Nine years ago, Jeroen Dubbeldam traveled to the Spruce Meadows Masters from his home in the Netherlands to contest one of the world’s most prestigious grand prix classes. His trip didn’t quite go as planned, however.
“I was eliminated in the grand prix and didn’t even get the $3,500 for finishing. Then, I sat next to Renne Tebbel on the plane home, and he had won the class. They weren’t such great memories,” said Dubbeldam laughing.
He’ll have much better memories now.
On Sept. 12, Dubbeldam and his mount BMC Van Grunsven Simon jumped perfectly, accruing just 1 time fault to claim victory in the $968,710 CN International in Calgary, Alta.
“This whole week was great. I was here nine years ago, and I was happy to come back,” said the Dutch rider. “This is the show where you want to be. If your horse is in form you get nervous and think, ‘Maybe there’s something in this week.’
“My horse jumped so unbelievable this week,” he added. “He did not make one mistake in both qualifiers of the grand prix and in both rounds of the Nations Cup. And today he didn’t touch one jump. I have to thank my horse BCM Van Grunsven Simon. He’s incredible.”
U.S. rider Richard Spooner came heartbreakingly close to his richest victory ever. Spooner was one of just four riders in the field of 30 to jump clear over Leopoldo Palacious’ first-round course. He and Cristallo made it all the way to the final fence before a rail fell, relegating him to second.
But the record Sunday crowd of 76,947 at Spruce Meadows saved their most vocal disappointment for their hero, Eric Lamaze, who also posted a first-round clear. He’d had the fastest clear first round aboard his amazing Hickstead and returned as the final rider in the second round.
The Canadian superstar and reigning Olympic gold medalist was competing with a broken left foot that he incurred while winning the Grand Prix of Aachen in July.
All he needed was a clear round to claim his second CN International in three years. Hickstead seemed on the way to providing just such a performance until fence 3, a huge yellow triple bar, when Lamaze lost his left stirrup upon landing. As they headed into the liverpool combination at fences 4AB and 5, Lamaze was forced to pull Hickstead to the side of the fence to regain his stirrup.
“I wasn’t about to go into that combination without a stirrup,” said Lamaze shaking his head. “I am sitting on Hickstead, but I do need to stirrups.
“That’s the sport. You have to swallow those days too,” added Lamaze, who has finished first, fifth, second and third in the CN International in the past four years.
The riders described the first round course as the most challenging ever built in the CN. “I thought maybe it was difficult in past years, but this was the most difficult first round ever,” said Spooner. “It’s the toughest first round I’ve ever seen as long as I’ve been showing here.”
Flexible and Rich Fellers also squeaked into qualifying for the 12-horse second round with a quick 8-fault performance in the first round that left them 11th. Their impressive second round, with just one rail and a time fault, moved them up into seventh place.
Californian Carl Cook and Uno De Laubry also jumped into the ribbons, placing eighth, with 8 faults in the first round and 12 in the second.
Yesterday’s Nations Cup winning riders Beezie Madden and Ashlee Bond didn’t have as much good fortune today. Madden and Madmoiselle had difficulty in the first round and incurred 12 faults, including a foot in the water. They didn’t qualify for the second round.
Bond, who had a fall in the Nations Cup the previous day, returned aboard Cadett 7. Although they seemed to improve over the course of the class—and finished with an impressive effort through the challenging triple combination—17 faults kept them out of the second round.
For Dubbeldam, the CN title has now provided him with his personal triple crown.
“As a rider you want to win three classes in the world: the Olympic Games, the Grand Prix of Aachen [Germany] and this unbelievable grand prix in Calgary, the CN International. And now I have all three.”
Dubbeldam credited his mount, BMC Van Grunsven Simon, for his stellar performances over the course of the week. The 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (by Mr. Blue) is owned by Wilco and Eric Van Grunsven, the brothers of renowned Dutch dressage rider Anky Van Grunsven.
"He is an amazing horse," said Dubbeldam. "He's always been a winner. It was only a question if he could make the step to this level, and he made it. I'm unbelievably proud of my horse that he jumped these fences for me today."
For full results see the Spruce Meadows website.