By Catie Staszak for Thunderbird Show Park
Brian Morton (CAN) tipped his cap to the crowd on hand at Thunderbird Show Park and couldn’t hide his smile.
Morton may no longer live in Langley, but each time he crosses under the tower into the Fort Grand Prix Arena, it’s a homecoming—and Saturday’s trip was especially meaningful.
Morton, now the head rider for the famed Spruce Meadows operation, rode Chili Pepper SM to victory in the CSI3* $15,000 Kubota Canada Winning Round 1.45m.
“This show feels more like pre-pandemic. Being in that main arena with a little bit of a crowd and some atmosphere, that felt pretty fantastic,” Morton said. “It’s always great to get a win on home turf.”
One of 10 riders returning for the second round, Morton flawlessly executed a tactical plan for his mount that sent them straight to the top of the leaderboard. The pair’s winning time was 39.8 seconds. Lisa Carlsen (CAN) and Atena de L’ermitage finished second (40.34 seconds), with Vanessa Mannix and Balzane de Mazes, third (40.55).
“I was very fast at the beginning and the end,” Morton said. “I was a bit tactical through the midsection of the course. I didn’t do the leave-out [to the fourth fence]; I tried to keep our groundspeed up and stayed wide in my track. I tried to keep the turns tidy and keep the jumps clean, and then I went for it to the last jump.”
Photo by Quinn Saunders/tbird
Both Morton and Carlsen capitalized on the winning round format, which invited the top 10 combinations from the first round—regardless of score—back for a winning round on a clean slate. Despite having a rail in the first round, Morton and Chili Pepper SM comfortably advanced to the winning round and made their intent clear from the fist jump of the shortened track.
“He’s really careful and really fast. I’m always just trying to get him confident enough and rideable and in the right headspace to take a shot,” Morton said. “The first round felt fantastic. The winning round format helped me, and I managed to come back. Then I just tried to make a winning plan and trust him, use his assets to our advantage.”
Chili Pepper SM is a Spruce Meadows hombred; Morton has been strengthening his partnership with the 12-year-old gelding since beginning his job nearly two years ago.
“I absolutely love the job,” Morton said. “Now, I’m in my first full year of competing the string. In my second season, I’m starting to feel now like I really know the horses. We’ve had a chance for them to know me and for a partnership to really form.”
$15,000 CSI3* Kubota Canada Winning Round
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. Chili Pepper SM / Brian Morton / CAN / Spruce Meadows Ltd / 4/0 39.8
2. Atena de L’ermitage / Lisa Carlsen / CAN / / 4/0 40.55
3. Balzane de Mazes / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0/0 40.55
4. Goodwill VB / Katie Kruger / CAN / / 1/0 40.84
5. Collin 4 / Kendall Bourgeois / USA / / 0/4 39.55
6. Driek / Jaimie Ackerman / CAN / / 0/4 40.28
7. Coupis / Robert Blanchette / IRL / / 0/4 40.93
8. Hercule de Tamerville / Braden James / 4/8 38.99
9. Kactus / Johanna Siefert / USA / / 4/8 40.65
10. CMS Garadice Shore / Karianne Boyce-Lockhart / CAN / / 4/8 45.39