Winning still 'In Style' for Ian Millar

Ian Millar at the John Deere Equestrian Tournament of Champions in September 2008. (SUN MEDIA/Jack...

Ian Millar at the John Deere Equestrian Tournament of Champions in September 2008. (SUN MEDIA/Jack Boland/Jim Wells/Calgary Sun)

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 10:17 AM ET

As successful as Ian Millar has been at Spruce Meadows over the years, plenty have passed since he could claim the title of CN Reliability Grand Prix Champion.

Not since 1992 has Captain Canada worn the crown at the National's richest event.

"A little bit of a drought, as they say," the 62-year-old show-jumping legend said yesterday after earning the $66,000 payday going double-clean aboard In Style and edging American Cara Raether by less than two-tenths of a second in the $200,000 event.

"I thought I was plenty fast, and I just barely beat her. She was darn fast."

Millar and his mount Big Ben once ruled the Spruce Meadows tracks. In Style is filling those giant horseshoes these days.

"He's -- touch wood -- just sound, healthy. I feel all the energy and all the power I ever had. He's jumping like a young one," Millar said of the 14-year-old gelding he's been working with for six years.

"There are definitely areas to compare. But I think the big deal is their attitude, how smart they are and how willing they are to learn what they can.

"The top horses are like that."

Daughter Amy Millar, who finished ninth to claim $3,300 in yesterday's grand prix after a clean first run put her in the jump-off along with her dad and eight other riders, has the same confidence in In Style as she did watching her dad climb aboard Big Ben.

"I remember when I was a kid and he would go in on Big Ben, and I wouldn't worry. I'd know he was gonna go clean," Amy said. "It's been a long time since ... because this sport is so unpredictable. When I watch (Eric Lamaze's) Hickstead and In Style walk in the ring, you don't even have to watch. You know they're gonna go clean.

"Maybe on a bad day, they're gonna have four faults. It becomes more surprising when they knock one down than when they don't."

It was shocking yesterday when Lamaze and Hickstead knocked the rail off the tricky second jump. The big bicycle proved to be difficult for more than a couple of jumpers.

"It's a very tough jump. The rail on top, first of all, is really, really light, so if you even touch it, it falls down. The way that it's built, it's to distract the horses," said Amy Millar. "Add to that it's always hung up there at 1.60-metres -- they don't make it small."

She and her dad have a similar jump to practise on back home. It seemed to pay off for both Millars.

Amy has had a tough week after hurting her back on opening day but made up for it coming out of the first group as the only clean rider.

"She jumped super," Amy said of Costa Rica Z, her 14-year-old mare.

Raether took home $40,000 for second. Beth Underhill earned $25,000 for third.

Calgary rider Jenna Thompson, one of seven Canadians in the top 10, was thrilled to take sixth aboard Zeke in the International Ring, taking $8,250 in prize money.

Lamaze finished fifth for a $15,500 but redeemed himself in the final event of the afternoon by winning the TransCanada Parcours de Chasse atop Lord du Janlie for another $15,000 in his pocket.

"It's always nice to win," he said. "The jump-off in the grand prix was very fast. You have to do everything you can. Where I was in the order of go, I had to try everything I could to catch his time."

STEVE.MACFARLANE@SUNMEDIA.CA


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