The sun shone bright for the final day of the Spruce Meadows “Masters.” An incredible 82,000 people walked through the gates with 30,000 of those people there to watch the $1,000,000 CN International. People were seated everywhere around the beautiful international arena to witness this final class unfold.
When the final competitor crossed the finish line that victory went to Belgian rider Pieter Devos aboard Candy with the only double clear round. Just one time fault behind was Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat riding his mare Nasa. Third went to France’s Penelope Leprevost, who claimed her second victory this week, this time on Nayana.
Course designer Leopoldo Palacios was applauded for a course that was difficult but fair. While there were refusals, lost shoes (Eric Lamaze), fallen glasses (Ian Millar), voluntary withdrawals and very few clear rounds, the feeling was that the course was tough but not dangerous and left the horses fit enough to go on to their next competition.
Twelve riders moved on to the second round. Among them was only one U.S. rider. Beezie Madden was hopeful after being one of the nine riders out of a starting field of 41 to negotiate a clear round. Other American hopefuls that never made it to round two included Charlie Jacobs aboard Flaming Star with 22 faults, Kent Farrington and Uceko, Lauren Hough and Quick Study and Kirsten Coe aboard Baronez, all with 8 faults.
Ultimately Beezie’s four faults in the second round would place her 6th and give her a check for $40,000, while Pieter earned a whopping $335,000.
Pieter’s journey to victory had a few bumps and bruises along the way. In his first class of the week, he and the horse fell at the very last jump. “My horse fell on top of me. At first I thought my leg was broken,” he explained. “I could not ride with my boots the first days. I was very lucky that I could ride again and now I win.”
While Pieter’s leg was swollen and continues to be bruised, Candy did not seem to be affected at all by the fall. Going around the CN International, he felt good. “The ring is really perfect for my mare. She has a lot of scope. It was really big but it was fair for the horses. It was good sport.”
It took a while for this victory to sink in but Pieter noted at the press conference, “Now I start to realize what I won.”
Knowing his horse over time was a good part of his success. “I’ve ridden her since she was six. She did not do so much when she was young and now she is starting to do really well. She has a lot of scope, she is careful and she wants to do well for me,” he explained about the 11-year-old mare whose mother is the full sister of Big Ben.
Surprisingly Steve Guerdat was not second guessing his one-time fault and was happy with his placement behind Pieter. “She needs a little bit of time to relax between fences. I wasn’t sure about the time. I don’t think there was a space I could have saved time without having a fence down,” he commented.
Steve went on to discuss the course commenting, “a few times here we have seen too strong courses. I think Leopoldo did a really good job. I think it was strong, it was big but today I can’t say that there was anything that was too strong or too big.”
Penelope was thrilled with her third place finish. Throughout the week she was consistently putting in clean first rounds and so going clean again was no surprise.
“It was fantastic. It was my first time at Spruce Meadows. She is always fighting,” commented Penelope noting that your horse has to have a lot of scope to face the challenge of the International.
Leopoldo put a lot of extra thought into the layout of the course because of the heavy downpours from the day before. “ I was concerned about the footing. In the second round I was stronger with the time. Here the tradition is one double clean. This is a strong grand prix. There was nothing to really hurt the horse.. I maintained the same track but I moved the fences for the best footing for doing this. If it wasn’t for the great team I had here we couldn’t have done what we did today.”
This event was part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping which showcases three equestrian shows: the CHIO Aachen, the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament and CHI Geneva. Riders with consecutive wins get an additional cash reward. Should one rider win all three in succession, they would receive a bonus reward of 1 million euros.