Toronto, Ontario – It was a jam-packed opening day at The Royal Agricultural Winter Fair today, with official visits by a raft of political dignitaries (The Honourable David C. Onley, Lt. Governor of Ontario; The Honourable Gerry Ritz, Minister of Agriculture & Agri-Food and The Honourable Tony Clement, Minister of Industry) and one Duff Goldman, host of The Food Network’s “Ace of Cakes” and judge of today’s celebrity cook-off between fellow Food Network Chefs David Adjey and Anthony Mair.
It was also opening day of the 88th Royal Horse Show, with an evening lineup showcasing the diversity, energy and excitement The Royal has become known for around the world.
Stacy Westfall entertained the crowd in the first of her appearances this weekend, performing lightning-fast spins, sliding stops and even backing up, all without the aid of her bridle. Westfall was followed by a Dressage feature titled “Tunes, Tempis and All That Jazz”, highlighting the vocals of Elizabeth Elming and the elegant yet dynamic riding of top dressage riders Nancy McLachlan and Andrea Bresee.
While opening weekend at The Royal Horse Show had traditionally been reserved exclusively for the Canadians, this year marks the first year that Good Crop Services Indoor Eventing, an international class, takes its place in the opening night lineup.
An exciting hybrid of the formal, Olympic discipline of three-day eventing, the Royal’s version blends the thrill of cross-country with the accuracy of show jumping, all set to rocking music and a roaring crowd. Tonight’s winner, Jessica Phoenix of Uxbridge, Ontario, with her horse Exploring, went last in the order and brought the house down upon posting the fastest score of the night. Orangeville, Ontario’s Penny Rowland, finished in the runner-up position, standing her in good stead heading into Saturday evening’s second round of competition.
The anchor class of the night was round one of The Canadian Championships presented by Greenhawk, where 21 horse and rider pairs competed over a course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio of Red Hook, New York.
Victory went to Yann Candele and his mount Pitareusa, whose nimble, catlike jumping ability enabled the pair to post the fastest time this evening of 63.89 seconds, while leaving the jumps up and adding no faults to their score.
“I was able to watch a few before me, and thought we would be around 66 seconds if we could manage to go clean,” described Candele. “We managed to take an inside turn and made up some time – tomorrow I expect things will be a bit tougher!” he laughed.
Ainsley Vince of Burlington, Ontario finished behind Candele with her nine-year-old partner Frieda, whose steady yet ground-covering stride allowed them to post a time of 66.57 seconds to slip into second position. Vince, who went just sixth in the starting order, was not able to have the luxury of watching as many go ahead of her, and sent her sisters out to watch and report back on the progress and details of the course.
“Not only did we go early in the order, but I’m also just back from eye surgery,” explained Vince following the event. “I haven’t been riding much and she hasn’t been ridden much, so I’m happy things went as well as they did tonight.”
Saturday evening’s Horse Show includes the final rounds of both Good Crop Services Indoor Eventing and The Canadian Show Jumping Championships presented by Greenhawk, as well as another performance by both Stacy Westfall and an encore of the Tunes, Tempis and All That Jazz Dressage pas-de-deux.
Saturday afternoon’s matinee Horse Show performance features a Pony Jumper Challenge the new Horse Hockey feature, where NHL Legends Darryl Sittler, Brad Marsh, Mark Napier and Rick Vaive will try their hand at Hockey on Horseback – the “way more difficult than it looks” age-old game of Polo. They will be signing autographs ahead of time with a wristband policy in effect. Please check www.royalfair.org for information on when and how to attend that session.
Sunday brings The Ontario Toyota Dealers Royal Rodeo back to the Ricoh Coliseum, where the best from the East and West go head-to-head in the most extreme sports of bull riding, bronc riding and barrel racing.
The International division for show jumpers begins Tuesday, November 9th, once again bringing top competitors from Canada, the USA, Columbia, Venezuela, Ireland, the Netherlands and Great Britain together to compete through Saturday, November 13th.
About the Royal Horse Show and Royal Agricultural Winter Fair ~ A tradition since 1922, the Royal Horse Show brings top horses and riders from Canada the U.S. and abroad, including Olympic and World champions, to Toronto each November to compete for more than $750,000 in prize money and Championships. Over 1,000 horses of all shapes and sizes participate in show jumping, dressage, indoor eventing, driving, coaching and so much more, over the ten-days of hotly-contested competition. Special features such as the Spirit of the Horse Ring, EquiMania!, the Farmer’s Market, Trade-Fair Shopping, educational and agricultural events & competition round out this family tradition. Since its debut, the Royal has been a highlight of the Toronto fall social calendar, visited by Royalty, politicians, farmers and horse-enthusiasts for generations. For more information, The Royal Online’s live webcasting, complete schedule, results and to purchase tickets, please visit www.royalfair.org.
Good Crop Services Indoor Eventing Championship – Round One
Rider / Hometown / Horse
Jessica Phoenix / Uxbridge, Ontario / Exploring
Penny Rowland / Orangeville, Ontario / Roundabout
Holly Payne / Gladstone, New Jersey / Steel Commander
Canadian Show Jumping Championships Presented by Greenhawk – Round One
Rider / Hometown / Horse / Score
Yann Candele / Caledon, Ontario / Pitareusa / 63.89
Ainsley Vince / Burlington, Ontario / Frieda / 66.57
Jill Henselwood / Oxford Mills, Ontario / Special Ed / 67.38
Keean White / Rockwood, Ontario / Celena Z / 69.19
Photos: Jessica Phoenix and Exploring drop off the bank in the first round of Good Crop Services Indoor Eventing, Opening Night of The Royal Horse Show at the 88th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair.
Yann Candele and Pitareusa were victorious in the first round of the Canadian Show Jumping Championships presented by Greenhawk, Opening Night of the Royal Horse Show at the 88th Royal Agricultural Winter Fair. Photos © Michelle C. Dunn