Three top riders posted victories on the opening day of the five-star show in Spruce Meadows, Canada on Wednesday.
Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam delivered his now almost traditional opening day win, pushing Spy Coast Farm’s stallion Cyklon across the line in 55.20, a fraction of a second ahead of Mexican runner-up Santiago Lambre and the gelding Zeus du Buison Z with 55.24 in the first speed class. Egypt’s Nayel Nassar rode Sheila Sosnow’s Uitteraard into third in 56.72 seconds.
In the $85,000 ATB Financial Cup 1.55m, Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Powerplay were victorious, and McLain Ward (USA) had two wins.
Ward’s first win came after a speedy clear round in 58.581 in the $33,500 Back on Track Cup 1.45m with HH Carlos Z. Angel Karolyi (VEN) and Indiana 127, owned by Hollow Creek Farm, were second with a time of 61.47 seconds, with Ireland’s Conor Swail, back in international classes after a long injury lay-off, third with Susan Grange’s mare Ariana.
Ward’s second win was in the third class of the day in the International Ring, 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 and HH Cannavaro, a 10-year-old Holsteiner stallion (Caplan / Caretino) owned by Double H Farm.
In second place was Mexico’s Jaime Zzcarraga and Matador, with 18-year-old Irish Sport Horse Flexible third with Rich Fellers (USA). Ireland’s Darragh Kenny was fourth aboard Hyperion Stud’s stallion Imothep, recording one of 12 double clear rounds from a starting field of 43.
Ward has ridden HH Cannavaro only 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.”
In the $85,000 ATB Financial Cup 1.55m jump-off class, where four of 26 total entries advanced to the shortened course, Eric Lamaze prevailed with his 10-year-old Holsteiner gelding Powerplay. They blazed around the course with no faults, setting a time of 39.52 seconds.
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 said. “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.”
Lamaze said: “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.”