Mario (Vicomte D) and Eric (Take Off- but placed on Wang Chung) having a chat, they finished 2nd and 3rd respectively. -Photo by Keara

By the end of this weekend, I may just have the words to The Star-Spangled Banner down pat because it seems to be playing on repeat in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows. Friday at the Spruce Meadows National tournament brought another day of pure American domination with a sweep of the two big classes of the day. That’s not to say that other riders didn’t do well, but wow, the Americans sure came to Spruce Meadows to win – their Olympic team is going to be a force to be reckoned with!

With that said, the winner of the 1.45m ATCO Midstream Challenge was someone who is not really looking for a spot on the team- Richard Spooner. I will admit now that I only made the jump-off for this class. Work+car trouble+being stupid and trying to take Deerfoot across the city in rush hour (anyone from Calgary will know what I mean)= being rather late to arrive at Spruce!

But anyways, 46 riders took to the course in round one with 16 advancing to the exciting jump-off. Now as promised, I will pay a little bit more attention to Lamaze’s horses and, luckily, he had two that made the jump-off in this class. Early in the order, Eric rocketed around the course with Wang Chung MS2, setting the bar very high for the other riders to chase. This was my first time seeing Wang Chung, and he looked really good. He has always struck me as a very consistent horse and, as Eric said in the interview, speed classes seem to suit him quite well (they would finish in 3rd). The second horse Lamaze had in the class was the lovely Take Off, a 12year old Dutch Warmblood mare. Having come later in the order, Eric knew what he had to do and really pushed her. They were having a lightning fast round when, unfortunately, she didn’t quite clear the final oxer. Bummer. They finished just out of the ribbons in 11th.

Eric and Wang Chung. -Photo by Keara

Back to the rest of the class. Like I said, Richard Spooner took the top prize with a very convincing ride on the pretty grey gelding, Chivas Z. Watching his round I was holding my breath a little, he was gunning it. Luckily, Chivas  was more than game and easily sailed over the fences, stopping the clock nearly two seconds faster than Lamaze’s time. In the awards ceremony, Richard said that he started to think the maybe he should slow down about halfway through, but the devil on his shoulder told him to keep going. The devil was right! Mario Deslauriers put in a solid effort with Vicomte D to slip into 2nd spot.

Richard Spooner and Chivas Z (yes, a plain cavesson!). -Photo by Keara

The last class of the day was the 1.50m RBC Capital Markets Winning Round. 20 horse/riders combinations took to the course with the top 8 being given a ticket to the second round. Eric rode Coriana in this class and she still looked less than focused- this contributed to a rail at 8a and a 13th place finish. The biggest issue in this class was definitely the clock. There were many great jumping rounds, but I would say that nearly half of the field incurred time faults. Thankfully though, the top 8 advanced to the second round, clear or not.

Tim Gredley (GBR) and Unex Chamberlain Z. They finished in 4th. -Photo by Keara

The exciting part of the class took place, unsurprisingly, in the second round of 8. I can think of two words to describe it….horse race! The course itself was well balanced with areas for tight turns and open galloping stretches and, let me tell you, the riders were capitalizing on both. Beezie Madden had two horses qualified, and opened the round up with Cortes C and, as expected, placed the bar very high for the others to chase. She was not surpassed until the ‘Master of the Faster’ himself, Richard Spooner, raced around on Apache to steal away the lead. Then, not to be outdone, Madden entered the ring on her second horse, Mademoiselle, and cranked it up one level higher to steal back the lead. Wow! The final rider on course was Ashlee Bond on the breathtaking Cadett 7. Knowing exactly what she needed to do, Ashlee flew around the course and clocked an excellent time, but unfortunately pulled two rails.

Beezie Madden and Mademoiselle. -Photo by Keara

Anyways, that is all for now as I need to hurry up and get out the door in order to make it to Spruce for the first class of the day.

I also entirely forgot to tell you that there is a live feed of the Spruce Meadows action through CBC that can be found here. Just remember that it is all in Calgary time (MST)!

Keara