Decision pays off

RANDY SPORTAK -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 6:38 AM ET

With the way his horse, Estival, was acting prior to the event, Kyle King thought about taking a pass on the ATCO Structures Double Slalom.

Talk about making the right non-decision.

"She was absolutely nuts when she saw all the Mounties and flags and bands and stuff. I'm really glad she got it out of her system because the more she went, the better she got," King said.

"Maybe I'll have to do a couple of training jumpers with her before an event. She almost always wins the $10,000 events at all the national shows I go to around the country and then I save her for the Grand Prix and that hasn't been working.

"I should show her every day or twice in the morning of the Grand Prix. It's probably something that might work."

The way things transpired during yesterday afternoon's five-round competition, it may be a strategy with merit.

King and his mare bested all five competitors they faced in the elimination event, including Ireland's Conan Conway in the final, to claim the $15,000 first place cheque at the Spruce Meadows national.

"Before I came here, I knew she would be really competitive in this class," said King, from San Marcos, Calif. "She's very, very careful and super fast. You don't really have to even try to go fast, she just is fast. I just tried to keep the rails up as much as I could. You're busy listening for the other riders and you know if they have a rail you can let up a little bit.

"The final one wasn't as tough as the second-to-last one because she was right on me and we both had an early rail, so I really opened it up and she had the last rail down."

Conway, riding Bradbury, won $9,800 for placing second.

But that was secondary to the experience. For the past couple of years, the 29-year-old has been working for the Harrison family at their farms -- father Hunter Harrison is the president and CEO of Canadian National, while daughter Cayce is a Grand Prix competitor.

"I've spent all my life wanting to jump in the main ring at Spruce Meadows and I finally got a chance to do it," said King.

"I was getting more nervous because so many of the best riders in the world are here."

He even beat Cayce Harrison in the second round, as well as top international riders Geir Gulliksen and Mark Armstrong en route to the final.

After such a strong debut, Conway might get another crack at the famed Spruce Meadows International Ring.

"I'll have to talk to Mr. Harrison," Conway grinned. "Talk nice to him."

Calgary's Vanessa Mannix (Mighty Mouse), who lost out to King in the semifinal, and Mark Armstrong of Great Britain -- riding Rex -- both won $2,000.


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