The first week of the 2018 Chicago Festival of the Horse kept its momentum well into the weekend, attracting an excited crowd to Lamplight Equestrian Center’s world-class Grand Prix Arena to watch riders battle it out for the top placing in the $50,000 Prix de Lamplight. Many horse and athlete combinations tackled the Peter Grant-designed course to vie for top honors, but it was Thomas Cerra and McGregor that were the only pair of the evening to navigate a double clear finish to come out on top.
The first round of the $50,000 Prix De Lamplight produced just seven clear finishes, three of which belonged to Tracy Fenney out of Flower Mound, Texas. Fenney and MTM Como No were first up to take on the jump-off, just narrowly leaving all of the rails up until the last fence fell, finishing with a time of 45.159 seconds. Several others would follow Fenney, but none could overcome the challenging rollbacks to leave the fences up or catch her time.
Cerra and his own mount McGregor were the fifth pair to attempt to take the lead from Fenney and the first to produce a clear jump-off. Cerra had one goal in mind – leave the rails up and let the final few riders try to catch his time. The pair successfully managed to put down a clear round, finishing in 49.099 seconds. While Cerra’s jump-off time was not the quickest of the contenders, his carefulness in the ring was enough to take over the lead.
“I didn’t even see anyone go. I like when I just have to go clear! There’s a lot of fast horses in the class and I have a big horse with a big stride and he’s maybe not quite as fast as them, so it was good, I just tried to be efficient, not slow, but just put in a good clear round and let whoever was after me chase me and maybe they would make a mistake.”
Cerra is no stranger to the Lamplight Equestrian Center – he has been competing at the scenic showgrounds since he was a child in the pony divisions. He is in his fifties now, and has been moving up in divisions and rankings over the years. Two years ago, Cerra purchased McGregor as a 7 year-old, and the pair is just coming off of a successful two weeks in Traverse City, Michigan where they finished in fifth place in the $50,000 Meijer Grand Prix at the Great Lakes Equestrian Festival.
“I’ve just been putting good miles on him. He’s probably the best horse I’ve ever had. He has a sweet personality, he tries 100% every time, he never lets me down. He just keeps climbing the ladder. I keep going a little bit higher and challenging him a little bit more and he was really good in Traverse City, he got a ribbon in both of the $50,000 Grand Prix events there. I think he earned a week off now!”
Following Cerra, Fenney with Igor Van De Heibos and MTM Reve Du Paradis as well as Dorothy Douglas riding S&L Elite were the final pairs to try for a clear round, but they could not match Cerra and McGregor’s careful round. Ultimately, it would be Cerra and McGregor that would finish on top. Fenney would take home second place with her earlier ride on MTM Como No and third place with MTM Reve Du Paradis with 4-faults and a time of 45.465 seconds.