Team spirit goes a long way in inspiring good performance in the ring, and Helios has it in spades. The League officially kicked off at the stunning Thunderbird Show Park with the first of its 10 Team Competitions where eight teams do battle for a spot at the top of the season rankings.
A new team with some familiar faces proved to be the ones to watch when Ashlee Bond (ISR), Eugenio Garza (MEX), and Bliss Heers (USA) climbed to the top of the podium. Garza and Victer Finn DH Z (2008 Zangersheide gelding Va Vite) led the team with a clear performance in the opening round. Consistent trips by Bond riding Donatello 141 (2022 Westphalian gelding by Diarado) ultimately sent Heers and Goodbye (2001 KWPN mare by Eldorado VD Zeshoeck) to the final head-to-head round. She faced off against Jordan Coyle (IRL) of Spy Coast Spies.
MLSJ at Thunderbird is the first of 10 stops on the 2022 MLSJ season and was championed by President and Operations Director Chris Pack. The League was scheduled to kick-off its inaugural season at tbird last year, but was sidelined due to COVID-19 restrictions.
“Everyone at tbird had a Major League envy last year,” he said. “We were just fans of it last year. Cheers to Keean [White] and Matt [Morrissey]. They have an innovative product that brings not only great horsepower but also a lot of excitement to the fans. We're trying to build a fan base here and this is something that they can grasp and understand. We're very proud to be part of it.”
The silver medal was claimed by another new team with seasoned MLSJ athletes; team manager Shane Sweetnam, Jordan Coyle and Lacey Gilbertson. Continuing the trend of new team names being the good luck charm in 2022, The Trailblazers capped the podium in the bronze-medal position with Daniel Bluman, Nicky Galligan and Emma Marlowe in the tack.
The leaderboard shifted at the conclusion of the class when the Spy Coast Spies were eliminated from the final round post-competition after a small amount of blood was spotted on Picador's side by the FEI ground jury.
”Unfortunately, when Jordan Coyle came out of the ring, his horse had a small nick. The FEI rules are in place to protect the welfare of the horse. The [ground jury’s] decision was made with a lot of thought, and they took their time on it,” said MLSJ co-founder Keean White. “The horses always come first and we all play on a level playing field. We all know that's the rule and when it happens, it happens. It doesn't happen often."
Looking ahead to the rest of the season, White continued, "I think we're going to have quite a battle this year between Spy Coast and Helios, and I don't think Eye Candy is going anywhere."
The final day of MLSJ competition at Thunderbird Show Park features the CSI5* 1.50m Winning Round and the coveted CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix on Sunday.