As she prepared for the $175,000 Chrysler Classic, Leslie Howard had a feeling it would be her day.
Her instincts were proven right when it was all over in the International Ring at the Spruce Meadows North American, as Howard and her mount, Youp, had captured the gruelling event.
The American from Westport, Conn., won it in a jumpoff with four faults, beating Mexico's Santiago Lambre and his horse, Curant, who posted eight faults.
They were the only two out of 15 who started to put up clear rounds through the first run, which featured 22 obstacles, including the big hill and notorious Devil's Dyke.
"When I warmed him up today he felt great and he can pretty much to the natural jumps with his eyes closed, so I had a very good feeling today," said Howard, 49, who won $60,000.
"I knew I was going to get a good ribbon but in terms of a win, you never know because of the luck."
Youp, an 11-year-old Dutch warmblood gelding had nearly two months off to get him fresh but Howard said that was a bit too much time as he was little sluggish at the start of the week.
"So much of it, when it comes to him is management, especially with a horse like him because he has a borderline show and he was dynamite in Florida -- he won three Grand Prixs and my plan was to freshen him up and come to Spruce Meadows," said Howard, who claimed her first Chrysler Classic title in the 21-year-history of the event.
"But I think I let him freshen up a little too much because he's been off his game in the jumpoffs ... and not really wanting to win one and he was never really able to nail it until today. I don't think I'll give him that kind of holiday again."
There were no problems yesterday as Howard went first in the extra round and put the pressure on Lambre, who won $35,000.
"I tried to go clear with a normal round but when I took the first fence down, I had to go fast," said Lambre.
It wasn't the hardest of derby courses, according to Howard, but for some it was a demolition derby. Lumby, B.C.'s Eberhard Bahle and his mount, Lamborghini Z, really had a rough time, racking up 44 faults before the horse basically stopped responding to the reins and ran off course. The pair was eliminated.
Calgary's John Anderson (Gesine 36) was the top Canadian, posting a fifth place win, good for $13,000.
SUPER MARIO: Mario Deslauriers captured the $75,000 Sunlife Financial Reach for the Sun with his fine mount, Naomi. American Francie Steinwedell-Carvin (Ness-Go), who is from La Canada, Calif., was second, followed by countrywoman Susan Artes (Presto B). Deslauriers won it in a jump off, going clear in 50.924 seconds. Calgary's Jonathan Asselin (Lolita) was sixth.