Superstar Scott Brash claims a back-to-back victory in the richest grand prix in the world at Spruce
Twelve months ago, Scott Brash made history by winning the richest grand prix in the world at the Spruce Meadows Masters and also taking the Rolex Grand Slam with Hello Sanctos. This year, he made history again and picked up a bumper cheque of 1 million Canadian dollars.
The Grand Slam wasn’t on the cards this time, but Scott provided the only triple clear riding Ursula to become only the second rider to win the prestigious CP grand prix presented by Rolex back-to-back. Rodrigo Pessoa is the only other rider to do that – winning in 2000 and 2001 on Gandini Lianos.
Naturally, it was no easy task. Heavy overnight rain and single figure temperatures affected the going, and course-desigher Leopoldo Palacios maintained his fearsome reputation with a tough track. The combination proved particularly problematic and was the downfall of several. Only four produced clears in round one, Scott, Lorenzo de Luca and two on-form Americans who had just returned from the Rio Olympics as team silver medallists, but 12 returned to tackle the second round, including all the four-faulters.
Kent Farrington and Voyeur bowed out at this stage with four faults at one of three doubles on the course, and Lorenzo de Luca must be considered very unlucky to post a jumping clear on Ensor De Litrange but pick up one time fault. However, McLain Ward kept up the pressure to post another clear on HH Azur. A head-to-head was on.
Tension was high and a collective breath was held as, drawn first, Scott began at a fast pace to angle the first oxer. And he was again foot-perfect and quick to set the target.
McLain set off faster on the big-striding mare HH Azur, but it was all over by fence two when the Rolex vertical fell – Scott had retained his title.
“It’s amazing to come back to Spruce Meadows. I’m often asked ‘which is my favourite show’, and although there is Aaachen and one or two others, the history of Spruce Meadows stands out, and for me, it is the best in the world,” said Scott, just after his win.
Scott has nursed the British-bred Ursula – by Ahorn and bred in Scotland by Mark and Mary Turnbull – back from injury. The mare had last jumped in October 2014 at HOYS and only returned in January this year.
“I’m so thrilled for this mare. She was the number one horse in the world a few years ago but had a bad injury and was plagued by injury for two years. She’s 15 now but she’s come back to top level. She’d never won a big grand prix, came second but never actually won, even when she was top horse in the world. She picked the right one today,” said Scott.
Ursula showed her form in the Aachen grand prix earlier this year, taking second. Rounds one and two at Spruce Meadows were obviously tough, but Scott felt the mare coped well.
“In round one she was keen between fences two and three, and she has a massive stride so I knew it would be short to the fence after the water and I thought I was too deep, but she was fantastic and jumped it. Round two was spot on, pretty much perfect, and in the jump-off, I knew I had McLain and Azur following, I had to take a few risks,” he said.
The fantastic round puts Scott again in the running for the Rolex Grand Slam. He won the three in a row – Geneva, Aachen and Spruce Meadows once before – can this genius from Scotland do it again?
“Ursula will now go to Barcelona as Britain has been invited to compete there, then she’ll have a break before jumping at a couple of indoor shows before Geneva,” said Scott. “They are the biggest grands prix in the world, to win all three in a row once in a lifetime is difficult and I feel privileged to have done that. To do it again, even with the best horse in the world, will be very, very difficult, I’ll be trying my best but I’m a realist – it might not happen again for 20 or 30 years.”
Nigel Coupe also tackled the imposing track on Golvers Hill, and finished with eight faults and a time fault for 19th place.
Photo © Rolex