Richard Spooner & Cristallo. Ph ©Spruce Meadows
At the reins of the amazing, 19-year-old Cristallo, the USA’s Richard Spooner made history by winning the CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby CSI5* at Spruce Meadows on Sunday, June 11, 2017 for the third year in a row. He is just the third rider in Spruce Meadows’ history to do so.
The course, first designed by the late Pamela Carruthers and later modified by Course Designer Leopoldo Palacios in 2007, is a true test of stamina with 19 obstacles spread across 1,100m of the pristine International Ring field. The CNOOC Nexen Cup Derby includes all of the natural elements of the International Ring, including the bank slide measuring five meters in length, a double of liverpools, a three-meter open water, table top, dry ditch and devils dyke, with three elements set at 1.45m.
Over the history of the ‘National’ Derby there have been two great horse/rider combinations that have successfully scored a true hat trick by winning three times in a row: Ian Millar with Big Ben and Beezie Madden with Judgment. By repeating his 2015, and 2016 Nexen Cup Derby victories, Spooner and his 19 year-old Holsteiner gelding Cristallo (Caretino x Ciciero) added themselves to this roster.
The conditions could not have been better for Derby day on Sunday at the Spruce Meadows ‘National’ Tournament, presented by ROLEX. The stands were full as fans, corporate partners and many Spruce Meadows first timers marveled over the magnificence of the horses as athletes from around the globe directed their mounts over one of the most challenging events in show jumping.
“He fears nothing, he is incredibly brave and he just kind of drags me around”
When asked what had made Cristallo such a great derby horse, Spooner remarked, “He fears nothing, he is incredibly brave and he just kind of drags me around – the whole course – I don’t know if you can tell but I’m just saying whoa, asking him to slow down! I always try to go deep in the corners – you know after every jump, it’s like I’m throwing a parachute out the back of a funny car to try and get some drag to actually slow us down,”
“He is an incredible animal – maybe once or twice now I’ve been lucky, but he really is a once in a life time kind of horse,” Spooner added.
The 2nd place finisher was no stranger to the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, but he was a newcomer to the podium of the International Ring. Luis Alejandro Plascencia of Mexico had competed in the Spruce Meadows derbies before but never on Salamera De La Nutria, an 11 year-old Selle Francais mare. Placencia, excited with his top finish, mentioned, “I have competed in the derby five times now – but because it was the first time on this mare, I was very surprised to be 2nd. I knew she was brave, but sometimes in the derby they just don’t want to go, in many places you just expect them to say no!” he laughed. “When I saw Richard go I just knew he was going to be clear, so I was almost happy because I really didn’t want to have to jump off. It was a really – really good day for me.”
Finishing 3rd and 12th in the derby after a fantastic week at the ‘National’ was Team Spruce Meadows’ Chris Surbey of Surbey. He commented of Artistic, 12-year-old DWB mare (Chin Chin x Cantus), “this was her first derby so I was very please with her bravery, a few mistakes, but overall I was happy with the round.”
Later in the order of go was his second mount, the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Carnaval (Chacco Blue x Lanadel).
“I was lucky to have had a really good week and today was just super. Carnaval was fantastic – I mean, when I was walking up to the ingate Richard was jumping clear so that certainly put the pressure on – jumping clear is a very hard thing to do in the Derby,” Surbey commented. “I am normally a bit slow on Carnaval so right from the start I knew I had to get on the time in case I made a mistake I would be further up the line – closer to Richard.”
All in all, 35,500 fans left the stadium ecstatic with the level of sport they witnessed.
Complete results list is here.