The summer series is here! -Photo by Keara
As cliche as it sounds, time really does fly. It honestly seems like I was in Vegas yesterday and that the summer series at Spruce Meadows was light years away. Well, the sun is shining, the jumps are set, and the horses are back in Calgary; the 2015 summer series is well underway!
As per usual, the series drew some of the best horses and riders in the world. Ian Millar, Eric Lamaze, Rich Fellers, Kent Farrington, Beezie Madden, and Connor Swail, just to name a few, are all here to battle it out for some serious prize money, ranking points, and overall prestige.
Rich and Flexible are back in town. -Photo by Keara
Kicking things off with the ‘National’ tournament, the biggest class of the weekend was Saturday’s $400,000 RBC Grand Prix, presented by Rolex. With a huge field of 50, the class was split into two phases- one in the morning before the speed class, and the other in the afternoon. Overall, Uliano Vezzani’s course was not horrific, but rather was a nice first GP of the series. There was nothing that stood out as super trappy, nor where there any definite trouble areas on course.
Being Canadian, of course I was pretty excited to see how the home country would do. Finishing the ‘Masters’ with Ian winning the 1.5 million CP International left a pretty exciting feeling in the air. There are pictures of he and Dixson all over the grounds, and really, it’s not something that fans will forget anytime soon. Another pair that keeps getting better and better is Tiffany and Tripple X. It is clear that their partnership is progressing, and I have super high hopes for them (and I know they won’t disappoint).
Tiffany Foster and Tripple X III. -Photo by Keara
At the end of the first round, twelve pairs had posted a clear round to make it into the jump-off, including last years winner, Jamie Azcarraga, and three Canadians: Ian Millar, Tiffany Foster, and Yann Candele. Although I wish I could say that we got to hear the Canadian anthem at the end of the day, I am still pretty happy with how things played out. Posting a careful clear, Yann would place fifth, Tiffany would pull a single rail for seventh, and Ian would also just drop one for eighth.
So who won it? Well, it was an American horse race.
Reed and Cylana. -Photo by Keara
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, Reed is pretty great. Not only is she a gifted rider, but she is a good person. Always smiling, saying hi and waving to fans during the parade, she is a great ambassador for the sport.
On Saturday, Reed and Cylana were on great form. I overheard her dad talking, and he was saying how Spruce Meadows seems to be Cylana’s favourite place to jump. I definitely believe that. They made very easy work of the first round, and came back halfway through the jump-off and went for broke. She rode FAST. I really thought she had it, and after coming second in the CP last fall, I would have loved to see her take the win.
Well, one of her American counterparts had other ideas.
Kent and Voyeur. -Photo by Keara
Currently ranked #3 in the world for good reason, Kent Farrington is always a threat in any class that he rides in. Then, pair him with Voyeur, and you know that they are serious contenders. Coming into the jump-off a little later on, Kent started off with a big gallop and then just let it roll. Although he said “Whoa!” a couple of times, you could tell that he was letting Voyeur run, and he certainly had no plans to touch the rails. Making the long gallop down to the last fence I think most of us were holding our breath, but there was no need to worry, they had it.
Now, most of you know that I’m a big fan of Voyeur’s barn mate, Uceko, but I’ll admit that I have a soft spot for him as well. That horse is easily one of the best on the circuit, and I don’t see him slowing down anytime soon. I remember watching them at Spruce in 2012 and being interested, so it’s great to see them on top now.
A big congrats to everyone at Team KPF! -Photo by Keara
That’s all for now,
Tiffany Foster and Tripple X III. -Photo by Keara
Saturday at the “North American” is my favourite day of the summer series. Not only is there a big GP class, but it really is a “Royal Occasion” with lots of pomp and circumstance. In addition to this, we were treated with an idyllic summer day in Calgary, with lots of sunshine, blues skies, and a light breeze- it doesn’t get any better!
First up in the International Ring was the 1.50m TD Cup, a historically competitive class that takes place under the winning round format. This means that at the conclusion of the first round the top ten (not just clears) come back for a jump-off where their slates are wiped clean and everyone is in the running for the win. Due to this, the first round itself is crazy competitive with the riders putting their foot down when they have a rail hoping to be a fast enough four to make it through. Sometimes it works, other times not so much!
Glancing quickly down the order of go, I was thrilled to see that Eric had Fine Lady 5 entered. With already two wins just this tournament alone, including one of Friday night, I had high hopes to hear the Canadian anthem play. Furthermore, Tiffany had Victor entered, and Ian was with Star Power- Canada was very well represented!!
