FEI World Cup Qualifier in Jumping: Hugh Graham Claims Top Spot

July 29, 2011 – Blainville, QC – The second week of the Classique Internationale Blainville ended with the much-awaited 1.60 m World Cup Qualifier, and its Government of Québec sponsored $60 000 prize. Canadian Hugh Graham clenched victory, a mere two seconds ahead of young Elizabeth Bates from Ontario. Beth Underhill was the last rider on the podium. The only Québec native to the jump-off, Isabelle Lapierre finished in 6th place.

17 rider-horse teams stepped on the course designed by FEI-recognized Linda Allen, from the United States. With a distance of 560 meters, the run comprised of 13 obstacles and 16 jumping efforts, for a time allowed of 90 seconds. The riders had a few challenges to overcome, particularly in the double combination which was followed by an oxer, a river, and a vertical jump. A triple combination at the very end also demanded much concentration from both rider and horse, as the space between each obstacle was very narrow.

First competitor to the challenge, Élisabeth Bates puts her technical savvy to good use and sets the tone with a faultless run, a feat soon thereafter repeated by Roberto Teran. A jump-off is announced right from the start. Liubov Kochetova, who had finished second in 2010, garners two rail faults. In her very first participation to a World Cup Qualifier, Isabelle Lapierre aboard her mare Vicki Vale also joins in the jump-off with a flawless performance! This competition had many surprises and great performances in store, but a few deceptions as well. Yann Candele and Azzaro Van’t Hagenhof lowered two rails. Beth Underhill achieved a flawless run with her first mount Viggo, but was then eliminated with her second horse after a fall. Defending his 2010 title, François Lamontagne gave up after a whopping 16 penalty points. Spectators were finally treated to a 6-rider jump-off, with Hugh Graham the very last competitor to shine in the first run.

The jump-off course presented 6 obstacles on a 250 meters distance, with few opportunities for great gallops. Performing a perfect run, Élisabeth Bates sets the time to beat at 34.98 seconds. Beth Underhill also achieves a faultless performance, but can’t manage to top Bates’ speed. Isabelle Lapierre lowers a rail at the last obstacle, and we have to wait until the last competitor for the ranking to change. With mastery and speed, Hugh Graham is flawless in 32.87 seconds, thus claiming victory.

At 62 years-old, Hugh Graham, enjoys a fine reputation as an Olympic equestrian, as shown by his stellar performance record. He participated in 23 Nations Cups and 4 World Cups Finales. In 1987, he won a gold medal at the Pan Am Games. For her part, Elisabeth Bates, 23, is perceived as Canada’s future. She represented the country at the North-American Junior and Young Rider Championship, and was named Ontario Hunter Jumper Association’s Athlete of the Year in 2010. Equestrian Sport is the only sport where man and woman may compete head to head with such a disparity in age.

This World Cup Qualifier allowed the competitors to gather points towards the preliminary ranking in view of representing Canada in April 2012 in the Netherlands. The battle rages on in Bromont next week, and throughout North America for the rest of the year.

1st Hugh Graham / Executive Privilege 3e 0-0, 32.87
2nd Elisabeth Bates / Marveloous 6 0-0, 34.98
3rd Beth Underhill / Viggo 0-0, 36.99
4th Roberto Teran / Denver 0-4, 35.06
5th Lauren Hunkin / Larry 0146 0-4, 36.53
6th Isabelle Lapierre / Vicki Vale 0-4, 39.82
7th Eliott Stone / Caprilli Hsf 4 points
8th Kelley Robinson / Enzo 4 points
9th Keean White / Chanel 6 points
10th Liubov Kochetova / Lapsus du Lavoir 8 points