Two showjumpers from Mexico almost pulled off a rare quinella at Canada’s Spruce Meadows National Tournament on Saturday, with Jaime Azcarraga and Anton winning the $400,000 RBC Grand Prix, and countryman Enrique Gonzalez third on Quilebo du Tillard.
It was the USA’s Jonathan McCrea on Special Lux who split the two, in a jump-off that only five riders from the field of 37 managed to make.
Riding in the first phase of 13 horses in the morning, Azcarraga and 10-year-old Warmblood gelding Anton (Marlone / Orville), were the first to go in the jump-off. The big bay horse set an unbeatable time of 46.48 seconds with no faults for victory.
“It was a long day,” Azcarraga said with a smile. “To start at nine o’clock, you have to maintain your concentration for a long period of time. It was good because he got a long rest, more than four hours. He was fresh and ready. I just waited here, watched the Parcours de Chasse and tried to maintain calm. It always hard to be the first one, but I tried to set the pace. I had some fast riders behind me, so I knew I had to leave it all as the first round.”
Following Azcarraga was fellow Mexican rider Enrique Gonzalez on Quilebo du Tillard, who were also clear and quick in 48.90 seconds, which would slot them in third place at the end of the class.
Kirsten Coe and Baronez, owned by Ilan Ferder, Lovsta Stuteri, and Tal Milstein, were close to the winning time in 46.73 seconds, but a rail at the last oxer left them in fifth place.
Now riding for the United States, Jonathan McCrea and Candy Tribble’s Special Lux cleared all the jumps on course with ease, but were just off the pace in 46.55 seconds for second place.
Last in the jump-off was Kent Farrington (USA), the winner of this class for the past two years, on Voyeur, owned by Amalaya Investments. Farrington was fast enough in 44.50 seconds, but they had four faults at the triple bar on course for fourth place.
McCrea and Special Lux, a 10-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding by Lux x Collie Mor Hill, haven’t even been together for a year, but the talented horse has moved up from the 1.40m classes last year after winning the Five-Year-Old and Six-Year-Old championships in Ireland and placing third as a seven-year-old in Aachen. When asked to describe Special Lux, McCrea said, “He’s Irish! He’s been a winner his whole life. His jumping style is definitely a little different. He’s so careful; he doesn’t want to hit a rail. He’s still green at this level.”
Gonzalez has worked with his 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding Quilebo du Tillard, (For Pleasure / Quat Sous) since he was rising seven and had to work on rideability. “For the first couple years, he was quite difficult,” he revealed.
“He was strong and he has, like we say in the horse world, a ‘French mouth.’ He was a little bit tough. Last year I did the 1.50m classes here and he loved the ring, he loved the place. He jumped really good last year, so I was pretty comfortable this week. I trusted him. I just jumped him in one class before the grand prix, and he was really, really good. I was very happy with the way he jumped today.”
It is believed that this is the first time two riders from Mexico were in the medals in a grand prix at Spruce Meadows. “We have some super riders and really nice wins, but I think this is the first time,” Gonzalez said. “It’s an honor to perform this way against the best riders of the world, and to be able to be sitting here.”
Azcarraga competed at the CSIO in Xalapa, Mexico, before coming to Spruce Meadows, and he has had Anton for two years. With a solid effort in Xalapa, he felt that he was ready, but noted that coming to a five-star at Spruce Meadows was different, especially considering this was Anton’s first international show. “Since I jumped the first day, I felt like [he] liked the course here. The footing was unbelievable, and the conditions were perfect,” he said. “It was a bit shocking when I walked the course, the height. In the morning I was saying to Guilherme, ‘Oh my God, I hope he can jump this.’ He has the heart of a champion, and he likes to fight.”
Azcarraga hasn’t been to Spruce Meadows since 2009, but he started his 2014 season with a bang after winning Friday night’s $35,000 RBC Capital Markets Cup 1.50m Winning Round class with Matador and now taking the biggest class of the ‘National’ Tournament. Azcarraga was second in this grand prix in 2008 with Presley Boy. He smiled, “It was the best week of my life, unbelievable.”
Final Results: $400,000 RBC Grand Prix, presented by ROLEX
1 ANTON: Warmblood / G / 10 Marlone x Orville – JAIME AZCARRAGA (MEX), Jaime Azcarraga: 0/0/46.48
2 SPECIAL LUX: Irish Sport Horse / G / 10 Lux x Coille Mor Hill – JONATHAN MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 0/0/46.55
3 QUILEBO DU TILLARD: Selle Francais / G / 10 For Pleasure x Quat Sous – ENRIQUE GONZALEZ (MEX), Enrique Gonzalez: 0/0/48.90
4 VOYEUR: Dutch Warmblood / G / 12 Tolaro Vant Riethof x Goodwill – KENT FARRINGTON (USA), Amalaya Investments: 0/4/44.50
5 BARONEZ: Belgian Warmblood / M / 13 Heartbreaker x Unknown – KIRSTEN COE (USA), Ilan Ferder, Lovsta Stuteri & Tal Milstein: 0/4/46.73
6 JONKHEER Z: Zangersheide / S / 12 Jetset D x Skippy II – KARL COOK (USA), Signe Ostb: 1/90.00
7 ROMANTOVICH TAKE ONE: Dutch Warmblood / G / 14 Numero Uno x Karandasj – CHRISTINE MCCREA (USA), Candy Tribble: 4/82.66
8 TIC TAC: Belgian Sport Horse / S / 11 Clinton x Darco – LESLIE HOWARD (USA), Jane Clark: 4/83.47
9 HH COPIN VAN DE BROY: Belgian Warmblood / S / 12 Darco x Brown Boy – QUENTIN JUDGE (USA), Double H Farm: 4/84.16
10 IMOTHEP: Dutch Warmblood / S / 11 Indoctro x Calvados – DARRAGH KENNY (IRL), Hyperion Stud LLC: 4/84.49
11 POWER PLAY: Holstein / G / 10 Casall x Limbus – ERIC LAMAZE (CAN), Artisan Farms, LLC: 4/84.60
12 FLEXIBLE: Irish bred / S / 18 Cruising x Safari – RICH FELLERS (USA), Harry & Mollie Chapman: 4/84.66