A lovely evening at Spruce Meadows. -Photo by Keara

Remember how I promised that I would make an effort to see all of Eric’s new horses by the end of the weekend? Well, it really didn’t take much effort at all! From simply watching two classes on Thursday evening I was able to see Scendix, Verdi, and Derly all for the first time (under Eric anyways), and watch Coriana be her…umm….feisty self….or maybe a ‘princess’ as Eric termed it.

Anyways, there were three classes in the International ring today, and in all three an American rider claimed victory. Can you say domination? With that said though, a number of Canadian riders looked really good as well… I somehow think (okay, I know) that this is all directly correlated with the fact that this tournament is very important for the selection of both teams for the London Olympics- the riders are bringing their ‘A’ games! It is worth noting that the ‘official’ selection trials for the American team will occur next week during the Continental tournament (don’t worry, we will be bringing you coverage), but these classes are a great preparation and I’m sure the selectors are at least watching..

So let’s get down to Thursday’s action!

Although I couldn’t get away from work to watch the class, Richard Spooner won the 1.45m ATCO Pipelines Cup on Billy Bianca with a lightning fast jump-off round of 40.07sec. They don’t call him the ‘Master of the Faster’ for nothing!

Eric Lamaze and Hunter's Scendix. -Photo by Keara

Up next was the 1.50m Prairie Mines and Royalty Cup, a class that I really wanted to make for one particular reason- Hunters Scendix! I have been incredibly excited to see this horse in person and, today, I was finally able to see what he was all about. He and Eric put in a lovely first round that earned them a ticket into the jump-off. This horse has a ton of scope and seems to be super careful- two ingredients of a future superstar! Unfortunately they came to some grief in the jump-off when Scendix balked through the turn to the large oxer at three and crashed through it pretty hard. I have a feeling it was the jumbotron that was situated behind the jump, or even the nasty lurking shadows from the setting sun. As Eric said, Scendix has never experienced an arena like this one, so there is a lot to learn. After the mess at three, Scendix started to overcompensate by jumping astonishingly high over the fences, but in doing so, was unable to make the width. Smarty, Eric decided to retire and save him for another day (they finished in 7th).

Eric’s other ride of the class was Coriana, and the spirited lady didn’t quite want to cooperate today. She was very spooky and had to look at everything- Eric had to really work just to get her pointed in the right direction! Although she did clear all the fences quite easily, she spooked on the way to the water and hit the tape. Oh well, I bet she will be a whole lot better this weekend.

Mac Cone and Capone I. -Photo by Keara

Another horse that I was thrilled to see was Capone under the ride of Canada’s Mac Cone (Capone ridden by Cone…kinda fun to say!). From what I could tell, they seem to have meshed together very well! Capone looked happy and was jumping wonderfully- they also made it into the jump-off and eventually finished in 4th.

The rider who came out on top in this competition really just came out of nowhere, I’m not sure anyone was really expecting it from him. Oh wait, that’s exactly what you would expect from…McLain Ward! Obviously back in great form from his injury, McLain rode Pjotter to a smooth win over the challenging track. The only lingering sign of his injury was having to use a mounting block to get on during the awards ceremony as opposed to getting a leg up- it certainly did not cause him to ride cautiously!

McLain Ward and Pjotter van de Zonnehoeve. -Photo by Keara

The final class of the evening was the 1.60m Spectra Energy Cup which saw 19 starters with 11 of those advancing to the jump-off. I would not say that the course was small, but it flowed very well and therefore was a great warm-up class for the weekend.

First in the ring was the ever competitive Eric Lamaze on the pretty grey gelding, Verdi. Eric has had very few competitions on Verdi and, although at times there seemed to be a little communication blip, they looked very comfortable with each other and easily made it through to the jump-off. Also first to go in the jump-off, they put in a conservatively clean round in a time of 46 seconds flat- enough to secure 4th place. This partnership is looking very good.

Eric Lamaze and Verdi. -Photo by Keara

Father down the order, Eric had his other possible Olympic mount, Derly Chin de Muze, with whom he also put in a neat clear round on. You can tell that they have spent more time in the arena together, but I think Verdi looked more comfortable with the jumps themselves just because of his higher experience level. Later to go in the jump-off, Eric pushed Derly to fly around the course and would stop the clock at 41.80 sec- good for 3rd.

So, yes, Lamaze finished 3/4 with his two Olympic candidates…it will be very interesting to see how the rest of the tournament plays out!

Tiffany Foster and Victor would finish in 6th. -Photo by Keara

The true story of the evening would belong to the victor of the Spectra Energy Cup… none other than HJU favourite Reed Kessler on Cylana! After putting in a very neat first round, Reed entered the jump-off ready to win. She tore around the course, taking the tightest turns and galloping up to the base of the looming oxers. I was, along with everyone else, very very very impressed- this girl is on fire! This was actually her first victory in the International ring at Spruce Meadows- congratulations Reed! I would love to see her prove us wrong (in thinking that the selectors may pass her up due to her age) and rock her way onto the US Olympic team- at this rate, those chances are looking very good!

Reed Kessler and Cylana (USA). -Photo by Keara

You can find the full results from the National here.

Check back tomorrow for more action from Spruce Meadows and keep your eye on the HJU Facebook page where I will start to upload all of the pictures for your viewing pleasure!