Calgary, AB, Canada - June 4, 2014 - In a day packed full of show jumping, three top athletes posted victories in the International Ring on the opening day of the Spruce Meadows 'National' Tournament, presented by ROLEX. In the $85,000 ATB Financial Cup 1.55m, Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Powerplay were victorious. McLain Ward (USA) had two wins today, and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) was also honored in awards presentations.
The 'National' Tournament presented by Rolex is the first of five in the Summer Series and runs through . The highlight of the week is $400,000 RBC Grand Prix presented by Rolex. This week's top classes include: the $85,000 Spectra Energy Cup 1.55m on Thursday, June 5, the $35,000 RBC Capital Markets Cup 1.50m on , the $60,000 TransCanada Parcours de Chasse on , and the 210,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup 1.50m Derby on .
The course designer for the 'National' Tournament in the International Ring is Guilherme Jorge of Brazil. He set a testing track in the $85,000 ATB Financial Cup 1.55m jump-off class, where four of 26 total entries advanced to the shortened course.
The first would prove to be the best; when Eric Lamaze and his 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding partner Powerplay blazed around the course with no faults, no one was able to catch them without fault. They set a time of 39.52 seconds for victory.
McLain Ward almost had his third win of the day, but it was not to be when he and Zander pulled the top plank at the final vertical in the jump-off. Their fast time of 37.51 seconds gave them second place.
Pablo Barrios (VEN) and Zara Leandra finished third with four faults in 39.78 seconds, while Sameh El Dahan (EGY) and WKD Pepperpot placed fourth with eight faults in 42.34 seconds.
Lamaze and Powerplay, owned by Artisan Farms LLC, have had a successful spring including a win in the CSI 5* grand prix in La Baule, France. "They're coming into Spruce Meadows in really good form," Lamaze noted. "I have a lot of confidence in them. It was a year ago that I rode Powerplay for the first time, and it was a different ending from tonight. He's come a long way in one year. It's a different horse now."
Lamaze described Powerplay as "a bit lazy" and laidback. He laughed, "He's not the most fun horse to ride in the morning. He's a funny personality. He's very spooky; he's afraid of a lot of things, but he's brave at the same time. He's not really a horse that I think I would get along with, but we've formed a partnership. We like each other, and I have a lot of respect for him."
Schooling before the class, Lamaze said he could feel the tension of the riders and sensed the importance of the first day. Leading the victory gallop is something that he will savor from today's memories.
He expressed, "I love coming to Spruce Meadows. No one will ever get tired of winning here. It's always special to win any event, especially in the International Ring. There's a lot of other guys fighting to win. McLain had a fantastic day. I thought for sure he was going to go for a hat trick, and it looked that way until the end. It's really not easy. These jump-offs are won with very fast rounds. It's really good sport. We take it seriously."
"In the old days I took it for granted with this little horse Hickstead," he continued. "It was a lot easier to win classes. Now that I look back, I wished I enjoyed them a lot more. With La Baule, Rome, winning here, I'm really enjoying myself. I have a new respect for how hard it is to win. These horses are very good horses, but for a long time, one was so extra special that it made my job very easy. I really appreciate now when it goes my way."
Lamaze also complimented the footing in the International Ring. "I don't think I've ever ridden on better grass footing than tonight. It's to perfection. As a rider, this is fantastic. The horses love it, it's not slippery. It's as good as I've ever seen it here," he said.
The third class of the day in the International Ring was the $33,500 Bantrel Cup 1.50m with 47 entries. Sixteen went on to the jump-off, and 12 of those were clear over the second course. The fastest was McLain Ward on HH Cannavaro, a 10-year-old Holsteiner stallion by Caplan x Caretino owned by Double H Farm. It was Ward's second win of the day.
Ward has only ridden HH Cannavaro since March, but they have connected quickly, having won the $100,000 Empire State Grand Prix at Old Salem Farm Spring Horse Show just three weeks ago. Ward has been teaching the talented horse to be faster in jump-offs. "He's a big jumper, and he really likes to take his time," he pointed out. "Just like Sapphire years ago, they have to learn to be a quicker horse. But he really allows you to ride him. I was able to make a really good turn on the third jump, and he's so careful I could run at the last. It worked out our day. A couple of the real fast ones had a rail."
Unlike his Olympic gold medalist partner Sapphire, HH Cannavaro came to Ward with more experience. "He's older than when I had Sapphire at first; she did the [Olympic] Games at nine. I got him as a 10-year-old. He had a lot of experience and was ready to be pushed a little bit. We're thrilled with what he's doing now," he said.
Ward was happy to be back at Spruce Meadows with a top string of horses under the renewed partnership with Double H Farm. "This is an incredible event, and the prize money is fantastic. We're really excited about all our horses and being back together with Hunter Harrison is very exciting for us," he confirmed. "He really provides us with some great stock. The results always show. When you have the best horses, it helps."
McLain Ward and HH Carlos Z, owned by Double H Farm, went to the top of the leaderboard after a speedy clear round in 58.581 seconds for victory in the $33,500 Back on Track Cup 1.45m. They beat 54 entries in the one-round class. Angel Karolyi (VEN) and Indiana 127, owned by Hollow Creek Farm, were second with a time of 61.47 seconds. In third place was Conor Swail (IRL) and Susan Grange's Ariana, who posted a time of 62.00 seconds.
The first class of the day was the $33,500 Friends of the Meadows Jumper 1.45m speed class with 53 entries, and the win went to Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Cyklon 1083, owned by Spy Coast Farm LLC. Sweetnam and Cyklon recorded a time of 55.20 seconds. They just beat out Santiago Lambre (MEX) and Zeus du Buison Z, who finished in 55.24 seconds. Riding Sheila Sosnow's Uitteraard, Nayel Nassar (EGY) was third in 56.72 seconds.
The Spruce Meadows 'National' Tournament continues with the $33,500 ATCO Pipelines Cup 1.45m, $33,500 Westmoreland Cup 1.50m, and $85,000 Spectra Energy Cup 1.55m. For more information and full results, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.