Steve Guerdat and Corbinian. Photos by Spruce Meadows Media Services.
Cian O’Connor and Callisto Top Suncor Energy Winning Round 1.50m
Calgary, AB – The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament CSIO5* hosted its BMO Nations’ Cup on Saturday afternoon with a demanding competition that came down to a thrilling jump-off for the gold medal between Switzerland and Brazil. In the end, the team from Switzerland took the win, with a second place finish for Brazil, and the host nation of Canada taking bronze.
Saturday’s highlight event saw record attendance of over 89,700 spectators – nearly 4,000 more than ever before – to watch ten teams from around the world compete for top honors. The Suncor Energy Winning Round 1.50m was also held earlier in the day with a victory for Ireland’s Cian O’Connor aboard Callisto.
On Saturday, ten teams representing the countries of Canada, Mexico, Brazil, Belgium, USA, Switzerland, Germany, Great Britain, France, and The Netherlands started in the first round of the BMO Nations’ Cup. The top six teams then returned for a second round over the same course, which was set by Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios.
The difficult course yielded only five clear rounds out of 38 total competitors in round one. In round two, only four individuals jumped clear out of 24 starters for the top six teams.
Team Switzerland was represented by Werner Muff aboard Pollendr (who incurred 9 faults in rd. 1 and 9 faults in rd. 2), Alain Jufer riding Wiveau M (clear in rd. 1 and 1 time fault in rd. 2), Nadja Peter Steiner with Capuera II (4 and 9), and anchor rider Steve Guerdat aboard Corbinian (4 and 0). They were led by Chef d’Equipe Stephane Montavon.
Team Brazil consisted of Eduardo Menezes riding Quintol (with 8 faults in rd. 1 and 1 time fault in rd. 2), Yuri Mansur Guerios aboard Quartz de la Lande (0 and 4), Felipe Amaral with Premiere Carthoes BZ (9 and 5), and Pedro Veniss riding Quabri de l’Isle (0 and 5), led by Chef d’Equipe Lucia Faria Alegria Simoes.
After round two, Switzerland and Brazil were tied on 18 faults each and both selected one combination to jump in a tie-breaking round. Yuri Mansur Guerios and Quartz de la Lande were selected to jump-off for Team Brazil, dropping one rail in a time of 45.95 seconds over the short course. Alain Jufer and Wiveau M jumped off for Team Switzerland, securing their team’s victory with a clear round in 48.76 seconds.
As the anchor rider for Switzerland, it all came down to Steve Guerdat in round two, as his clear round was last to go and solidified the need for a jump-off for the gold medal. Guerdat was aboard Corbinian, a 10-year-old Westphalian gelding (Cornet Obolensky x Pilot) that he owns with La Giraffa SA. Since he will also jump Corbinian in Sunday’s CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, the decision was made to send Jufer in for the tiebreaker.
“They were expecting me to go, which would have been the normal choice because my horse was still warm and he jumped really well today, but so did Alain’s horse,” Guerdat noted. “I said that I did not want to do the jump-off because there is tomorrow also. I feel that I did quite a lot for my team. I rode my best horse today, which not everybody would have done in my position with the Rolex Grand Slam coming tomorrow. I decided that I would really prefer not to go, so it was a quick change. Everybody was holding a leg, putting the studs and the boots on Alain’s horse, and he did three jumps and went on. That makes the win even better that he did such a great job.”
Guerdat and Jufer are childhood friends and have only jumped on two Nations’ Cup teams together before, both at Spruce Meadows. To win the BMO Nations’ Cup for the first time was a special event for Guerdat, made better by his friend’s added success.
“Every Nations’ Cup win is a great win. They are very tough classes to win and we do not win them often,” Guerdat stated. “I do not know how many Nations’ Cup classes I have won, but not so many. Spruce is always a special show to me and I love to come here. It is even more special to win with Alain because we grew up together and we started riding together. We are very good friends. To win in this condition just makes it even more special, so as you can imagine, it is a great day for us. We had great conditions today; we had a tough course, a nice course. The horses were jumping very well, and it was just a great afternoon of sport, and a great day for Switzerland.”
