Calgary, Alberta—Sept. 10
Headed into the second round of the $3 Million CP International Grand Prix, Philipp Weishaupt didn’t have quite the preparation he wanted. LB Convall, the horse he’d jumped clean on in Round 1, sprang a shoe and stepped on it. Weishaupt had to take him to the farrier and return to jump later in the order. It was the kind of thing that could rattle a rider.
It turns out it was a blessing in disguise—Weishaupt, of Germany, was waiting to go when McLain Ward came out of the ring and told him to do nine strides into the tight triple combination instead of the eight strides most had planned. Ward had chosen eight strides into the triple, and HH Azur had a rail at the B element.
“The combinations in the second round were very difficult for my horse; they were very short,” Ward said. “I knew that was going to be an issue. To the first combination, I was able to add a stride to it. And at the second combination, I was able to come out of the ring and give Phillip the advice to add the stride. If I were to do it again, I’d do nine. I thought I could make eight steps be slow enough and I couldn’t. She made an incredible effort to jump it, but it was still just too short [a distance for her].”
Weishaupt philosophically acknowledged the role fate played in the day’s results. “Today, probably if I’d gone in the right order, I would have gone before McLain and I would have done one less [stride] to the combination and what happened to McLain’s horse would have happened to me. My horse has the same stride as McLain’s horse,” Weishaupt said. “So I was lucky to jump after McLain, because he told me to add one, and I did. I came super slow into that combination—he nearly stopped before it. And [the B element] was still right in my face.”
Armed with Ward’s wisdom, Weishaupt galloped into the ring with the powerful gray stallion Convall. The horse was fresh, having jumped in just one warm-up class during the week, while many of the horses in the grand prix had also jumped in the BMO Nations Cup the day before. Convall made short work of the massive fences and tricky striding course designer Leopoldo Palacios set in both rounds. “It’s so easy for him. Even the biggest jumps, the most difficult triple combinations, they feel like it’s a gymnastic [exercise] for him,” Weishaupt said. “He has a bit of a strong character; he needs to know that you’re the boss. But once he’s fighting for you, he’ll go through fire.”
Seven riders had jumped clean over Palacios’ testing Round 1 course, joining three four-faulters and two riders with just time faults for the 12 who came back for Round 2. When Weishaupt came into the ring, no rider had jumped a clean Round 2—Eric Lamaze came the closest with 1 time fault to add to his 4 faults in Round 1.
Weishaupt carefully guided Convall over the course, and when they landed over the last oxer clean, he erupted in joy, punching the air with a huge smile on his face. “I felt like throwing my helmet into the crowd, but there was still Luciana [Diniz] to come and I might have to jump off,” Weishaupt joked.
Diniz was the last to jump. This was her first visit to Spruce Meadows, and she’d already won a class and charmed the crowds with her enthusiastic reactions to her performances. She and Fit For Fun survived a little bit of a hairy ride through the double of oxers over liverpools, as “Fitty” twisted and jumped out of her skin to clear them. The crowd roared as they scrambled through. But at the last fence, Diniz and Fitty ran out of luck—coming down on the back rail. The 4 faults and quick time put her into second—still a healthy payout at $600,000, but not the $1 million Weishaupt will be taking home.
“I must say it’s completely my fault,” Diniz said. “I changed my plan from when I walked the course. I saw people doing four strides [to the last jump] and decided to do that instead of the five [strides]. My horse has a big stride, but it didn’t work out. I’m just so happy for her, though. I’m very happy to be between [Weishaupt and Ward], two of the best riders in the world.”
As Diniz rode, Wesihaupt was back in the warm-up ring with Convall. “When I heard the ‘oooh,’ I knew she had the rail down. I still can’t really quite believe it. It feels really good,” he said of the win.
Weishaupt was quite the character during the awards ceremony, mugging for the cameras with his $1 million check and pretending to put fingerprints on the Rolex Grand Slam trophy when admonished to not touch it. With this win, Weishaupt embarks on his second quest to win the Rolex Grand Slam.
His first go-round with the Grand Slam series began in 2016 when he won the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen (Germany). Convall was then just 9 and in his first year of five-star competition. That Grand Slam cycle ended for them at Spruce Meadows last September when they had 12 faults in Round 1.
This year’s Grand Slam possibility, the Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen winner Gregory Wathelet, didn’t have the class he wanted when Eldorado Van Het Vijver Hof had two rails down in the last line of Round 1. And Pedro Veniss, who won the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva and was eligible for a bonus, had 5 faults in Round 1.
Lauren Hough was the other U.S. rider who joined Ward in Round 2—she and Ohlala had jumped a clean Round 1 to the delight of the crowd. But two rails in Round 2 dropped them down into eighth.