Spruce Meadows- truly something for everyone…..even if you’re a robin. -Photo by Keara

Thursday evening had us under a tornado warning as a violent thunderstorm swept through the area, heavy rain and hail pounded us for a good hour…so, I was (along with most people I’m sure) very relieved to be treated with a fantastically calm evening on Friday!

Anyway, Friday was the ‘Family Fun Night’ at Spruce Meadows so everyone was treated to as many hot dogs as they could eat and as much Pepsi products as they could drink. There was also face painting for the kids (and the young at heart) and, of course, some fantastic show jumping!

I suppose, before I dive into the jumping, I should explain the bird in the picture. I was shooting the jump-off in the Pepsi Challenge from over by the devils dyke, and that cute little robin was having a great bath in the water… he would splash around and then hop up onto the fence and fluff himself. This went on the entire time! He wasn’t camera shy either…adorable! Spruce Meadows has something for everyone/thing!

Alright, back to the horses. Friday night brought with it 2 classes in the International Ring at Spruce Meadows; the 1.45m Pepsi Challenge and the 1.50m Lafarage Cup. As the title may give away (Déjà vu), the results were quite familiar to what we saw at both the National and Continental tournaments.

Eric Lamaze and Wang Chung. -Photo by Keara

The $32,000 Pepsi Challenge drew a huge class of 57 combinations, all ready to tackle Michel Vaillancourt’s challenging track. Of those 57, only 12 would make it into the very speedy jump-off. When Eric rode his round on Wang Chung, I really thought that he had it. That horse is quick and they cut all of the corners and flew to the base of the fences….just imagine what Wang Chung will be like with more experience under his belt…err…girth. Even having gone mid-pack,  a time of 38.77 seconds looked really good, but hold the celebrations! Okay, not really, because I also adore the winner of the class…

Kent Farrington on the super speedy Venus. -Photo by Keara

Kent Farrington is on FIRE. No, he wasn’t named to the Olympic team and that was a bit of a bummer, but wow, his Spruce Meadows season has been phenomenal. Uceko has been great, Voyeur as been nearly unbeatable, and tonight Venus strutted her stuff with some major grace and style. After a neat first round, they came into the jump-off with all rockets firing… 36.58 seconds, nice! And, can you say Déjà Vu? I believe that was something like his 7th win at Spruce Meadows this season!

Kent Farrington wins again! -Photo by Keara

Although Reed Kessler had a bit of a tough night, parting ways with Onisha while gunning it in the jump-off, she did take home a $5000 cheque for the Horse Healthcare Championship. This is for her results in the 1.45m division over the entire summer series. Congrats Reed!

Reed Kessler and Onisha. -Photo by Keara

The second class of the night was the $50,000 Lafarage Cup Winning round. Pairs had to qualify for this class over the first few days of the tournament, 25 were qualified with 24 taking to the tricky course. After the first round, the top 8 advanced to the second ‘winning round’, so no, being clear did not necessarily earn you a ticket to round 2- speed was important!

I’m not going to lie, my money would have been on Kent Farrington and Voyeur. From the Continental tournament we know that this pair is deadly fast, so once they made it into the winning round I really thought they had it! Unfortunately, although they would post the fastest time, a pesky rail put them into 4th.

Contrastingly, having gone early on and carefully posting a slow clear, I didn’t think much of Shane Sweetnam’s chances, but his carefulness paid off, landing him in second! It turns out that, by chasing the clock, the clears in the second round were quite rare.

Shane Sweetnam in the first round. -Photo by Keara

So, who won? Well, remember the Déjà Vu thing? Lets think back to the winning round on the Friday of the National tournament……got it? Yep, that exact pair did it again!

Bezzie Madden on Mademoiselle. -Photo by Keara

After a superb first round, they entered the winning round last in the order. Knowing exactly what she had to do, Beezie easily guided Mademoiselle to a blistering clear round. Beezie also finished 3rd on Amadora- what a great night!

You have to love the Lafarage cement truck! -Photo by Keara

Well that’s it for now! Check back tomorrow for a report on the $200,000 Queen Elizabeth II Cup- can Eric defend his title in this class riding Derly? Other big pairs include McLain Ward on Antares, Ian Millar on Star Power, Rich Fellers on Flexible (they came 2nd last year), and Kent Farrington on Uceko, among many others. It’s going to be a great class!