Eric and Fine Lady 5. -Photo by Keara
Well, the class certainly did not disappoint. Unlike Friday’s yawn inducing jump-off, the second round of the TD Cup was exciting until the end, but first I will fill you in on a little bit of excitement of a different kind during the first round. Jumping 16th on the order, Leslie Howard was having a decent round on Utah. Although they pulled a fairly early rail, he was jumping quite well overall. Then the crowd got oddly loud- standing on the table top, I had no idea why. Her round looked nice and all, but nothing spectacular was happening…. then I saw him streaking past the water jump… Apparently there is a family of foxes living within the vicinity of the International Ring, and one of the babies decided that it was time to make an international appearance. Luckily staying well clear of Leslie, the little guy ran the length of the ring towards the devils dyke, and then after a moment, streaked back the other way, likely coming down with a good case of stage fright upon realizing the size of his audience and all the attention he was receiving.
It’s not everyday you see wild life in the International Ring- although I suppose you could argue that victory gallops often prove otherwise 😉
Although the fox did return later in the day, his timing was a little better as he simply provided some entertainment during the break between rounds of the GP.
What does the fox say? -Photo by Keara
Okay, back to the class. With a top ten comprised of riders like Eric, Ian, Tiffany, McLain, Quentin, and Jaime (a big winner during the National), it was, like I already said, exciting. Maybe not fox exciting, but right up there anyways.
First back, having squeeked into the second round on four, Shane Sweetnam wasted no time with Fineman. Galloping something fierce, they flew around the course, but ran into some fault trouble when they pulled three rails during the rush. Considering the Canadians, they fared quite well, but it wasn’t quite the result I was hoping for. Sadly, Tiffany and Eric would have a rail each, and Star Power just wouldn’t have enough speed to challenge for the lead. Positively though, Elizabeth Gingras had an amazing day with Zilverspring, going clear with a time fault in the first round, and then rocketing around for third place in the second. Nice!
So, who won? Well, would you be surprised if I said it was McLain? No? But I bet you’ll be happy! That’s right, the ever so cool and professional McLain piloted HH Carlos Z to a stellar round, making the whole course look quite simple. McLain can ride any horse to its full potential, and tackle any course that the designers put in front of him- he gives a clinic every single time he enters the ring.
Your winners, McLain and HH Carlos Z. -Photo by Keara
Moving onto the big Grand Prix, a large field of 36 contested Leopoldo Palacios’ tricky course. Overall, although the first round was big, it was very jumpable. The true test came in the second round when the jumps got bigger and the lines got trickier- it stood up to some of the toughest courses in the world.
During the press conference my favourite response came from Quentin Judge who, when asked about the difficulty, laughed and said “Ahhh, yes, it was hard!”, before going onto say “the courses were difficult, the first round was not impossible, but was a good qualifier with the right horses getting into the second round. Overall there was a good mix of riders going forwards into the second round, including seasoned veterans like Kent and McLain, along with people like myself who are just getting into it. It was a hard test- obviously the line from 3 to 4ab was the most difficult.”
With that said, I should likely explain that line: it at the end of the arena paralleling the in-gate, and was comprised of a triple bar going forwards to a one stride over the liverpools. This came down A LOT and caused a number of refusals as well. The most interesting ride probably came from Yann and Showgirl who balked at the ingate right before the liverpools, yet still somehow managed to jump them. I have no idea where this horse has come from, she is doing spectacularly with Yann, and can honestly jump anything from anywhere. I never thought I would say that about Showgirl… I owe her a big apology for my lack of faith!
Anyways, going into the second round Canada was represented very well with Tiffany, Yann, and Ian all earning their way through. Personally, I was very excited to see Tripple X in action, and he certainly did not disappoint. Although they all pulled a late rail and added a time fault, the Canadian’s looked great, and since this is also a big chunk of the team headed to Aachen (and then likely to WEG), things are bright for Canada. Furthermore, I guess we shouldn’t hold too much against Eric- a bad luck rub is the only thing that kept him out of the second round with Power Play.
Kent Farrington and Voyeur. -Photo by Keara
As we went through the order for the second round, it was becoming apparent that a clear round was going to be hard to come by. If a pair managed to make it through the liverpools, another spot that really seemed to bite was the very last line of the course- it broke a lot of dreams. Finally, one pair managed to leave all of the jumps up, but it took its toll on the clock, leaving them with one time fault. That pair? Kent Farrington and Voyeur, barn name Froggy, which if you’re like me, will make you like him even a tiny bit more.
