Shane Breen and Cos I Can. -Photo by Keara

Saturday was Nations Cup day at Spruce Meadows!!!!!! Over 80,000 fans came to Spruce Meadows to watch it unfold under the gorgeous Alberta sunshine. This is a new record- but I don’t find it surprising because, really, who doesn’t like a good Nations Cup? No one!

They are incredibly exciting and display a tremendous amount of talent- I congratulate anyone who had it in them to even attempt that course! Personally, just walking the course was enough to make my stomach turn. I think I’m quite content bopping my way around 3′ jumper courses- nicely below my head and I can actually reach both sides of the oxers at the same time!

But, slowing down for a minute, I shouldn’t get too far ahead of myself. So, let’s talk the….

$80,000 1.50m Suncor Energy Winning Round:

Just to remind you, in a winning round class the top 8 from the first round return, with a clean slate, for the second shortened jump-off like round. So, theoretically, you could have a time fault or a rail in the first round and still win the class. Have I seen this happen? Yes, quite often. Did it happen today? Nope – it’s the Masters! Even though the course was very challenging, with this caliber of field you had to be on top of your game. Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED)was the only one to make it in the top 8 with a time fault- he was just barely over the 74 second time allowed. The others, even with only a single time fault, we left wishing they went a hair faster. Actually, time was a major factor in the first round. Pairs really had to motor in order to make the time allowed!

Ludo Philippaerts and Denver Vant Goemanshof. -Photo by Keara

Who made the top 8? Beezie Madden put in a standout round with her Olympic partner Coral Reef Via Volo, Ludo Philippaerts (BEL) and son Nicola Philippaaerts (Nicola’s twin, Oliver had a pesky rail), Christian Ahlmann (GER- this name just keeps popping up, good thing I practiced!), Harrie Smolders (NED), Brianne Goutal (USA), Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED), and Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA). Strong field!

So who would take it?

Well, would you be surprised if I said that Beezie put in one of her flawless, yet incredibly fast rounds, for the win? No? Didn’t think so! When Beezie and Via are ‘on’ (and they usually are), they are basically unbeatable. Interestingly, when asked about how she compensates for Via’s short stride, Beezie said that, although small in stature, Via has a huge stride on her, so she walks the courses like she did for Judgement (ie. oh, we can leave a stride out here)! That goes to show you how incredible that little mare is, unbelievable! Ludo Philippaerts would take a strong second.

Beezie Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo. -Photo by Keara

$300,000 1.60m BMO Nations Cup:

Wohoo, now lets talk about the big class! Now, I will admit, I missed the first 8 riders for an interesting reason that I will disclose in another post….I’ll just leave that nice and cryptic, it’s more fun that way! Moving on, I want to begin by talking about the course, specifically 7ab. Yikes.

Ian and Star Power launch over that nasty oxer. -Photo by Keara

Problems, problems, problems. When I walked the course, there wasn’t anything in particular said about the combination other than that it was large and would require a lot of scope to get through. Fair enough, we expect this…..but I don’t think anyone foresaw how it actually rode. Now, with a vertical to and oxer, a little short is nice, but wow, that was REALLY SHORT.

Even the riders who did the very steady 6 strides from 6 to 7a had trouble. During the first round I was standing right by it and, quite honestly, I purposely moved down the arena for the second round because I was sick of gasping. It tripped up so many pairs, but none worse than Canada’s Tiffany Foster and Victor. They jumped in well, but Victor just could not manage to put in a stride before that big oxer and he ended up jumping at it and crashing- he fell hard and threw Tiffany. That minute that took him to get up felt like an eternity, I was horrified watching it. Thankfully, he eventually jumped up and ran towards the in-gate; Tiffany was also able to walk out of the arena. Unfortunately, although Tiffany was brave enough to come back for the second round, Victor had no intention of jumping that combination…I really don’t blame him.

Huge kudos to Tiffany for coming back in the second round! -Photo by Keara

For some of the riders reactions to 7ab (including Eric and Ian), check out the videos of the press conference below.

Moving past the course issues, it was still quite the competition and the best team definitely won! Hello Germany, you’re back! After a disappointing Olympics, the German boys came to Spruce Meadows with all guns firing. The all male team, who were all riding stallions, put down a commanding performance- their anchor rider, Christian Ahlmann, did not even have to jump a second round. This will likely benefit him since Taloubet is the horse he will be riding in Sunday’s CN International. He jumped a big round to get him on his toes, but will not be as tired as some of the other horses that had to jump twice.

Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z. -Photo by Keara

Victorious Team Germany! -Photo by Keara

So, with poor Tiffany coming to grief in both of her rounds, Canada was left with no drop score once again. Thankfully, our three veterens had a pretty good day. If I had to pick a standout from the team, it would be Mac Cone on Amor van de Rostal. Our lead off rider, Mac put in two solid rounds, only incurring 4 faults in each. This is a fairly new partnership that seems to be off on the right foot! Eric also did well with Derly, pulling 2 rails in the first round, improving to just one in the second (yep, at 7b). Derly seems to be entirely over her little blip from earlier in the summer, she certainly came back from the Olympics a stronger and more confident horse. Finally, who can forget Captain Canada himself? Ian and Star Power, as usual, were great anchors for our team. Although a couple pesky rails would fall, they handled all of the questions with ease and should be contenders in the CN.

Mac Cone had a great day! -Photo by Keara

Eric and Derly jumping the bike in style. -Photo by Keara

Ian and Star Power. -Photo by Keara

In the end, Canada would end up tied with Team USA for 5th place. Speaking of team USA, what a great showing for a rather inexperienced team! Although Leslie Howard was their anchor rider, the other three- Reed, Ashlee, and Brianne, are all quite green in comparison to the majority of the field. Yes, Reed went to the Olympics and did GREAT, but she just turned 18! Brianne had a tough day with an elimination (yep, 7ab) followed by 20 faults in the second round, Ashlee looked great with 4 and 8, Leslie fixed a 12 fault first round with a clear in the second, and Reed did amazing as usual with 4 in the first and a clear second. Congratulations ladies!

Reed and Cylana on their way to a clear in the second round. -Photo by Keara

Alright, so we all know that press conferences can be a little boring. They are usually the same old thing, last for under 10 minutes, and kinda make you want to fall asleep. Well, trust me, you want to watch this one! I know, there is nearly 20 minutes of it and my filming is less than stellar, but those German boys are FUNNY and the Canadians get right in there as well!

Besides the humour, there is a lot of talk on 7ab, Tiffany addresses her fall, the German’s compare Spruce Meadows to Europe….and more!

Oh, FYI- Ranchmans is a bar/nightclub in Calgary….yes you need to know that!

Aren’t they great?!

Bonus! Here’s the Spruce Meadows Masters Saturday video recap showing the winning rides – it’s a Flash video so it doesn’t work on iPhones, iPads.

Well, I’m off to bed to dream of taking perfect pictures in Sunday’s $1,000,000 CN International!

Keara