June 2—Devon, Pa.
There’s a joke out there that says that Murphy of Murphy’s Law was a horse, and the events of the $50,000 Idle Dice Stake seemed to prove the theory.
Beezie Madden was the only one to jump clean in the second of two observation events at the Devon Horse Show for candidates for the U.S. team for the London Olympic Games. But, since she’d gotten special permission to compete three horses in the observation events, she had to designate one as ineligible for prize money. She chose Coral Reef Via Volo, and true to Murphy’s Law, the mare ended up jumping clean in both events.
“I thought the others [Simon and Cortes ‘C’] were more ready. Shows you how much I know, huh!” Madden quipped.
Charlie Jayne is a victim of Murphy, too. He won the $50,000 Idle Dice Stake with just 1 time fault on Chill R Z, but the horse missed the U.S. Equestrian Federation selection trials in Florida in March due to an extremely ill-timed laceration that required stitches.
“I think he’s an Olympic caliber horse, but I think I’m behind the eight-ball [in the selection process] because he didn’t jump in the trials,” Jayne said. “But I’m here. [U.S. Chef d’Equipe George Morris] told me to go in there and put up clear rounds, and that’s what I’m trying to do.” Jayne jumped the horse in the two Olympic observation events in Kentucky in May, and had just 1 time fault and a rail in those classes. Jayne was also clean in Devon’s first observation event, the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon two nights before.
Since Chill R Z’s round was the best of those horses eligible for prize money, he ended up on top of the $50,000 Idle Dice Stake. “I thought the course was technical, and the jumps came up quick. I thought you needed some stamina. It was a big round two nights ago, and it was even bigger today. By the last line, I think your horse really needed some energy left. I couldn’t have asked much more from my horse; he was amazing all week,” Jayne said.
The star of Thursday night’s grand prix, McLain Ward, didn’t have quite as good a day. He finished up with 4 faults on Antares F when the gray nicked a rail at a liverpool vertical heading into the last line. But, as the fastest 4-faulter of the day, they placed second in the class.
“It would have been better if I hadn’t had that jump down,” Ward said. “My horse also performed brilliantly. I think I took the jump I had down a touch for granted. It’s normally not a hard jump for him, and maybe I was riding the triple bar [that followed it] already. I was a little bit upset with myself. I actually thought he jumped better today than Thursday.”
Christine McCrea claimed third, with another really quick 4-fault go. She and Romantovich Take One were placed in 13th on the long list for the Olympic team after the selection trials. They toppled the top rail of a vertical set to a tight six bending lines after the open water. “That rail was just totally unlucky; I didn’t even feel him hit it. I thought he elevated well. But that’s how it goes,” she said. “My horse jumped as well as any of the horses in the class. He jumped it easily. He felt like he had a lot of energy, and he was focused.”
Margie Engle, who tied for first in the selection trials in March, jumped to just 4 faults in the $50,000 Idle Dice Stake. Indigo toppled the back rail of the triple bar of a testing last line on course. They placed fifth. Mario Deslauriers had the same rail down on Urico and placed fourth.
Madden placed sixth on Simon with just one rail down at the skinny vertical that came six strides after the water. “He jumped fantastic today; I don’t think he touched another fence,” Madden said. Her third ride, Cortes ‘C’, had 8 faults with a foot in the water and a rail at A of the triple combination.
Madden explained that Coral Reef Via Volo hadn’t shown much between February and Devon, so she'd chosen her to be ineligible for prize money and jump just for the selection process. “She’s the least fit of them all, and she hadn’t done a big course like this in so long,” she said. “I really thought the others were more in the game and had already done some big classes this year. I thought they were ready to go, and if I got in the jump-off, could take a good crack at it.”
Madden’s ride for team gold and individual silver at the 2011 Pan American Games (Mexico), Coral Reef Via Volo didn’t compete at the selection trials; USEF selectors gave her a bye based on past performance. It turned out to be essential, since Via Volo came up with a puffy leg in February. “It turned into a skin infection. If we had pushed her, we could have had big problems, but as it was, we were able to take care of her, and knock on wood, it looks like it won’t be a problem,” Madden said. Via Volo started showing again in mid-May.
The selectors had put Via Volo into fourth on the long list, and then she jumped clean on Thursday night in the $100,000 Wells Fargo Grand Prix of Devon and again in the $50,000 Idle Dice Stake. “She felt right back in the groove,” Madden said. “I expected her to do well but to jump two clean rounds was impressive.”
Madden and Via Volo left Devon to travel to the final observation events at the Spruce Meadows Continental (Alberta) on June 14-17. Ward and Antares will join them there.
Following the completion of these observation events, up to 12 nominated entries will be submitted to the Fédération Equestre Internationale on June 17. The final entries will be submitted no later than July 6.
See the complete USEF long list for the U.S. team for the London Olympic Games.