The 2021 edition of the RBC Grand Prix of Canada, presented by Rolex, took place on this sunny Saturday afternoon of the Spruce Meadows ‘National’ CSI5*, presented by Rolex, and it saw some of the toughest competition of the tournament so far. This is a legendary competition that has seen some incredible champions in the past, including Canadian favourites Ian Millar with Big Ben, and Eric Lamaze with Hickstead.
Out of the twenty-five horse/rider combinations that took to the ring for today’s competition, only 7 made it through to the jump-off. Each of the seven competitors were familiar faces in the International Ring, with Canadians Erynn Ballard, Tiffany Foster, and Ben Asselin making up part of the ranks. The course, set by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA), featured 13 obstacles (16 jumping efforts) and a time allowed of 82 seconds. Notable obstacles included the open water, as well as a tricky triple combination heading into the final line that proved to be the most challenging aspect of the course for most of the athletes.
The jump-off was equally as challenging, with only 4 out of the 7 horse/rider combinations finishing clear. It was Kent Farrington’s (USA) time of 40.91 seconds that secured the first place score, with Brazilian rider Eduardo Menezes in a close second with a time of 41.88 seconds.
This is not the first time that Farrington has won this competition, and with the performances that he and his horses consistently deliver in the International Ring, it certainly won’t be his last. In fact, today marks the fifth time that Farrington has won the RBC Grand Prix of Canada, as well as the second time that he’s won with the 15-year-old Gazelle.
“I bring a lot of young horses here so they get used to the grass, they get used to the long rails, and the impressive jumps. I think it helps them develop as horses,” Farrington said during the press conference following his win. “Gazelle I started bringing here when she was 8 (years old)… and she’s gone all the way through the ranks from the very beginning.”
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© Spruce Meadows Media/Jack Cusano
Matthew Sampson (GBR) and Ebolensky Claim Victory in the AON Cup Speed Event
The fourth day of the Spruce Meadows ‘National’ CSI5*, presented by Rolex, began with a gripping speed event in the International Ring. Spirits were high this morning, thanks to some beautiful weather and good competition, as athletes took to the field to challenge FEI course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio’s (USA) 1.50m AON Cup speed round.
This particular course featured 12 obstacles (14 jumping efforts), and was over 500m in length. A fantastic effort was put in by all the horses and their riders, but it was Matthew Sampson of Great Britain with Ebolensky who made it into the winner’s circle with a time of 63.95 seconds. An impressive effort was also put in by Bliss Heers (USA), who finished second with a time of 64.89 seconds, and Eduardo Menezes (BRA) in third with 65.13 seconds. With less than 2 seconds separating the top three placings, Sampson must be pleased with the 12-year-old mare for getting him just where he needed to be to land a first place finish.
Competitions against the clock are an exciting feature at Spruce Meadows, and are a favourite both with riders and fans alike. In these competitions, jumping faults are converted into seconds added to your time, leaving the horse/rider combination with the fastest overall running time as the winner. It takes a very unique level of skill to navigate these courses while keeping the rails up, as the pressure demands riders to be more creative in their track and approach in order to shave seconds off of their time.