Ottawa, ON, immediately followed suit by doing the same with Victoria.

First back, Johnstone of Aurora, ON, galloped over the shortened jump-off track, leaving all the rails in place before crossing the timers in 42.10 seconds.  Millar gave it his best shot with Dryden, a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood stallion owned by Susan Grange.  The pair had the crowd’s encouragement coming home, but the scoreboard told the final tale when a time of 42.27 seconds left the nine-time Olympian just off the winning pace.

Sparks meant business as she galloped around the course with Victoria, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood mare owned by Brookstreet Stables.  Ironically, a rail fell at the final fence, the Brookstreet signature jump, ending her chances of victory as the pair did have the fastest time, 41.68 seconds.  Sparks finished in third place, just as she had on Friday riding Ferraro K in the $10,000 NationWide Open Welcome.

For Johnstone, 20, it was her second consecutive win in the $10,000 Modified Grand Prix.  “Being first back is always a bit tricky because you’ve got to set the pace,” explained Johnstone of her jump-off strategy.  “You have Ian Millar behind you and Karen Sparks who is very competitive and always does well at this event.  My plan was to be clear and efficient, and to set a good pace for them.  Luckily enough, it worked out.”

While the pair only had to defeat two other jump-off contenders this time around, last year they outran an 18-horse jump-off. “It’s his type of class,” said Johnstone of her success with Leonidas, a 14-year-old Hannoverian gelding owned by Trish Crang.  “He is great on grass and it is a beautiful field to ride in, which makes a huge difference.  Today he warmed up super and, generally speaking, when he warms up well and I am on it, it is a good combination.”

Johnstone, who will begin studying at the University of Guelph next month, has been training with two-time Olympian Jay Hayes at North Ridge in Orangeville, ON, since she was 12 years old.  The Hayes family organizes the National Capital Show Jumping Tournaments.  “It is fantastic, it adds so much more to it,” said Johnstone of her win.  “It is encouraging to do well here.”

Two weeks earlier, Johnstone scored her first International Equestrian Federation (FEI) sanctioned win by riding Starlet to victory in the $32,000 CSI3* Open Welcome in Bromont, QC.  “Honestly, I just think about the next class,” said Johnstone of her winning streak.  “You are only as good as your next class.  There is always a bigger show that you want to win, and you have to keep looking forward to the next win.  That’s what keeps you going.”

Her coach, Jay Hayes, commented, “Sarah is a beautiful up and coming rider, mature past her years, and a terrific worker.  I’ve had some good students in my long teaching career, and I can compare her to Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze, who worked with me for three years when he was around the same age.”

In Saturday’s other featured event, the $5,000 Brocolli Hill Hunter Derby, Kelley Soleau of Marlborough, Connecticut, emerged victorious riding Vianco v/d Rampaarden, who usually competes in the show jumping ring.  In their Hunter Derby debut, the pair earned a score of 100 to triumph over 44 other entries.

“To be honest, I really only entered the Hunter Derby for fun,” said Soleau, who trains with the Millar family at Millar Brooke Farm in Perth, ON.  “I thought it would be a nice break for ‘Vinnie’ from the jumper ring.  He performed amazingly well, considering he has only done a total of 10 hunter rounds before.  I guess it just goes to show that you never know what they are capable of.”

Approximately 500 horses will compete during the two weeks of competition, running August 10 to 14 and August 17-21 at the Nepean National Equestrian Park, conveniently located at the 417 Queensway and Moodie Drive.  The $25,000 Hayes Co. Grand Prix, beginning at approximately 2 p.m., will be the featured event on Sunday, August 14.

The second week of competition, running August 17 to 21, will see two-time Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela setting the tracks in the grand prix field.  Highlights include the $10,000 Ottawa Rental & Supply Ltd. Open Welcome on Friday, August 19, and the thrilling $10,000 ATCO Jumping Derby on Saturday, August 20.  The grand finale is Sunday’s $75,000 CSI** Brookstreet Grand Prix, sanctioned by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI).

For more information on the National Capital Show Jumping Tournament, please visit

$10,000 Peel Maryborough/Henry Equestrian Insurance Brokers Ltd. Modified Grand Prix
Rider    Hometown   Horse   Faults     Time
1.  Sarah Johnstone   Aurora, ON   Leonidas    0:0   42.10
2.   Ian Millar   Perth, ON   Dryden   0:0  42.27
3.   Karen Sparks  Ottawa, ON   Ferraro K   0:4  41.68
4.   Jonathon Millar  Perth, ON  Calvin Klein  4
5.   Jill Henselwood   Oxford Mills, ON  IV Ever  4
6.   Jordan MacPherson   Toronto, ON   Romanov  4
7.   Amy Millar   Perth, ON   Quidam 13   4
8.   Greg Kuti   Schomberg, ON    Argento   5
9.   Amanda Harris  Orangeville, ON   Livarot   8
10. Amy Millar   Perth, ON  Quidam 13   9

Photo:  Sarah Johnstone of Aurora, ON, won the $10,000 Peel Maryborough Mutual Insurance Company/Henry Equestrian Insurance Brokers Ltd. Modified Grand Prix on Saturday, August 13, at the National Capital Show Jumping Tournaments in Ottawa, ON.  Photo Credit –