Jufer and Wiveau M were essential to the team victory, as the pair jumped clear in round one, earned just one time fault in round two, and clinched the victory with their clear jump-off round. With the quick change before the tiebreaker, Jufer did not have much time to get nervous, and put his confidence in Wiveau M, a 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion (Niveau x Concorde) owned by Lutta Gian-Battista.
“For me it was the first time to ride a jump-off this big,” Jufer detailed. “They told me I had to be clear and I tried to do my best. My horse jumped fantastic. This is the biggest stage I have won on. The feeling is amazing.”
Jufer got Wiveau M when the stallion was nine years old and explained that the horse developed to the top level quickly.
“He has always done a good job,” the rider stated. “He gives everything to go clear and he jumped fantastic today. He does so much for me.”
Nadja Peter Steiner was aboard Capuera II, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Come On x Baloubet du Rouet) owned by Hans O. Peter. Saturday was Steiner’s first Nations’ Cup win with Team Switzerland and a momentous occasion for the rider.
“For me it is an honor to be here because I do not have a lot of experience on the Nations’ Cup team at the moment,” Steiner remarked. “It was an honor to have such a great team and to win this Nations’ Cup. The feeling is just incredible. It was my first Nations’ Cup win, so there is a lot of emotion.
“My horse and I grew up a little bit together,” Steiner continued. “He never jumped big classes before, but we learned together as we moved up to this big level. He gives a lot for me; he always fights and does his best.”
The fourth member for Team Switzerland was Werner Muff aboard Pollendr, an 11-year-old Rheinlander gelding (Polytraum x Corrado) owned by Mühlebach Marlis. The pair was also a part of the winning Swiss team in Falsterbo, Sweden, over the summer and produced double clear rounds there.
Commenting on his part in Saturday’s victory, Muff stated, “To win is always a great thing. I am in the lucky position that I could be on the team that won the Nations’ Cup already this year in Falsterbo, but to win at Spruce Meadows is something really special for all of us. To win the Nations’ Cup here is something in life that you will for sure never forget.”
Muff spoke to the difficulty of Saturday’s course, which was challenging for many competitors.
“I think it was a real tough course like always at Spruce Meadows,” he said. “They have a lot of special fences that a lot of horses don’t know because in the entire world if you are on tour, you never jump special fences like here. It was great building; everything was asked. You had to have control everywhere and you had to do everything possible with the horse. There are so many riders with such good horses here that they have to ask a bit more. That is normal.”
Saturday’s win was the first ever for Team Switzerland at Spruce Meadows and Chef d’Equipe Stephane Montavon was thrilled to get the first victory. He has led the Swiss team in the event at the ‘Masters’ on 10 different occasions.
“It is a wonderful feeling to win here. We have never won here,” Montavon remarked. “It is fantastic. It is marvelous. For me as a team Chef d’Equipe it is the first time that I have won ever with the team. I am very happy.”
Canada’s Tiffany Foster and Victor were the only pair able to jump clear in both rounds of competition to help their team earn the bronze medal. Led by Chef d’Equipe Mark Laskin, Team Canada also saw rounds from Kara Chad and Bellinda (5 faults in rd. 1 and 9 faults in rd. 2), Amy Millar and Heros (9 faults and 0), and Eric Lamaze aboard Check Picobello Z (12 and Retired).
Commenting on her success, Foster stated, “This is the first time I have ever been double clear at the ‘Masters’. That is a really big moment and something that I am very proud of. I know Victor so well, and that makes a big difference in a situation like today when you have to go in first.
“The good ones rise to the occasion,” Foster noted. “I’m so proud of Victor. He is a champion. I think he likes doing Nations’ Cups in Canada. The home crowd here is so enthusiastic and so supportive. I love it when they scream and cheer!”
Team Germany finished fourth, Team USA placed fifth, and Team Belgium rounded out the top six in round two. France, Mexico, Great Britain, and The Netherlands finished out the order from seventh to ten place to conclude Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup competition.
