Heavy overnight rain and single figure temperatures combined to make the Leopoldo Palacios designed 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.
In the first phase of jumping, the competition lived up to its reputation as being one of the most challenging Grand Prix in the world, and only four clear rounds were achieved; Brash was joined by fellow Rolex Testimonee Kent Farrington, Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca and McLain Ward from the USA.
The field was reduced to 12 for the second phase, but clear rounds were still hard to come by. Carrying four faults from the first round, Kevin Staut was the first to go clear and laid down a marker for the top four to follow. Kent Farrington had one pole down to match Staut on four faults, and an unlucky Lorenzo de Luca jumped fault-free but gained a time penalty. Two faultless rounds from Brash and Ward, left them as the only two riders to go into a jump-off.
Brash and Ursula were first into the arena and the tension was high, however, to the delight of the crowd, Ursula jumped her third clear round of the afternoon. When Ward knocked a pole at the Rolex vertical, the remarkable victory belonged to a delighted Scott Brash who retained his title; a feat only previously achieved by Rolex Testimonee Rodrigo Pessoa in 2000 and 2001 aboard Gandini Lianos.
Speaking after his win Scott Brash said,
“Ursula was the number one horse in the world, but never actually won a Grand Prix. She was second so many times in so many big Grand Prix, but never actually won one, so to go through two years of injury and finally get back to the top end of this sport and to win the biggest Grand Prix in the world, here, I’m absolutely over the moon for the horse.”
Ursula only started jumping again earlier in the year following a long layoff and has been showing good form including a second place in the Rolex Grand Prix at CHIO Aachen earlier in the year. She was the horse who Scott Brash originally thought could win the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping, and had jumped before at Spruce Meadows with her previous rider Tina Fletcher.
Many of the Rolex Testimonees were back jumping at Spruce Meadows, including Steve Guerdat, Eric Lamaze, Kevin Staut and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, who was there for the first time since a bad fall in 2009. Known as the most demanding Grand Prix on the circuit, Brash spoke about what Spruce Meadows meant to him and the other riders.
“We come to Spruce Meadows and we know what we’re in for. It’s the richest Grand Prix in the world, 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; I think these sort of Grand Prix are the hardest in the world and they should be difficult.”
Scott Brash now plans for Ursula to travel to CHI Geneva in December to compete in the Rolex Grand Prix, the final Major of the year. Asked about how he rates his chances of winning a second Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping he replied:
“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.”
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