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!!
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!!