Hugh Graham (CAN) of Schomberg, Ontario, proved that age is just a number by winning the $50,000 Brookstreet Grand Prix on Saturday, July 14, at the Ottawa National Horse Show, held at Wesley Clover Parks in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
At the age of 69, Graham was not the oldest competitor in the 26-horse starting field, however. That distinction went to 71-year-old Ian Millar of Perth (CAN), Ontario, who, along with Keean White (CAN), 35, of Rockwood, Ontario, joined Graham in a three-horse jump-off. In a sport where men and women compete on equal footing, the three men were the only ones to successfully navigate the tough track set by Canadian course designer Michel Vaillancourt (FRA), individual silver medalist at the 1976 Olympic Games in his hometown of Montreal.
Keean White (CAN) & Leilani
White led off the tie-breaking jump-off with Leilani, an eight-year-old grey Oldenburg mare purchased last year from U.S. competitor Andy Kocher (USA). The pair won Thursday’s $20,000 Open Welcome, presented by Wellings of Stittsville, and were primed for another victory. When a rail fell on course, White left the door wide open for the two experienced riders still to come.
A veteran of Olympic, World Championship, and Pan American Games competition, Graham took full advantage of the opportunity. Riding Knock Out 3E, a 12-year-old Canadian Sport Horse gelding bred and owned by KingRidge Stables, Graham cleared the jump-off track in a time of 41.86 seconds to move into the lead.
Ian Millar (CAN) & Truman
As the final challenger, Millar (CAN) would have the last word riding Truman, a nine-year-old selle francais gelding owned by Millar Brooke Farm Ltd. and Overlund. When a rail rolled out of the cups at the liverpool, the win was handed to Graham. With a jump-off time of 40.28 seconds, White was the runner-up while Millar’s time of 44.89 seconds left him in third place. Defending champions Beth Underhill (CAN) of Schomberg, Ontario, and Count Me In jumped clear in the first round but incurred one time fault for exceeding the 86-second time allowed to place fourth.
“I had one person going in front of me, and I just had to see what he was up to,” said Graham of his jump-off strategy. “Then I knew I had Ian coming behind me, and he’s always tough. I tried to get an efficient clean and just be prompt and then let Ian jump around and see if he could beat me. It worked!”
Graham has an advantage in that he has known Knock Out 3E since he was a foal. In fact, Knock Out 3E was sired by Jamestown, one of Graham’s former grand prix mounts.
“We bred him, and we brought him along,” said Graham, who was recently inducted into the Jump Canada Hall of Fame. “He’s been winning since he was a six-year-old. He’s 11 now, and I feel he’s getting better. That’s the best part; I feel like he’s getting better as we go.
“He’s a little sensitive,” continued Graham. “In the warm-up ring, if a horse is coming at him, he’ll jump out of the way and sometimes spook on me. I fall off of him sometimes. When we broke him, he was hard to break because he didn’t want anyone on his back. He was tough! He’s become a really sweet horse, he just has his little idiosyncrasies. I’m excited about him.”
Hugh Graham (left) is presented as the winner of the $50,000 Brooksteet Grand Prix by Mark Nisbett, Director of Sales and Marketing for Brookstreet and the Marshes Golf Club.
With a long career in the sport, Graham has competed at what is now known as Wesley Clover Parks numerous times over the past three decades.
“I have always had a great time in Ottawa, and the people here are amazing,” said Graham. “The people that run the show, the organizing committee, they make you feel like you’re at home. I just love it here! And, of course, the grass ring here is second to none. You don’t get a better grass ring anywhere.”
Competition returns to Wesley Clover Parks’ grass grand prix field on Sunday, July 15, with the thrilling $7,500 Speed Derby, presented by Millar Brooke Farm, beginning at 1 p.m. It is immediately followed by the $2,500 Canine Equine Relay, presented by Royal LePage TEAM Realty, which sees horse-rider combinations completing a show jumping course before their canine partners tackle an agility course. Speed is the name of the game on Sunday!
Competition at Wesley Clover Parks then resumes on Wednesday, July 18, with the CSI 3* Ottawa International Horse Show, running through Sunday, July 22. Admission to both the Ottawa National and CSI 3* Ottawa International Horse Shows are free, with donations to the Wesley Clover Parks’ retired horse program gladly accepted. Spectators are encouraged to come out and explore all the family-friendly activities that the Ottawa Equestrian Tournaments have to offer.
$50,000 Grand Prix, presented by the Brookstreet Hotel – Saturday, July 14
1. Hugh Graham (CAN) & Knock Out 3E 0:0 / 41.86
2. Keean White (CAN) & Leilani 0:4 / 40.28
3. Ian Millar (CAN) & Truman 0:4 / 44.89
4. Beth Underhill (CAN) & Count Me In 1
5. Sam Walker (CAN) & Acardi du Houssoit Z 4
6. Jordan Coyle (IRL) & Colorado 4
7. Ian Millar (CAN) & Ericson 4
8. Jonathon Millar (CAN) & Dublin 4
9. Ainsley Vince (CAN) & Darling 4
10. Kirk Webby (NZL) & Brando du Rouet 8
11. Alexanne Thibault (CAN) & Chacco Prime 8
12. Courtney Vince (CAN) & Valetto JX 8
Source: Press Release by Jump Media for Ottawa
Photos: © Ben Radvanyi Photography