(Photo: Spruce Meadows Media / Dave Chidley)
A typically enormous and challenging Leopoldo Palacios-designed course awaited 40 of some of the world’s finest horse and rider combinations, as they contested the pinnacle class of ‘Masters’ week, the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, part of the Rolex Grand Slam series, in Spruce Meadows’ iconic International Ring.
In the opening round, no clears after the first 20 starters and a string of DNFs was testament to the gravity of the test that the partnerships faced, with the triple combination after the water jump just one of the obstacles catching lots out. However, 24-year-old Gilles Thomas from Belgium and his 14-year-old gelding Aretino 13 soon proved that Venezuelan Palacios’ course was rideable, after confidently clearing the 14 obstacles fault-free in a time of 84.72. Despite accruing four faults, Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender Gerrit Nieberg and his partner in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen in July, Ben 431, jumped fluently and remained very much in contention. Shortly afterwards, McLain Ward demonstrated his and his superstar mare HH Azur’s class and harmony, notching up the second clear of the round in 83.73 seconds.
Swiss Steve Guerdat and his 13-year-old gelding Venard De Cerisy looked inspired, recording the day’s third clear in a time of 85.53 seconds. After exceeding the 86-second limit, a time fault for Dutchman Harrie Smolders and his 2019 CP ‘International’ winning horse, Darry Lou, blemished what was an otherwise flawless round. 2021 CHIO Aachen Major-winning Daniel Deusser recorded the fourth clear of the day and the final one of the first round. Six further combinations progressing to the second round, included Mexicans Eugenio Garza Perez and Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane, Swede Peder Fredricson, Martin Fuchs of Switzerland, Irishman Paul O’Shea, and Brazil’s Francisco Jose Mesquita Musa.
The top 12-placed horses and riders from the first round faced a second round comprising even taller fences over a slightly shortened course, with a time limit of 72 seconds. Fifth to go, Martin Fuchs and his 10-year-old grey gelding looked pure class, breezing the course without fault in 69.80 seconds, the first of three consecutive clears with bringing four faults from the first round, which also included Gerrit Nieberg and Eugenio Garza Perez and his 11-year-old stallion, Contago. However, their hopes were short-lived after 2021’s winning duo of the CP ‘International’, Steve Guerdat and Venard De Cerisy, was the first pair to go double clear. Current world number 39-ranked rider Gilles Thomas went next and, much to the delight of the Calgarian crowd, also went clear, meaning a jump-off was triggered. Daniel “Double D” Deusser and his 12-year-old mare Killer Queen VDM made it three in jump-off. And it appeared that Friday’s winner of the Tourmaline Oil Cup, McLain Ward, would make it four, but agonisingly rolled the first of the double Liverpool. A wide-open third round jump-off was set and the knowledgeable crowd waited in anticipation.
First up, Steve Guerdat put down the first of the double, crossing the finish line with four faults in 41.70 seconds. Next to go, Gilles Thomas nudged and rolled the CP fence and put the final fence down, crossing the line with eight faults in 42.31 seconds. Daniel Deusser calmly entered the International Ring and meticulously navigated the eight-fence jump-off, crossing the finish line within the time limit, thereby winning the 2022 CP ‘International’ and becoming the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender.
On winning the CP ‘International’, Deusser said: “It is an historic Grand Prix here; it’s a class that I’ve followed since I was very, very small. I watched it on television, and I still have VHS cassettes at home that have the Grand Prix here. I’ve watched it over and over again, and I could never imagine to be here, so to win the CP ‘International’ here in Spruce Meadows is a fantastic feeling.”
Thrilled with his mare Killer Queen VDM, Deusser commented: “She had a fantastic week, to be honest. I started the first day with a small class and I was doubting to jump her in a big competition, but in the end, I jumped her in the big class on Friday, just because she has never been here in the International Ring. I think it was a good decision today; she jumped three fantastic clear rounds and she will definitely have a big, big dinner tonight and some carrots and sweets!”
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