A stirrup flying off mid-round might be alarming for some – especially in a 1.50m jump-off – but not for “super competitive” Australian Olympic rider Katie Laurie.
The Spruce Meadows’ Suncor Winning Round provided thrilling entertainment on Saturday (9 September) at the Masters tournament in Calgary as 30 combinations battled it out forthe lion’s share of the $150,000 (£88,700) up for grabs.
The top 10 from the first round came back to jump again, in reverse order, with Olympic champion Ben Maher first to go on nine-year-old gelding Enjeu De Grisien. Ben set the pace with a determined 54.70sec round, that no one could catch – until last-in Katie Laurie and Cera Caruso stepped up.
The pair’s round looked smooth and quick, until a heart-stopping moment when the exuberant 15-year-old chestnut gelding put in a mighty leap, nearly jumping Katie out of the saddle, and her stirrup detached.
Katie rebalanced, and with the crowd behind her, stormed to the finish. Her one-stirrup round was the fastest, stopping the clock on 52.92sec, but a late-falling last pole meant the pair finished sixth.
“It was a bit wild!” said Katie. “I came quite tight to an oxer, and he jumped so high that he launched me and my stirrup fell off.
“I’m not the best no-stirrup rider, but I wasn’t going to give up! We tried. I’m very competitive so I was not going to let that stop me.”
Katie, who was formerly based in England with Michael Bates, then relocated to Calgary, said her top horse Django was injured during the summer so Cera Caruso stepped up to jump 1.60m grands prix.
“He tried his little guts out in the summer, but he’s really competitive at this 1.50m level. He’s so much fun,” she said.
Ben was thrilled to take his second win of the Spruce Meadows Masters tournament, having won the TELUS Cup on the opening day with Exit Remo. Ben said that having made it into the final 10 with Enjeu De Grisien and having to go first, he rode like he had “nothing to lose”.
“It was incredible,” he said. “Enjeu is a horse I’ve had a couple of years now but he’s still inexperienced, even at nine years old and especially in this kind of arena. But he’s jumped well.
“I was lucky with the format just to get into the second round, I thought I’d misjudged the time a bit and didn’t really have a lot to lose in the jump-off. It’s a big prize money class which gives a little extra incentive, [as do] the big crowds here, so I just went like I had nothing to lose, and I had a little bit of luck with the other riders in the end.”
Ben added that he was “very proud” of Enjeu.
“He has a huge stride so some of the distances early on felt very holding and very waiting. I didn’t really think there was the option to leave out any, but when I jumped the wall I saw a distance from a very long way to the last and I just kind of kept going,” he said.
“It’s a first for him, he’s never experienced that kind of riding, but he did very well for me, and I think that’s probably where I just managed to stay ahead. The original plan was to jump the grand prix but after the way he jumped in this, I thought he deserves some pampering and we’ll get him flown home.
“He’ll probably have a month to six weeks off now, we have a little bit of down time while I have some shows with some other horses coming up, and he’ll start back up in the middle of October.”
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