Deslauriers claims Nexen title

STEVE MACFARLANE, SUN MEDIA

, Last Updated: 9:53 AM ET

Paying off a debt to a fellow show-jumper would have been a little easier to swallow had he won, but Pablo Barrios is about to make good.

That means even more than the winner's share of the $175,000 Nexen Cup Derby at the Spruce Meadows National is coming Mario Deslauriers' way.

The Canadian claimed the $58,000 top spot over his Venezuelan pal Barrios in a two-horse jump-off yesterday in the International Ring. Some smaller portion of the $35,000 Barrios earned will be handed to Deslauriers for hauling his horse Sinatra all the way to Calgary from a show in Kentucky.

"Now I can pay you," Barrios said with a laugh during a press conference wrapping up the first big Spruce Meadows tournament of the summer.

Even more entertaining is the idea he put forward about Sinatra and Deslauriers' mount Paradigm possibly having a chat during the more than 2,000 miles between Lexington, Ky., and here.

It was Sinatra's first time in a derby, which features very different obstacles than the grand prix.

"The only explanation we had was they came in the same truck -- Mario brought my horses -- so I think they were talking about that," Barrios said, drawing bursts of laughter from the crowd and his fellow riders.

"He looks like he has done that before."

Paradigm has done it before.

But the 15-year-old Belgian warmblood has never won the event.

Until now, that is.

Getting the best of Barrios and Sinatra by almost four seconds in the jump-off after both knocked down just a single rail in the first round, Deslauriers capped off a pretty stellar week at the Meadows.

He gave Canada bragging rights in the derby for the first time since Ian Millar won it in 2000.

Interestingly, Deslauriers is in the midst of applying for his American citizenship.

"Always happy to win," he said, avoiding a question pointing out his pending switch.

"It's a great class. I had a bit of a bad day yesterday (in the grand prix), but it was a nice turnaround to end the week.

"I had a great week. That was my sixth win, I think. I can't complain.

"Good start of the summer here at Spruce Meadows."

While the Devil's Dyke gave most riders hell yesterday, Deslauriers found a different trouble spot in his first run.

His aggressive gelding didn't produce a bead of sweat despite the gruelling course and hot conditions, but he did come away wet.

"I was noticing he wasn't even wet when he came out of the derby the first time around.

"He's in great shape right now," the 44-year-old said before someone pointed out his only fault was on the water jump, which meant Paradigm's feet splashed.

"That was the only thing," he added amidst more chuckles.


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