McLain Ward wins the Tourmaline Oil Cup
On a breezy and autumnal Calgarian afternoon, 28 horse and rider combinations representing 12 nations contested Friday’s feature class at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, the 1.55m Tourmaline Oil Cup. Legendary course designer Leopoldo Palacios set the pairings – which included three out of the world’s current top 10-ranked riders – 12 testing obstacles, with the Venezuelan and his team of assistants making full use of the vast and iconic International Ring.
American McLain Ward set the early pace with his 15-year-old bay mare, HH Azur, going clear in a time of 72.51s, within the 75-second time limit. Compatriot Kent Farrington and his 14-year-old gelding, Creedance, looked to be on imperious form, breezing around the course fault-free. In a show of American domination, winner of 2019’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, Beezie Madden and her 15-year-old La Silla-bred Stallion, Breitling LS also made light work of the 15-fence course. Much to the delight of the crowd, home favourites Tiffany Foster and Erynn Ballard progressed to the shoot-out, both abroad their talented 10-year-olds, Hamilton and Gakhir respectively. In-form Nayel Nassar from Egypt and his veteran 19-year-old gelding, Coronado was joined in the jump-off by Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes and his stallion H5 Chagauns and Australia’s Rowan Willis partnered by his grey stallion Ashton Dakota.
First to go in the jump-off was recent Olympic Team silver medallist, McLain Ward, who set a blistering time of 37.38s, which looked hard to beat, after the next seven riders – Rowan Willis, Kent Farrington, Eduardo Menezes, Erynn Ballard, Beezie Madden and Tiffany Foster – all failed to navigate the eight-fence jump-off without penalties. Last to go, it was apparent that Nayel Nassar was playing it safe, with his sights set on second spot, eventually crossing the line without a fault and finishing runner-up behind deserved winner, McLain Ward.
On his victory and his mare HH Azur’s stunning performance, the two-time Olympic Team gold medallist, commented: “I don’t know if I particularly did it better than any of the other riders, she just jumped it better! I actually wasn’t upset by my position in the jump-off. I was just going to ride my plan, I know what her strengths and weaknesses are at this point, and I thought if I put a little bit of pressure on there might be some mistakes and that played out.
“HH Azur is going to jump the Nations Cup tomorrow for our team, and then Casper, a stallion I’ve been kind of bringing along, who’s a phenomenal jumper and has had a strong summer in Europe, is the horse I’m aiming towards the big Grand Prix on Sunday.”
Rider Interview with:
What are you hoping to achieve between now and the end of the year?
I still have some big goals this year, including the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex here at Spruce Meadows, which would be a dream to win. Next week we have the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen, which would be another dream to win. Then at the end of the year, there is the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva, which is my title to defend, so there’s a lot still to come.
What are your plans, dreams and ambitions for 2022?
For us showjumpers, the biggest goal is always the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. The four Majors are so special and part of such historic shows, so that’s where you want to thrive. Next year we also have the World Equestrian Games, which is a big goal of mine.
What is the proudest moment of your career so far?
My proudest moment would probably be winning the Rolex Grand Prix at CHI Geneva. It was against the best riders in the world and included a really exciting and fast jump-off, and to win in front of my home crowd was just amazing.
Who has inspired you the most throughout your career?
The most important people in my career are definitely my dad, Thomas Fuchs, and Steve Guerdat. They both supported me a lot from a young age, and I’ve been looking up to them my whole life.
What keeps you motivated and hungry for success?
To work with horses is a really rewarding but hard job, but they give you a lot back. The more you work, the more you try to understand them. The more you’re with them, the more they give you back, so that’s very rewarding as a rider.
Tell us a little bit about who you’ve brought to the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’…
I brought Conner Jei to Spruce Meadows to jump the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday. He comes here after a big win in the Rolex Grand Prix at Jumping Dinard, so I feel like this field is going to suit him. Dinard is quite similar to Spruce, as it has quite a big grass ring with not the easiest fences, so I have really big hopes for Sunday’s Grand Prix.
Which of your young horses are you most excited about?
I have two very nice young horses. One six-year-old called Captain Morgan [Weering Z] and one seven-year-old called Diva [Van Het Cauterhof Z]. I definitely think these are two horses we will see a lot more from in the future.
How much of a boost does it give you having fans back at shows?
It’s great to be back with a crowd. For us riders, it’s so different between riding in front of a crowd and riding without a crowd. It really motivates you to perform better when you have people cheering for you. It really is such a great feeling.
What is the best piece of advice you’ve ever been given?
Just to try and really understand your horse, and to work together with your horse to achieve something really big.
What makes Spruce Meadows so special?
Spruce Meadows is one of the most special shows there is. I feel great here, and it’s such a historic place. My dad used to come here all the time, and when I was small he would always tell me what a great show it is. Then when I got to come here eight or nine years ago for the first time it was a really special feeling.
Word from the organizer with:
Ian Allison, Senior Vice-President of Spruce Meadows
You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?
It’s been a long haul, and it’s great to be getting the band back together, as they say. September 2019 was the last time we celebrated a championship here with Beezie Madden aboard Darry Lou winning the Rolex Grand Slam and starting her cycle, and then the world changed a short time later. It’s been a very, very interesting time, and at times Spruce Meadows became a pretty lonely place for those of us who were here watching all of the goings-on around the world.
Can you tell us a little bit about the challenges that you’ve had to overcome to ensure that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ has been able to go ahead?
The challenges have been extraordinary, as each nation has approached and managed the global pandemic in a different way. Canada is a very large country which covers six time zones and has a large border with the United States, which has been one of the big hurdles, plus the restriction of flights into Canada.
We started this process about nine months ago, starting at regional level, then working with the provincial authorities to get our documents in place and our plan approved to host a national event. Following that, it goes from a regulatory to a political side to get what’s called a National Interest Exemption. Fortunately, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ and the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping were deemed by the federal government, as something that merited a National Interest Exemption, both for international sport and commerce, which didn’t actually come through until 25 August, so you have to align all of the variables that may or may not effect that, and consider a lot of other planning around the international sporting calendar. We took what would be our CSI5* national tournaments and moved them to September to be part of our ‘Masters’ Tournament, which created a three-week reason for athletes, media, etc. to be at Spruce Meadows. The process was somewhat exhaustive and always everchanging, but we’re here now, the sun is shining, and we have a wonderful entry.
What positives will you take from the last 18 months?
We have an adage here: adapt and overcome. There’s been some amazing innovation over the last 18 months, and I think about the Spruce Meadows Television group, who were at the forefront of creating a Virtual Summer Series last year. They reached into 44 years of history and created content, which was able to keep our fans engaged and our own brand relevant. I think of the tremendous efforts put forward by people in areas which aren’t necessarily part of their job remit here at Spruce Meadows, so it’s really been an example of life on the farm. We normally operate the ‘Masters’ Tournament with about 175 full-time staff, 400 volunteers and hundreds of sub-contractors, which just wasn’t able to happen this year. To witness the teamwork, the innovation and the inspiration that everyone has provided at every different level has been nothing short of remarkable and memorable.
Finally, it’s great news that Spruce Meadows has been allowed to invite 2,000 spectators to enjoy the sport on Friday, Saturday and Sunday…
We’ve been approved to welcome a fraction of our fanbase. They will see the very best in international show jumping, including Max Kühner enjoying his Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping journey, whether Beezie Madden can defend her title from 2019, and the great Eric Lamaze, who’s gone to great lengths and considerable inconvenience to be here, and in doing some demonstrated a huge amount of grit, determination and quality. There are many great storylines unfolding, which is very exciting.