For Ben Asselin, finishing an important two-week circuit by leading the grand prix victory gallop was icing on the cake to a successful journey that took him and his team all the way to Xalapa, Mexico.
It makes perfect sense that for Asselin, the entire year’s plan is focused on success at Spruce Meadows. The 22-year-old Canadian rider grew up on and around the famed venue in Calgary, Canada; his grandparents Ron and Marg Southern are Spruce Meadows’ founders. Asselin and his family still call Calgary home, and so while riding at Spruce Meadows is important to all, it holds even more significance for him.
So when Asselin was asked why he made the trip with four horses from his winter base in Wellington, Florida to show in Xalapa, Mexico these past two weeks, his reasoning was right in line with his end game of finding the best preparation plan for Spruce.
“For me, my entire plan for the year is to have my horses primed for Spruce. I’d never been to Xalapa before, but I’d heard that it was an amazing facility, that the footing on the grass field is top quality, and it was going to be a great prep for Spruce,” Asselin explained. “Instead of going somewhere to jump on sand, I wanted to go and jump on grass. And there’s not really anywhere else in North America to do that at this time of year.”
So Asselin and his team flew to Club Hipico Coapexpan for two weeks of CSI4* and CSIO4* competition, and immediately, things started going their way.
Asselin has been getting to know a new horse this season, the 10-year-old Oldenburg stallion Veyron (Conterno Grande x Heartbreaker). Formerly ridden by Russia’s Ljubov Kotchetova, Veyron was purchased by Asselin’s Attache Stables at the end of 2015. Asselin spent the winter getting to know the stallion, and by WEF Week 11 he was netting strong results –the pair jumped a clear with one time fault in the CSI4* Grand Prix that week.
Perhaps the results that Asselin is best known for are those aboard his longtime international mount Makavoy. With the 13-year-old KWPN gelding (Hors La Loi II x Ahorn) recovered from an injury and getting back into shape for the international level, Asselin took his veteran partner to Xalapa, where he jumped smaller classes in great form. Asselin also brought mounts Plume De La Roque and Wahrhaftige CR to Xalapa, and both horses recorded top ten and top 20 results over the two weeks.
During the first week, Veyron and Asselin were 3rd in the grand prix on a time fault in both rounds. It ended up being a hint of things to come. During Sunday, May 1st’s $130,000 Grand Prix Veracruz. Forty-one entries thinned to 11 pairs in round two, but Asselin didn’t ride in to leave it all on the table. He stuck to his plan and when Asselin and Veyron were the only pair to jump clear in the second round, they earned the win due to a little luck.
“I came back 8th to go in the second round, and since I’m not so in tune with Veyron yet to go fast, my plan was just to jump two clean rounds, and it worked out for us,” Asselin said. “I have a super, super team behind me, and I have a lot of great horses to ride right now.”
Mexico’s Gustavo Ramos placed 2nd with Izzy Maiki, and fellow Canadian Eric Lamaze was 3rd aboard Coco Bongo.
“I’d just like to say that I’ve never met more accommodating and hospitable people then I did at Coapexpan,” Asselin added. “They really make you feel like you’re part of the family, and the show is run immaculately with super footing, a lot of great ranking classes, and great facilities. It’s just a super show to go to.”
While Coapexpan Club Hipico garners the most attention on the Friday of its CSIO4* Furusiyya Nations Cup, Asselin made the point that the show’s entire two-week spring series have what it takes to stand with the best of international shows. In 2016 the North American Riders Group rated Xalapa’s footing “a perfect 10.”