One by one, the riders before Beezie Madden had their chance and suffered their struggles through the $175,000 Nexen Cup.
You couldn't blame the defending champ for wondering if she'd met the same fate when her horse, Judgement, tickled the rail on the first jump of the difficult Devil's Dyke.
"He hit it hard enough I was wondering if it went down but I could see the scoreboard, actually, as I went out of the Devil's Dyke, so I knew I'd jumped clear," she said. "I think it was the only fence he actually touched in the whole course."
For the second year in a row, the pair teamed up to claim the derby that concludes the Spruce Meadows National.
For the second year in a row, they were the only team to go clear through the extremely challenging course.
Apparently, at least to Madden, it didn't matter it was a new layout designed by Leopoldo Palacios.
"It was different. It was probably more technical of a course," said Madden, who claimed the $58,000 first-place prize.
"It was a little longer and I think fatigue was a factor with the last two fences being big and difficult to jump. It took a horse with a lot of heart and a lot of stamina."
Madden, from Cazenovia, N.Y., who sits No. 2 on the Spruce Meadows all-time list behind only Ian Millar with more than $1.9 million, has won the derby three times in the last five years.
Rich Fellers of Wilsonville, Ore., placed second to win $35,000, while Millar, from Perth, Ont., was third and won $21,500 aboard Redefin, a young horse at only nine years of age.
"I don't get nervous about so many things but I was somewhat concerned once I walked that course," said Millar, who has won the event four times in his career. "The indication I'd got from Leopoldo was he was gonna make it a little friendlier and I did not find it friendly.
"It was a major challenge for the young horse and I couldn't be more pleased with how he stepped up."
Fellers, the 2004 champ, was in big trouble when his mount, Flexible, knocked down the first rail of the Devil's Dyke and nearly was stuck but somehow made it out with no further faults.
"Having a little experience with the derby and the Devil's Dyke, the only thing to do when you get hung up is to fight when you get through however you can," Fellers said. "If you don't, you're done. You're not gonna finish. He's a sensitive enough thoroughbredy horse when he got tangled ... he popped out some how. "I'm curious to see it on video but it won't be something I'll try to duplicate."
Kyle King of Mobile, Ala., (Capone 1) was fourth, while Jill Henselwood of Oxford Mills, Ont., placed fifth with Black Ice and sixth aboard Special Ed.
Mark Armstrong of Great Britain successfully repeated In the $40,000 ATCO Structures Double Slalom with Rex.
The duo won the event for the second straight year by edging Canadian Jill Henselwood in the head-to-head final round for the $15,000 first-place prize.
Henselwood, who rode Boomer, collected $9,800.
Canadian Keean White (Arriscraft Rocca) and Alejandro Karolyi (Graciano L.S.) were eliminated in the semifinals and each claimed $2,000.
The Sun Media Riders' Cup was claimed by Team Milton, consisting of Mark Armstrong, Jennifer Crooks, Mario Deslauriers, Kim Farlinger, Rich Fellers, Audra Fleck-Snijders, Margie Gayford, Lauren Hough, Eric Lamaze and Santiago Lambre ... Beezie Madden was also named Canadian champion, which comes with a $15,000 prize and use of a Chrysler car for a year.