CALGARY — All set to punctuate her killer week with a win in her first Derby, Ashlee Bond could only watch as the last rider out spoiled her finale.
The 25-year-old American cleared the marathon course, but earned a fault for taking too much time to do it.
Venezuela’s Pablo Barrios was perfect and quick to avoid a jump-off and claim top prize aboard G&C Sinatra in the $175,000 Nexen Cup Derby as the Spruce Meadows National came to an exciting close Sunday afternoon.
“Very nice. It’s the first time I got to come to the ring in a golf cart,” said Barrios, who earned $45,000 for his first victory at Spruce after finishing second to Mario Deslauriers last year in the same event. “I’m very happy.”
Despite calling herself “the first loser,” the high-energy Bond added a $15,000 bonus to the second-place prize of $25,000 by taking the Spruce Meadows Canadian Championship by earning the most combined points in this week’s ATB Financial Cup, Spectra Energy Cup, CN Reliability Grand Prix and the Derby.
“I didn’t even know a non-Canadian could win that,” she said with a laugh as she described the thrill of hearing about a prize she wasn’t aware of. “Do you get money? Sweet.”
Capping off a thrilling week that included a fourth-place finish in the Enbridge Cup, a victory in the Spectra Energy Cup, a second in the ATCO Midstream Cup, Sunday’s runner-up finish in the Derby was a thrill she had yet to experience.
And, finally, she found something that made her nervous.
The Devil’s Dyke.
Dominating timid entries as usual was the infamous ditch combining three jumps. While an impressive eight of the 25 rider/horse combinations went three-for-three over the trickiest Derby obstacle, rails fell 19 times.
A pair of horses outright refused to attempt it — one tossing its rider.
“The Devil’s Dyke, and the hill, and all that stuff was definitely intimidating. I’m usually pretty relaxed when I go into the ring, but today my heart was really racing,” said Bond, who took advantage of the replica dyke combination in the warmup ring by running her horse Cadett 7 through it three times Saturday in preparation.
She cleared all three rails in competition.
“I just tried to get in there and keep kicking and hope for the best,” she said with a smile. “It worked out.”
American Leslie Howard finished third after taking an uncharacteristic pair of time faults aboard Raimond W.
“If you have time faults, you’re probably not gonna win,” said the feisty veteran rider. “I knew with Raimond I was being careful and nursing it a few times, and paid the price.”
A normally aggressive Bond lost some of her time atop the big bank, a steep hill that gives many horses pause.