Cian O’Connor Takes Suncor Energy Cup
Saturday at the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament hosted the Suncor Energy Winning Round, with a win for Ireland’s Cian O’Connor aboard Ian O’Grady, Philippe de Balander, and Ronnoco Jump Ltd.’s Callisto. Steve Guerdat (SUI) and Hofgut Albführen GmbH’s Albfuehren’s Happiness finished second, and Eric Lamaze (CAN) aboard the Chacco Kid Group’s Chacco Kid placed third.
Held in a winning round format over a 1.50m course set by Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios, 30 entries started in round one. The top ten competitors were then invited to return for the winning round, in which they begin again with zero penalties. The combination that has the fewest faults in the fastest time in the winning round is the winner.
Only eight entries were able to clear the first round without fault, and both Cian O’Connor and Steve Guerdat advanced to the winning round with one time fault each in round one. O’Connor and Callisto were first to jump in round two and cleared the course in the winning time of 47.87 seconds. Guerdat immediately followed with a clear aboard Albfuehren’s Happiness in 48.20 seconds. Lamaze and Chacco Kid later jumped into third place with their clear round in 48.65 seconds.
Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) guided Ludo Philippaerts H&M Quenzo de la Roque to a clear second round in 49.51 seconds to place fourth. Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) and Stephex Stables’ Limestone Grey jumped clear with the fifth place time of 50.60 seconds.
Commenting on his victory, which is O’Connor’s first at Spruce Meadows, the rider stated, “It is always nice to get a win. It is a good competition because you get a chance to clean the slate if you make the top ten. I had a time fault, just over the time allowed in the first round, but he jumped well. Then I was first to go in the jump-off.
“I had walked the course quite well and I just tried to play to his strengths because he has such a big stride,” O’Connor continued. “He actually is not that nippy or quick, so I have to really leave out strides. In this arena, a horse that has a huge length of stride and stays careful has a big advantage, so it was great.”
O’Connor took over the ride on Callisto, a nine-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Quasimodo Z x Jokinal de Bornival), from France’s Aymeric de Ponnat at the start of 2016. He explained that the gelding has an issue with being very horse shy and does not like having other horses around him.
“The previous rider had difficulty warming him up if a horse came towards him, so I spent a lot of time working with him, and trying to get him relaxed,” O’Connor detailed. “We started using blinkers in his training and that has really helped him a lot. He does not wear them in the competition, but just during the warm-up, so he stays relaxed and focused.
“Horses are herd animals, so I do not know why he is like that. Maybe he just got a fright at some stage,” O’Connor mused. “Gradually I am going to take the blinkers back and I would say eventually he will be able to go without them. He has not been as afraid, so it is interesting how they have worked. As he has started to settle, I can train him and jump him bigger, and I think he is going to be a really exciting horse for the future. He takes well to this ring, so I was already thinking about coming back here for the Summer Series next year, and now I am definitely going to come back.”
Remarking on his first Spruce Meadows victory, O’Connor smiled. “It feels cool. There is nowhere better. The crowd is great. I love the show and the way they do everything. From the time you land at the airport and the people pick you up, everything is organized. The people are so nice, and so professional, and so helpful. All of the shows in Europe could come here and take a lesson to see how they look after people here. The way they do the sponsors and the prize givings, just everything is done A to Z top class.”
O’Connor looks forward to jumping his top mount Good Luck in Sunday’s $2 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, and noted that he feels “quietly confident” heading into the competition.
“Good Luck is the best horse I have ever had, so I am confident that we have a very good chance tomorrow,” O’Connor stated. “He has extraordinary scope. He can jump the biggest fences, he is so careful, he is quite fast against the clock, and he is just one of the better horses in the world I think. He jumped twice this week, double clear the first day and one down the second day. He has had two days off now, so he should be ready to go tomorrow.”
The ‘Masters’ Tournament concludes on Sunday, September 11, featuring the best horses and riders in the world competing in the $2 Million CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex. For a complete tournament schedule and full results, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.
Spruce Meadows Media Services