Would that be enough?! Could he win it on one time fault?
Although there was no lack of trying, no one else managed to leave up all the fences. Like I said, even if they managed that awful liverpool line, that was not the only tricky part of the course to navigate. It was all big, and on the day, only Kent and Voyeur had it in them to leave them up. In the press conference, Kent talked about how he probably has every other ribbon in this class, but had never managed to win it before. He was also thrilled for Voyeur, explaining that he is very special and that he is looking forward to big things in his future.
Kent and Voyeur over the triple bar in the first round. -Photo by Keara
Taking second place, Paulo Santana was absolutely thrilled with Taloubet, especially since the horse is just recovering from an injury. As a spectator I always appreciate this pair- when you see that big white face coming, you know that you’re in for a treat. Rounding out the top three, Quentin Judge was pleased with HH Copin van de Broy, voicing his appreciation for the horses experience when faced with a class like that.
Congratulations to the top three, and everyone else who faced that monster of a course!!
On Sunday of the Spruce Meadows National, I was given the opportunity to go on a date with one of my favourite boys in show jumping. No, it wasn’t Kent or Daniel…. this fellow is a little bigger and a little greyer…. and has hooves. That’s right, it wasn’t a “normal person” date, but rather one that only a Horse Junkie would be thrilled for (and let me tell you, thrilled is a horrific understatement!). Before I go any farther I want to send my absolute thank yous to both Alex and Denise at Kent Farrington LLC for taking time out of their day to not only allow me to meet my favourite horse, but also provide us with the scoop on him.
Okay, enough stalling, here are all the details from my Uceko-date!!!!!!!
Uceko says hello!!
Show Name: Uceko
Barn Name: Monkey
- Treats – carrots and apples (he’s a natural guy – always watching his figure!)
- Napping – he takes nap time very seriously and always lays flat out in his stall! He also dreams a lot, jumping fences in his sleep.
- Shoes- ie. the ones that you are wearing!
- He is the itchiest horse you’ll ever meet, which makes clipping and grooming and all those general things “interesting”
- He can be very stubborn and will happily drag you around, but overall is great to look after and is, as we know, fantastic at his job
- He is very, very flexible
- He doesn’t know he is so small, he thinks that he is a big guy. His massive stride in the ring comes from his super long legs in proportion to his body.
- A typical day at Spruce Meadows: fed, mucked out, morning nap, ridden, another nap, go out for some grass, another nap, dinner. Can you see a trend?!
- He knows that he is the king of the barn, and really doesn’t like the other horses. For example, when Willow won the big class a few months ago the attention he got drove Monkey crazy, and he gave him a solid bite the first chance he got. Even as we were talking, he was not impressed when other horses walked by or popped their heads up in neighboring stalls.
- Interestingly, the one horse that would put Monkey in his place was Up Chiqui, Kent’s now retired superstar partner. Due to this, he is still “respectful” of chestnut horses!
- He is one of the only horses to be permanently banned from Spruce Meadows award ceremonies- bad Monkey!
- He loves being dirty. It seemed that around the time of the last Pan Am games he came to this conclusion, and doesn’t like being brushed.
- An absolute attention hog!
- Will bow for treats!
Now for the burning question- we haven’t seen him in the ring for what seems to be a long time! Is he okay?
He is fine! At this time, Kent has a very exciting and talented string of horses. There are a number of them with the ability and potential to jump the big classes, and it is simply time for them to start stepping up and performing. Uceko has never really had a nice break – he was always going and going as Kent’s main horse. Therefore, now with the others, he has been given the time off to relax and regenerate. Looking at the summer series and WEG, it is all a matter of “seeing how things go”, and bringing him back nice and slowly. There is no rush – the other horses need the experience.
Me and Monkey- he was really hoping that I had more food!
Here are some more photos from back in the barn. He is quite the ham and sure knows how to pose for the camera!
After having met Monkey, I think I have figured out another reason for why I’m so drawn to him – he really reminds me of my Traveller! They both bow for treats, look somewhat alike in colour and size, and seem to be along the same lines in personality. Now, if only Trav had some of that jump 😉
Once again, a huge thank you to Alex and Denise for having me, and all the best to the entire team this season!