Ben Asselin and Makavoy. -Photo by Keara

Ben Asselin and Makavoy. -Photo by Keara

Friday at the Spruce Meadows Masters is one of my favourite days of the tournament. It is a little more laid back with a quiet day schedule in the International Ring, followed by the $205,000 Encana Cup and the $75,000 ATCO Electric Six Bar, all part of the Mercedes Benz Evening of the Horse. Personally, I spent the day catching up on photo editing, post writing, autograph fetching, and ice cream eating – not bad at all!

So, remember that rain I have mentioned a couple of times? Well, it rained Thursday night, was overcast but dry all day Friday, and then just as the Encana Cup was about to start.. Boom! It starts pouring! Let me tell you, although my Mountain Horse jacket kept my torso nice and cozy, my fingers froze and my feet got soaked. But, alas, once you are in the ring you have to stay there, so I was just thankful that there was only 23 starters opposed to the massive classes of 40+ that we have had all week.

Although the class was smaller than normal, the quality of the entries was still there. Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z, Gerco Schroder and London, Beezie Madden and Simon… it was pretty stacked. With that said, the only Canadian entry was Calgary’s own Ben Asselin on Makavoy.

Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z. -Photo by Keara

Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z. -Photo by Keara

Since it had started pouring, making the turf a little slick, there was immediate trouble with the clock as the riders steadied up to minimize slipping. Both Olivier Philippaerts and Daniel Deußer had no jumping faults, but incurred that nasty single time fault to keep them from the jump-off. Once again, Leopoldo Palacios did a great job designing the course because faults were spread out over the track.

When all was said and done in the first round, only three pairs had managed to go clear. Unsurprisingly, Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z made the course look like a 1.20m schooling round. To clear a 1.60m jump, Taloubet hardly needs to wake up; he is THAT good. The second clear came from Belgium’s François Mathy. I watched François jump all summer at Spruce, and he was always very poised and controlled, but never did make it out on top in a big class. He was due for a big win at Spruce, so I was pleased that he produced the clear. The third clear, much to the crowd’s absolute delight, was produced by Ben Asselin! At only 19 years old, Ben is one of Canada’s brightest up and coming jumper riders, but he had yet to have his first win in the International Ring. Was it his night? Only the jump-off would tell.

Francois Mathy and Espadon van de Kranenburg. -Photo by Keara

Francois Mathy and Espadon van de Kranenburg. -Photo by Keara

First in for the jump-off, Christian set off at a decent pace, sticking to a fairly fast track, but not taking too many chances. Unfortunately, and very surprisingly, Taloubet would have a rail, leaving them with a 4 in 46.73. Having seen Christian’s rail, François took the slow and steady approach to the course, taking much wider corners and really setting up for the fences. It worked for a while, but then he would also pull a rail to finish on 4 in 55.08 seconds. Hmmm. So, this left Ben with some deciding to do. Of course, all he had to do was go clear to win, but he had to decide whether to go slow and bank on the clear, or stick to a medium pace in the hopes that, if he had a rail, he could make up the time.

Coming in, Ben looked extremely focused, but I bet that there were some butterflies going on. Starting out, it was apparent that he was going for the clear. Taking nice smooth corners, Ben and Makavoy started to eat away at the course… 3 jumps left…. 2 jumps left…. 1 jump left…. could he do it? Yes!!!!!!! Ben Asselin went clear in the jump-off to win the $205,000 1.60m Encana Cup!!!!

Do you think he was happy? -Photo by Keara

Do you think he was happy? -Photo by Keara

Do you know what makes it even better? The field he won against! Having your first win in the International Ring is great, but he did it at the Masters in a $205,000 class that drew some of the world’s very best. Congratulations Ben!!!!!!!

Now, I have to admit something. Although the six bar is one of my favourite classes, that really only applies when it is nice out, and I’m not already freezing. Sooooo, I chickened out and watched most of the six bar from the TV inside the media room….. sorry! Really though, I never get decent pictures from it anyways because of the lighting, so nothing really changed.

Here is Walter explaining how it works:

"You gotta jump the six jumps in a row."

“You gotta jump the six jumps in a row.”

Haha, pretty much! Basically, there can be up to 4 jump-offs after the first round, and as soon as a rider has a rail they are out. Through the line, the fences progress in height, and it is up to the course designer (Leopoldo) to decide by how much through each round.

Sadly, the six bar only ever draws a small field, but the horses are all usually very good so it is still exciting. This years class had just 13 starters, with only one Canadian – Carla Diewert on her Thoroughbred X, Vaquero.

Having warmed up a little, and getting antsy sitting in the media room, I did go down to the sidelines for the final round. There were only a handful of riders left, including 21 year old Martin Fuchs on a gorgeous grey, Conte Della Caccia, and Shane Breen on my favourite horse of the class, Touch of Chilli. With the final fence set at 1.95m, the line (now reduced to 4 jumps) was very intimidating. All those poor horses see is a sea of blue and white rails, they are stars for just agreeing to jump into the line at all.

Could the pairs jump through it cleanly? Since we were on the 4th jump off, it there was a tie it would remain a tie…..

Martin over the final fence.... - Photo by Keara (sorry for the blur!)

Martin over the final fence…. – Photo by Keara (sorry for the blur!)

Martin Fuchs and Conte Della Caccia were your only clear, and therefore the 2013 ATCO Electric Six Bar Champions! 1.95m on soggy turf is pretty darn impressive!

Annnnnnd, that’s the Friday at the Masters in a nutshell! Ben Asselin scores his first win in the International Ring (in a BIG way), and Martin Fuchs beats not just the competition, but also the nasty conditions, to clear 1.95m for the win in the six bar.

Be sure to keep your eyes on the website and our Facebook page – the big weekend is here!

Keara Read my other blog posts here!

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