Bad babies! -Photo by Keara

Bad babies! -Photo by Keara

Although other commitments kept me from the bulk of the “Continental” tournament, I did make an effort to go for the $210,000 CP Grand Prix. As the finale competition of the tournament, and the last class before many of the riders takeoff to Europe for a couple of weeks, it drew the “big guns” and a fairly large count of 35. Although the forecast was somewhat pessimistic and the sky threatening, we somehow managed to stay dry (a miracle for Spruce), and the conditions were actually quite perfect for the athletes. Photographers, on the other hand, nearly froze, but I guess I’ll recover… with enough Bailey’s in my coffee that is.

Anyway… like I said, the class was very impressive on paper. There was a lot of significant horsepower with tremendous riding backing it up. That’s why, when there were only 5 clears, I was shocked. In fact, four riders actually retired on course when things began to fall apart, there was one elimination, and buckets and buckets of faults. Huh?!! Well, although I couldn’t make it, a lot of the horses did jump in the Nations’ Cup on Friday and were likely fatigued. Other than that though, I feel that the course truly was quite challenging, maybe deceptively so. As was described in the press conference, the first three fences were quite nice, but then the questions started coming fast and furious. Predictably, the triple combination caused loads of trouble, but a number of other less likely fences hit the dirt a number of times as well. The jumps were not huge, but there was not any room for error…. Anthony D’Ambrosio made the riders work for every fence, yet didn’t dangerously max out the horses scope.

Yann Candele and Showgirl. -Photo by Keara

Yann Candele and Showgirl. -Photo by Keara

The first clear of the class was produced by, much to the delight of the crowd, Canadian Yann Candele and Showgirl. Now, I’m going to be brutally honest. I didn’t like Showgirl…. at all. Whenever I saw her in the past I found that she could jump well sometimes, but was painfully inconsistent and generally unimpressive. When she and former rider Jonathan Asselin won the derby class last year, I was floored. Did it make me like her though? No. Sorry.

Now, before you get grumpy with me, let me continue. Since the beginning of this year, she seems to have grown as a competitor leaps and bounds. All of a sudden she is jumping amazingly, and most importantly, CONSISTENTLY!!!! I don’t hold my breath anymore when she is jumping around a course- she has turned into a really, really solid mare. Still not my type, but I have gained a lot of respect for her.

The second clear came from McLain and Rothchild. Often angry and difficult looking, Rothchild is all business when he is in the ring. He is excellent at his job and contrary to what it may look like, is described as a great friend and a fairly easy ride. Be sure to watch the press conference video for more of what McLain had to say about him! Comparing him to Showgirl, Rothchild is a firey one with LOTS of blood. Personally, I perfer this type of horse both to ride myself and to watch, but they aren’t everyone’s cup of tea. Back to their round though – in typical McLain style, he made it look like a 1.10m schooling class. Every question was answered to perfection, and they easily hopped over all of the fences. In addition to this, they had a brisk pace all the way around, finishing well under the time allowed. In short, the course just really wasn’t an issue to for them – quite the contrast to what other pairs had displayed!

Eric Lamaze and Powerplay. -Photo by Keara

Eric Lamaze and Powerplay. -Photo by Keara

The third clear of the day came from Eric and Powerplay!!!!! Woohoo!!! After having been bitten by the last fence in the first GP of the summer series, I knew that they would come back strong. Watching them it is truly hard to remember that they only came together a year ago – Powerplay is jumping really well and they seem to have a great partnership going on. Of course, Eric can ride anything, but it takes that honest partnership to make it at the very top of the sport. After last week’s heartbreak, I was worried as they came down the last line, but they easily powered over the final oxer. Again, I find Powerplay to be a fun horse to watch. He is smaller, and really punches off the ground in order to get over the fences. He sometimes worries me with his hang time in the air, but I think that he has really improved at going a little faster around courses.

I’m going to skip ahead a little in order to stay somewhat on the same train of thought, so let’s say another big woohoo for TIFFANY!!!! That’s right, not to be outdone my Eric, Tiffany and Verdi also jumped a lovely clear in the first round! A big and lanky fellow, Verdi never looks worried, and just picks up his legs at the fences. With that said though, Tiffany did an excellent job piloting him through the difficult course- they both worked hard to earn their spot in the jump-off.

Tiffany and Verdi III. -Photo by Keara

Tiffany and Verdi III. -Photo by Keara

Backing up a little, before Tiffany jumped her clear, another one was logged by Christine McCrea and one of the most striking horses I have seen, Romantovich Take One. Although he has an unorthodox jumping style, Romantovich can certainly get the job done, and definitely looks good doing it. I’m not entirely sure what works to draw me in, but regardless, I find him stunning. Maybe it’s the dapples? The eyes? I always have been an eye person…

But yes, those were the 5 clears for the jump-off. Can you say CANADA! Like, wow, after maybe a disappointing Nations’ Cup, the Canadians really came out to play in the CP – there was some really excellent riding that should make choosing the WEG team pretty darn easy.

Christine McCrea and Romantovich Take One. -Photo by Keara

Christine McCrea and Romantovich Take One. -Photo by Keara

So, how did the jump-off turn out?! With 3/5 pairs being Canadian, the fans definitely had some cheering to do, and quite honestly, I was finding it hard not to join in.

First up, Yann and Showgirl jumped a very calculated clear in 45.77 seconds. It wasn’t quick by any stretch of the imagination, but Yann’s lines were great, and Showgirl did her job very well. Next in, McLain and Rothchild were their typical selves. Like a Ferrari, Rothchild gets low and goes fast. He skims over the jumps, not wasting any time in the air, but carefully leaving the rails in their cups. Of course, this wasn’t McLain’s first rodeo, so he rode all the best lines and took great turns. With another easy clear, McLain and Rothchild took over the lead in 43.29. Coming back third in the jump-off, Eric really had the crowd riding with him. After his win in La Baule, we know that Powerplay is becoming a strong jump-off horse, but could he beat Rothchild – the red racer? With an intermediate time over 2 seconds faster, things were looking good, but then it all came to an end. Making the inside turn to the white planks, it looked like they just simply got too close, and Powerplay was unable to get his front end up and out of the way in time to clear it. Just like that they were out of contention for the win, and Eric slowed a bit in order to ensure that would be their only rail, landing in third place.

The two remaining riders, Christine and Tiffany, had their work cutout for them. Like Eric, Christine started out well but had a rail midway through and would have to settle for fourth. Then, much to the crowds dismay, Tiffany also had an early rail, and then in an attempt to make the inside turn to the planks, had a slip that resulted in a refusal. She would go on to retire and finish in fifth.

McLain Ward and Rothchild (with his game face on!). -Photo by Keara

McLain Ward and Rothchild (with his game face on!). -Photo by Keara

Congratulations to McLain and Rothchild!!!

Now, instead of me quoting everything that they said, here is the best 3 minutes out of the press conference… I thought I’d edit it up because, well, they can kinda drag on a bit sometimes!!

That’s it for now 🙂

Keara