Rolex Rider Watch: CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’: SUNCOR Winning Round 1.50m
29 horse and rider combinations navigated the Leopoldo Palacios-designed course in Spruce Meadows’ iconic International Ring, each hoping to take home the spoils in the SUNCOR Winning Round at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’.
Local favourites Eric Lamaze and his 22-year-old prodigy, Kara Chad wowed the excited spectators in the arena’s packed stands, both going clear and posting impressive times of 71.10s with Chacco Kid and 71.45s with Viva respectively, well within Palacios’s 74-second limit. Also progressing to the second round was Calgarian, Jim Ifko and his 10-year-old bay stallion, Un Diamant des Forets, who went clear in a time of 71.80s. Seven further riders from six nations successfully negotiated the Venezuelan course designer’s tough challenge to set-up a 10-pairing showdown in the Winning Round, with notable top-class riders including The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt.
First to go was Ireland’s Connor Swail, setting the early pace after going clear in a time of 54.38s. Five-time Major winner, Eric Lamaze and Chacco Kid demonstrated the strength of their bond by going double clear, while Lamaze’s mentee, Kara Chad piloted Viva superbly before clipping the final rail. France’s Edward Levy, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle, and Australia’s Rowan Willis all put rails down to finish below Chad in the final standings. Jim Ifko notched up a double clear, fractionally beating Lamaze’s time. Philipp Weishaupt and Solitaer 41 entered the Ring looking sharp and impressively knocked Swail off top spot in a time of 53.25s. Last to go was Maikel van der Vleuten, but his best wasn’t good enough to deny Weishaupt of a well-deserved victory.
Weishaupt – who has had a memorable week after securing victory aboard Sansibar 89 in Thursday’s CANA Cup – etched his and his 10-year-old grey gelding, Solitaer 41’s names on to the SUNCOR Winning Round trophy after a jumping display of the highest order.
Having won the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex in 2017 aboard LB Convall, the duo head into Sunday’s $3million blue ribbon class full of confidence and are sure to push the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender and Weishaupt’s fellow countryman, Marcus Ehning all the way.
Interview with Rolex Testimonee, Kent Farrington
Tell us a little bit about your horses…
I’ve had Sherkan D’amaury since he was seven-years-old and he’s 11-years-old now. He won back to back Grands Prix in 2016 and 2017 at the Royal Windsor Horse Show, UK, of which Rolex is a sponsor – It’s amazing how much Rolex does for equestrian sport. They’ve really stepped it up over the last five years, particularly partnering with the Rolex Grand Slam and the four Majors. Windsor is a lovely show and I was lucky enough to meet Her Majesty The Queen twice, and she even recognised me the second time. We’re about the same height so maybe that’s why she recognised me! Since then he’s developed into a really strong Grand Prix horse. I competed with Creedance at Spruce Meadows in July and he’s had a lot of experience here and he knows the ground well, so that’s why I brought him back now. He’s never competed in this class before and it will be the biggest class he’s ever jumped. I’m just hoping for a little bit of luck and hope he’ll be on form on Sunday. I have another Grand Prix horse called Gazelle, who I didn’t bring here with me, as I didn’t think the Grand Prix would suit her.
Take us back to February when you sustained a serious injury to your leg and how you’ve managed your comeback…
I had a pretty nasty injury when I was in a small 1.30m at the Winter Equestrian Festival training round. The horse stopped and spun back in a way that it flipped over its head and landed on my feet. I suffered a compound fracture to the tibia and fibula in my right leg. I had surgery the same night and was then walking around on crutches within 48 hours. My routine after that was simply to eat, sleep and train in the gym every single day in my quest to get back riding. It was a tough time because I went from being world number one to not being about to walk let alone ride or even compete. When I first tried to ride it was super uncomfortable and I had a hard time trying to imagine competing and jumping in Grands Prix. A big part of the recovery was controlling my mind, knowing that I was going to get through it, which was a real battle. I’ve had great trainers and a doctor, and it now feels pretty much back to normal, although it bothers me every now and then if it’s cold outside or if I’m not warmed up.
Compared to normal 5* shows, do you prepare yourself and your horses any differently when it comes to the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Majors?
I try not to change too much and keep my preparations the same. It’s much more important to firstly choose the correct horse for the event, and then try and ensure whichever it peaks at exactly the right moment. For the Major at ‘s-Hertogenbosch I’d maybe choose a different horse than what I’d take to the Major at the CHIO Aachen. Unfortunately, because of my injury I couldn’t compete at either of those Majors this year so I’m a little bit behind, but hopefully next year I’ll be able to make it to all four of Rolex Grand Slam Majors. Other than that, the routine is to give the horses a bit of a break so as they have a bit of extra energy before they come to a big show like this. It’s going to be big jumping on Sunday, so I’ll give Creedance a little more rest than he usually gets.
Behind the stable doors with Eric Lamaze’s head groom, Kaytlyn Brown
Eric will compete with Fine Lady in the CP International, presented by Rolex on Sunday; tell us a bit about her…
She’s got a lot of character and she’s a very special horse. She either likes you or she doesn’t, and if she doesn’t like you she’s very hard to take care of. Although she’s now an older mare she certainly doesn’t act like it – she’s 15-years-old and she acts like a six-year-old. Taking her to the ring is always difficult, as she’s very noise sensitive. We stand no chance of using plugs, as she won’t let us touch her ears. Her face is also a big deal and she won’t even let us brush it. But overall, she’s super nice to take care of but she can be challenging!
You know Spruce Meadows like the back of your hand; what do you love about it?
I love how it’s old school and it’s so much about the general equestrian-loving public. When you walk up to the International Ring you see so many spectators there rooting for the sport, which is incredible to see – they know exactly what’s going on and what the goal is, and they have their favourite riders that they want to see. It’s just a very cool place to be.
For you, how does a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major differ to a normal 5* show?
The intensity level is much higher, and the Majors attract the best horses and riders in the world – they’re just on a different level. I get nervous a lot before any type of show but leading up to Majors like the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ – particularly as a Canadian – there’s a lot of pressure, so we’ve got to cope with that on top of everything else. I’ve been to the Majors at the CHIO Aachen and The Dutch Masters, which were amazing, but for me Spruce Meadows is the most special.
Tell us a little bit about how you got to where you are now…
I’m still young so I haven’t done that much in my career. I started riding when I was five-years-old, and I absolutely fell in love with it. But, funnily enough, I don’t enjoy riding that much now, I just want to be around the horses. I worked at a sales barn locally to where I was from followed by a saddle company because I wanted to remain working in the equestrian world, but I found that unless I was going to be working directly with horses I wouldn’t be happy. I then decided I wanted to go to school and studied chemistry and some business classes but my heart wasn’t into it so I decided to work at Torrey Pines with Eric, which is super cool and three years on I absolutely love it.
As a top-level groom what’s your show jumping dream?
That’s a tough question. Of course, I’d love to go to the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. But aside from that I just feel so fortunate and lucky to be doing what I’m doing. I love doing my job and I feel like what I’m doing every day is what makes me happy and I don’t expect much more. So, I guess you could say I’m living the dream already.