Eye Candy Tastes Sweet Victory
If you asked Team Eye Candy, they would say they were long overdue for a win during the 2022 season of Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ). Crowned 2021 season champions, it took five legs of the 2022 tour to produce a victory, but a win was sweet in Traverse City as they took home the title in the $273,800 MLSJ CSI5* Team Competition.
Alan Wade (IRL) set the track for the occasion, and Team Helios continued their fiery streak recording a clean sheet in round one. Four teams tied on four faults, leaving the ShowPlus Northern Lights just outside the top four with the slowest time after three riders.
The medal rounds commenced, where it was Helios versus Crusaders fighting for bronze and Trailblazers against Eye Candy head to head for gold. Eye Candy’s Conor Swail (IRL) and Jacqueline Steffens (CAN) were not collectively as quick as Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Santiago Lambre (BRA) for Trailblazers in the second round, so the Trailblazers had the last word as the final team to jump off.
Beezie Madden (USA) piloted Abigail Wexner’s Hummer Z to a fault-free effort in 45.89 seconds for the Crusaders, which put the pressure on Karl Cook (USA), who was still undefeated in MLSJ action for Team Helios aboard Signe Otsby’s mare Fecybelle. Ultimately, Crusaders took the bronze as Cook pulled one rail in a final time of 46.72, pushing Helios out of medal contention.
Amy Millar (CAN), as the anchor rider for Eye Candy, put in a clear effort in 43.06 seconds with Future Adventures’ Christiano, faster than any other pair in the jump-off. With a little breathing room to sneak in, the win was not secured until Emma Marlowe (USA) and Cherokee had an unfortunate rail and extra seconds on the clock for a time of 49.58 seconds, placing the Trailblazers in the silver-medal position and awarding Eye Candy the gold medal.
“We’re picking up pace now,” Steffens said. “We’ve been getting consistent and it’s different from last year. It’s a little more competitive and the standards have been raised, which is great to see, but we had to catch up a little bit.”
The team switched their order for the jump-off portion of the evening, and it paid off. “In the jump-off, we picked Conor and me to go in the first round with the intent of going for it,” Steffens explained of the team’s strategy. “Amy came in clutch and she was the fastest of all of us. She sealed the deal.”
“It was very stressful,” Millar said of being the gold medal jump-off rider. “I usually go first on this team, but it worked out. I jump last for Canada a lot, but I explained to Paul [O’Shea] that I usually don’t have to go fast in Nations Cups.”
“It’s a good competition,” Swail echoed. “It’s fun, we’re enthusiastic about it, and we want to do well. We get on very well together. We’re doing our best and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t. We’ve been a little unlucky; we were just knocked out by a very small margin a few times. We have a couple of fifths that could have been turned into podiums. It’s nice that we bounced back today and hit our groove again. It was a good day.”
Team Eye Candy now sits in second place in the league overall with 29 points, just behind Helios who took an early lead with 37 points from their three victories. Spy Coast Spies, just missing the mark in Saturday’s competition, sit in third with 27 points.
The season in Traverse City comes to a close with Sundays $405,300 CSI5* American Gold Cup Grand Prix, where top internationally ranked athletes will ride for a shot at the prestigious honor of etching their names on the trophy.