Scott Brash has become only the second rider to achieve back-to-back Grand Prix victories at the Spruce Meadows Masters by repeating his 2015 win in this year’s CP International – this time with the lovely mare Ursula XII, who, despite many second placings, had never won a GP before.
It’s the richest Grand Prix on the equestrian circuit, and Scott won after a two-way jump-off against McLain Ward (USA) and HH Azur. He not only takes home a winner’s cheque of CAN$1,000,000, but also becomes the new live contender for the Rolex Grand Slam, a title that he already holds following his achievement in 2015.
Heavy overnight rain and single-figure temperatures combined to make the Leopoldo Palacios course even tougher than usual, and the huge crowds who braved the conditions knew that it was going to take something truly special to achieve clear rounds.
The competition lived up to its reputation of being one of the most challenging Grands Prix in the world, with just four clear in the first round: Scott, fellow Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca and McLain Ward.
The field was reduced to 12 for the second phase, but fault-free rounds were still hard to come by. Carrying four from the first, Kevin Staut was the first to go achieve this. Kent had a pole down for four, and an unlucky Lorenzo jumped perfectly but gained a time penalty. Clears from Scott and McLain left them as the only two riders to go into a jump-off.
Scott and Ursula were first into the arena and, to the delight of the crowd, Ursula jumped her third clear round of the afternoon. When Azur and McLain knocked a pole at the Rolex vertical, the victory belonged to a delighted Scott who retained his title; a feat only previously achieved by Rolex Testimonee Rodrigo Pessoa in 2000 and 2001 aboard Gandini Lianos.
Speaking after the win, Scott said, “Ursula was the number one horse in the world [in 2014], but never actually won a Grand Prix. She was second so many times in so many big Grands Prix, so to go through two years of injury and finally get back to the top and win the biggest Grand Prix in the world, I’m absolutely over the moon for the horse.
“We come to Spruce Meadows and we know what we’re in for. It should be hard, it should be difficult. If there were so many clears and if there were six or seven in the third round, I would be disappointed in the outlook of the competition. It shouldn’t be easy. The same with Aachen; this sort of Grand Prix should be difficult.”
Although McLain would no doubt have liked to win, his second prize of CAN$600,000 was still considerably bigger than the winner’s purse in most competitions around the world, and he was delighted with HH Azur. The 10-year-old Belgian sporthorse mare (Thunder van de Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui) has achieved a lot for her age and only continues to improve.
“She is still a young horse and still learning a little bit to jump off against the clock and to jump three rounds,” Ward says. “That gets better with maturity, so I do think that – as amazing as she is – the future is even brighter for her.
“If you are going to be second to anybody, being second to Scott is a good choice. He is brilliant and has probably been the most on-form rider over the last several years. I am not disappointed. The horse was spectacular. That was the only fence she touched all day; I thought she jumped in great form.”
Although the course was tough for many competitors, it’s worth remembering that this Grand Prix has only seen three jump-offs in its 40-year history!
Leopoldo commented: “I am not very happy that there were so many problems in that combination [the triple]; that was not what I expected, but at the end I think I had a very good Grand Prix. I want to congratulate the winners. I think the competition was beautiful… I had a very tough second round, and the time allowed was short, as Lorenzo can tell you. Scott and McLain did fantastic, and they deserved to have a jump-off.”
Ursula, a 15-year-old Scottish sporthorse (Ahorn x Papageno), was injured and out of action for the whole of 2015, and only started jumping again earlier this year. She has been showing good form, including a second in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen.
Scott now plans to take her to CHI Geneva in December to compete in the final Major of the year. Asked about how he rates his chances of winning a second Grand Slam he says, “They are the biggest Grand Prix in the world: Geneva, Aachen, Calgary. To win them once in your lifetime… I feel pretty privileged to have done that, but to win all three in a row, you can have the best horse in the world but it’s still really, really difficult. I’ll try my very best, but it is very difficult. You could go twenty or thirty years before it’s done again.”
Nations Cup competition
Earlier at the show there was a BMO Nations’ Cup which came down to a thrilling jump-off between Switzerland and Brazil. In the end, the Swiss took the win, with a second place finish for Brazil, and the host nation of Canada taking bronze.
Ten teams, representing Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, USA, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, France and The Netherlands started in the first round. The top six then returned for a second round over the same Leopoldo Palacios course.
Switzerland was represented by Werner Muff (Pollendr), Alain Jufer (Wiveau M), Nadja Peter Steiner (Capuera II) and anchor rider Steve Guerdat aboard Corbinian. The Brazilian team was Eduardo Menezes (Quintol), Yuri Mansur Guerios (Quartz de la Lande), Felipe Amaral (Premiere Carthoes BZ), and Pedro Veniss (Quabri de l’Isle).
The two teams were tied on 18 faults after round two, and both selected one combination to jump in a tie-breaker. Yuri Mansur Guerios and Quartz de la Lande went for Brazil, dropping one rail in a time of 45.95 seconds. Alain Jufer and Wiveau M jumped for Switzerland, securing their team’s victory with a clear in 48.76.
The Suncor Energy Winning Round 1.50m was held earlier in the day with a victory for Ireland’s Cian O’Connor aboard Callisto.