Cat's out of the bag

CAM MAXWELL -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 7:48 AM ET

It's been a long time since Darrin Dlin set foot on the grounds at Spruce Meadows.

In fact, he hardly recognized the show jumping venue when he arrived for this week's National tournament as he looks to qualify for Canada's Pan- Am Games team in Rio de Janeiro.

"I grew up here. I mean, I rode here from seven years old until I was 18 and I think the last time I was showing was in 1988," said Dlin, who hails from Spruce Grove, and currently lives in Wellington, Fla.

"It changed a lot, that's for sure. It's a lot bigger than I remembered it. I don't know my way around anymore."

He certainly knows his way around the show jumping ring, especially with his horse, Catwalk, who he hopes to ride in the Pan-Am Games.

"It's important because we've been bringing this horse along for some time and she was great this winter in Florida," said Dlin, who has plenty of friends and family coming down this weekend to watch him.

Catwalk is a 10-year-old Oldenburg mare who was great through two Pan-Am trials in Toronto and needs to show well again through the three remaining trials at Spruce Meadows this week, culminating in tomorrow's CN Reliability Grand Prix.

A strong showing in Brazil by the Canucks will allow Canada to send a squad to Hong Kong, where the equestrian events for the 2008 Beijing Olympics will be held.

Three Pan-Am team spots will go to the top three finishers in the five-trial qualifying process.

The other two places will be subjectively awarded by a committee.

Mario Deslauriers and Eric Lamaze, who were competing in Europe and did not attend the first two trials, are the leading contenders for the wild-card positions.

Erynn Ballard, Jill Henselwood, Ian Millar and Karen Cudmore are among the leading contenders for the other two automatic berths.

While she's a superb horse, Catwalk just become a lot more valuable after her legendary sire, Rio Grande, died two weeks ago in Stratford, Ont., after suffering a heart attack.

Following his retirement from competition in 2001, Rio Grande quickly cemented his reputation as a prolific sire of show jumping, hunter, dressage, and eventing sport horses.


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