Pieter Devos’ first trip to the Spruce Meadows Masters didn’t start out terribly well.
On the first day of competition, he and his mare Candy took a bad fall, with Devos’ leg between the horse and a pole. While Candy was unhurt, Devos was concerned he’d broken his leg—it was so swollen he couldn’t even get his boot on for a few days.
But he’s not leaving Calgary, Alberta, with anything but great memories. He and Candy topped the $1 Million CN Grand Prix today, Sept. 8, scoring a second consecutive victory for his home country of Belgium.
Candy rounded out a trio of mares that topped the class, with Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (Nasa) in second, and French rider Penelope Leprevost (Nayana) in third.
Beezie Madden earned the highest U.S. placing, following up a first-round clear with a rail and a time fault in Round 2 to finish in sixth.
“It’s a dream come true,” said Devos, 27. “To win here is great, but to win the grand prix is unbelievable.
“I’m just starting realize that I’ve won,” he continued. “It was my first time here. I’ve heard a lot about Spruce and what a great show it is.”
Seven riders found a clear go around in the two-round class, but a tough track in Round 2 coupled with a tighter time allowed meant only Devos would go home faultless.
Leopoldo Palacios had hoped for that result, as it has for most of the 18 years he’s been building for the class. Faults came all over the course, with relentless combinations and huge fences sending riders back to the barn early, with top combinations like Michael Whitaker and Amai, Bill Twomey and Tinka’s Serenade, and Dermott Lennon and Hallmark Elite retiring. Rain from the last few days rendered the grass soggy in places, and Palacios went to dinner late last night in order to reposition fences so they were on the best possible footing.
In the second round Devos finished just .01 second within the time allowed. That tight time relegated Guerdat to second, as Nasa logged a single time fault.
“Time is always an issue for me and Nasa. I don't think she's a slow horse, but she needs time to relax between the fences,” said Guerdat. “I didn’t know the time before I went in. A few before me had crashes and were retiring; no one could tell me about the time. But if I wanted to stay clean I had to make the round that I made. I’m not disappointed at all.”
Devos lost a stirrup during Round 2, but regained it quickly to guide the mare to victory.
“The ring is perfect for my mare,” he said. “She has a lot of scope and a big canter. It was big in Round 2, but fair for the horses. Nothing bad happened, and it was good sport.”
•In addition to his riding career, Pieter Devos also works for his family’s company, the Devos Group, several hours a day. That company specializes in growing and exporting pears and apples.
•Ian Millar and Dixson advanced to Round 2, but he retired midcourse when he lost his glasses.
•Candy (Nabab de Reve—Anna, Oekie) has a special pedigree—and a Canadian connection. Her mother, Anna (Etretat—Oekie, Flavo), is a full sister to Ian Millar’s legendary partner, Big Ben.
•Eric Lamaze’s partner Power Play ran into trouble coming home through the combination and threw a shoe.
•Nearly 81,971 spectators came to the Spruce Meadows venue for this year’s $1 Million Grand Prix. This is the last year the CN will be sponsoring the class, as Canadian Pacific will be taking over the sponsorship.
•Brian Morton drove away in a Mercedes after winning the Leading Canadian Rider title during the Spruce Meadows Masters. The 27-year-old rider from Langley, B.C., earned top placings throughout the week on Spitfire, and edged out Millar to take the title.
For lots more from Spruce Meadows Masters, check out the Sept. 23 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse magazine. Catch up on yesterday's Nations Cup action.