After collecting just about every color of ribbon in the world's richest grand prix over the past decade, Jos Lansink of Belgium finally took the coveted gold medal and winning red ribbon in the $1 million CN International at Spruce Meadows today, Sept. 12.
Aboard his gleaming gray stallion Cumano, Lansink, 43, was the only rider able to jump both of Leopoldo Palacios' difficult rounds without a rail down. He earned the winner's share of $325,000 (Canadian) with just 1 time fault in the second round.
"Every rider has a dream to win this class, and my dream came true today," said Lansink with a grin. Lansink has been partnered with the 11-year-old Holsteiner (by Cassini) for the past two years.
German Olympic team gold medallist Christian Ahlmann and Coester suffered a rail down in the first round but were the only pair to master the second round without penalty. With just 4 faults, Ahlmann claimed second and $200,000. Robert Smith and Mr. Springfield continued their wonderful tournament record and dropped one rail in the second round to claim third with a slower time than Ahlmann. Mr. Springfield misjudged the first element of the triple combination and actually managed to clear the second element after carrying a rail between his legs.
Ludger Beerbaum, the No. 2-ranked rider in the world and reigning Olympic team gold medallist, guided Gladdys S to fourth place after difficulties in the same triple.
Riders approached the triple combination of oxer-oxer-vertical off of a left-hand turn. The downhill element adjacent to the in-gate also included two liverpools to add to the difficulty. The riders concurred that the two rounds today were among the most difficult they'd ever jumped, with technical questions and incredible scope tests for the horses.
After 43 riders contested the first round, 12 qualified to return for the second round. There were nine riders with clear rounds, and the fastest three of the four-faulters joined them including Beezie Madden, who squeaked into the top 12 with a splash in the water as her only fault with Authentic. Madden said she thought Authentic just misjudged the take-off spot because of the curved ground line and left a stride early. As the 12th qualifier, they returned first in the second round and also had their only error at the triple combination.
"It looked like a blur when you came down to it," she said. "The distance was very tight."
Nevertheless, Madden's score was good for eighth place, and she was the best U.S. rider and the top woman rider in the class. She now ranks fourth in the FEI Gandini Jumping Riders World Ranking list and is the top woman rider in the world.
Rodrigo Pessoa, the world's No. 1-ranked rider, and Baloubet Du Rouet returned in the second round as the class leaders with the fastest first-round clear, but when Baloubet slipped on the soft turf rolling back to the fourth fence, he couldn't keep his momentum and pulled the rail. Baloubet also dropped fence 9 later in the course for 8 faults and eventual seventh place.
Montender and Marco Kutscher had a perfect first round, but the German rider and his elegant dark brown stallion had the middle element of the triple combination down and also logged 1 time fault for fifth place. Likewise, crowd favorite Nick Skelton, of Great Britain, and Arko III had 5 faults in the second round to claim sixth. Shutterfly and German rider Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum mastered the first round but then had difficulty in the second phase. She had a refusal at fence 2 and then a rail in the triple for 9 faults with the added time.
Parco and Ludo Philippaerts finished 10th with 13 faults, while Jessica Kurten and Quibell were 11th with 21 faults. Eurocommerce Berlin and Wim Schroeder had a clear first round but then swam through the middle element of the triple combination and fell. They were 12th.
As in typical Calgary style, today's CN International included a variety of weather conditions from steady rain, cold blustery winds to bright sunlight and Indian summer conditions. This morning's first class, the $75,000 Molson Cup, was a deja vu of the opening day's Cinergy Cup as the top three riders repeated their exact placings.
Beezie Madden and Conquest II conquered this top group of speed horses and international riders ahead of Ludo Philippaerts with Tauber VH Kapelhof and Rich Fellers aboard McGuiness.
The inaugural Molson Cup, the grand finale of the Molson Canadian Six-Pack series, gave speed horses the centerstage in the All Canada ring. Madden celebrated in the International Ring during the awards ceremony this afternoon by taking a toast from the Molson Boot and hoisting a check for $26,000 aloft in celebration.
She and Conquest II went sixth in the order of 33, galloped and jumped so fast that no one else could catch them. They stopped the clock in 80.59 seconds with a brilliant round.
"He's a naturally careful horse," said Madden. "So I can really go as fast as I want to and he'll leave the jumps up."
Philippaerts, who won yesterday's BP Cup also riding his 8-year-old, black Belgian Warmblood stallion (by Darco), couldn't catch Madden and settled for second place in 82.01 seconds. Rich Fellers and McGuiness finished just a few fractions behind for third place in 82.77 seconds. For complete results see www.sprucemeadows.com