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For the second time in as many days, Canadian Olympian Beth Underhill riding Count Me In led the victory gallop at the CSI2* Ottawa International I, this time topping the $36,100 CSI2* Classic, presented by RBC, on Saturday, July 13, at Wesley Clover Parks in Ottawa.
“I really didn't expect to win again today,” said Underhill of Schomberg, who also won the $36,100 CSI2* Open Welcome on Friday, July 12. “I'm just so excited. Count Me In gave me two beautiful rounds. He was a pleasure. He really rose to the occasion today. He loved the extra incentive of the crowd and the atmosphere; it felt like he just came up a notch. It was a lovely course and great competition, and we're just really happy to be here at Wesley Clover Parks again and have such a wonderful week!”
Underhill was one of 33 entries to contest the first-round track set by 2016 Rio Olympic course designer Guilherme Jorge of Brazil and one of seven to advance to the tie-breaking jump-off. As the second entry to return for the short course, Canadian Olympian Amy Millar of Perth, and Truman, owned by Millar Brooke Farm, went double clear and set the time to beat at 44.72 seconds.
Underhill and Count Me In, a 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) owned by Sandy Lupton and Rob Caswell, were the next in the ring and tripped the timers tenths of a second faster than Millar, taking over the lead in 44.30 seconds. Millar's time would ultimately hold up for second place, while third place with a time of 46.25 seconds went to the USA's Jonathan McCrea riding Pewit No No for owner Candy Tribble. With the final double-clear performance of the day, his wife, Christine McCrea, captured fourth place with a time of 50.10 seconds riding Jarcobond van den Oude Eik, also owned by Tribble.
“I watched Amy go, and I thought that she laid down a beautiful track and was going to be very difficult to beat,” said Underhill. “She was able to catch a better oxer than I to the last line and did one less step. My horse doesn't have as big of a stride as her horse, but he was very handy on the turns, so it just worked out in our favour that we were just that little bit quicker across the ground in the beginning. I was really excited to be the winner today because we pulled out all the stops, and he delivered.”
Underhill is a consistent top competitor at the Ottawa Equestrian Tournaments, having also claimed victories with Count Me In in the $100,000 CSI2* Classic in 2016 and the $50,000 Brookstreet Grand Prix in 2017.
This year, Underhill selected the Ottawa Equestrian Tournaments as her final preparatory show before she and Count Me In travel to Lima, Peru, as the Canadian team alternates for the Pan American Games, to be held in August.
“It's very exciting to be back in contention and to have a horse of this quality to be able to make major games teams so we're really thrilled,” said Underhill, who earned both team and individual silver medals at the 1991 Pan American Games and a team bronze medal at the 1999 Pan American Games.
“It's important that we keep jumping quality courses and quality venues (leading up to the Pan Am Games), and that's what Mike Lawrence and Karen Sparks and their team have created here – a venue that's top class and top quality,” continued Underhill. “We have the best course designers and fantastic jumps; the footing is second to none. What is also extra special is having the crowds come out and support us. It lends extra atmosphere to the horses. All of those things combined is what makes it one of our favourite stops on the show jumping.”
Following his victory and before heading to Peru, Count Me In is making at least one more important stop.
“Right now, we're going to the taco truck to get ice cream,” said Count Me In's groom, Kath Long. “I told Count Me In that if he won, he could have ice cream!”
Underhill won the $36,000 CSI2* Open Welcome, presented by Wellings of Stittsville, on Friday, July 12.
A starting field of 37 entries contested the first Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI) class of the week, with 26 of the entries competing on Thursday afternoon before the decision was made to reschedule the remainder of the class for Friday morning due to severe weather.
With only three entries qualified for the jump-off, Moffatt and McCrea elected to forego the jump-off and tie for second place. Underhill proceeded to the jump-off, opting for a conservative clear in a time of 50.54 seconds to take the win.
“I wanted to do my best to try to be competitive,” said Underhill of her decision to jump-off after Moffatt and McCrea had opted to withdraw from the final round. “I thought it was good for my horse to go again without the added pressure of having to go fast in a jump-off, and for my owners as well. For me, it was a little bit of an advantage to be able to get him out a second time, and barring forgetting the course and eliminating myself, I knew we could win if we just had a nice round.
“I was thrilled that he jumped a second clean round as well as he did, and did everything that I asked of him,” continued Underhill of the 12-year-old Hanoverian gelding (Count Grannus x Sherlock Holmes) owned by Sandy Upton and Robert Caswell. “I was just thrilled with how he handled the field. He felt comfortable on the footing.”
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