Andres Rodriguez and Darlon van Groenhove. (Photo © Spruce Meadows Media Service).
Spruce Meadows ‘National’ Tournament CSI 5*, presented by ROLEX, continued with its second day of competition on Thursday featuring world-class show jumping in Calgary, AB, Canada. The day’s big win went to Venezuela’s Andres Rodriguez and Darlon van Groenhove in the $85,000 ATB Financial Cup 1.55m. McLain Ward (USA) and HH Carlos Z were victorious in the $34,000 ATCO Pipelines Cup 1.50m, and Nick Dello Joio (USA) and Contiki triumphed in the $34,000 Westmoreland Coal Cup 1.50m.
The ‘National’ Tournament is the first in five weeks of competition during this year’s Summer Series at Spruce Meadows. Riders will vie for nearly $1.2 million in prize money throughout the week, with competition concluding on Sunday, June 7. The highlight event will be the $400,000 RBC Grand Prix, presented by ROLEX, on Saturday, June 6. Other features include the $60,000 TransCanada Parcours de Chasse on Saturday and the $210,000 CNOOC Nexen Cup 1.50m Derby on Sunday.
Course designer Uliano Vezzani (ITA) set the track for Thursday’s $85,000 ATB Financial Cup, which saw 76 starters and 21 clear rounds. Out of 20 that continued on to the evening’s jump-off, ten were able to clear the short course without fault.
For the second night in a row, Andres Rodriguez was the winner, this time aboard his Pan American Games prospect Darlon van Groenhove. The rider and Arao Enterprises LLC’s 12-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Clinton x Heartbreaker) flew through the finish line in 43.01 seconds. Also riding for Venezuela, Pablo Barrios guided his mount Antares to a second place finish in 45.35 seconds. USA’s Quentin Judge earned the third place prize aboard Double H Farm’s HH Whisky Royale in 45.70 seconds.
Winning two nights in a row to kick off an important summer of competition was like a dream come true for Rodriguez, who appreciates everything it takes to make it to this level of the sport.
“It is an amazing feeling,” the rider acknowledged. “When I look back to the very first year I came to Spruce Meadows, I was very far from sitting in this chair (at the press conference), and now that I am able to come to a show like this and be competitive every day with a good string of horses it is just very gratifying.”
“I was certain I was going to win another class throughout the summer because my horses have been going great, but I did not expect it to happen the next day,” Rodriguez admitted. “But here we are, so it is amazing.”
‘Darlon’ has jumped clear in his last six competitions with good placings and two wins prior to Thursday night, but Rodriguez counts this win at a different level.
“The competitions he has won before have been good competitions, but this is a great competition,” he declared. “Twenty riders in the jump-off, very fast riders, and a big tough course. It is special, so if he keeps it up our hopes are high for the Pan American Games.”
With a tough roster of competitors, Rodriguez knew he had to take some risk in the jump-off, and he took a big chance leaving out a stride at the final fence.
“I may have taken a little bit too much risk to the last fence, but it paid off,” he smiled. “I think the horse grew wings. I do not know how he got out of there, but he did.”
Darlon was purchased through Steve Guerdat to eventually be sold, but continued to prove himself and turned into more than Rodriguez expected.
“We put him in a few competitions and I knew he was going to be super nice,” the rider detailed. “The horse kept going and he just kept getting better and better. Surprisingly, he is the best horse we have in the string now. His style is very classic. He goes in a very nice way and he has a huge stride. For a jump-off like today where you have big gallops, you can use that big canter that he has. He is very flexible and he is a dream to ride. He is just nice in every way.”
Final Results: $85,000 ATB Financial Cup 1.55m
1. $28,050 DARLON VAN GROENHOEVE Belgian Warmblood / G / 12 Clinton x Heartbreaker
ANDRES RODRIGUEZ (VEN) WELLINGTON, FL Arao Enterprises LLC: 0/0/43.01
2. $17,000 ANTARES Warmblood / G / 10 Manhattan x Cavalier
PABLO BARRIOS (VEN) WELLINGTON, FL Pablo Barrios: 0/0/45.35
3. $12,750 HH WHISKY ROYALE Zangersheide / G / 10 Wonderful Vant Beugelhof x Kannan
QUENTIN JUDGE (USA) WELLINGTON, FL Double H Farm: 0/0/45.70
4. $8,500 MARK Q Irish Sport Horse / G / 13 OBOS Quality 004 x Positively
KEVIN BABINGTON (IRL) IRELAND Kevin Babington: 0/0/45.70
5. $5,100 HH AZUR Belgian Warmblood / M / 9 Thunder Van de Zwohoeve x Unknown
MCLAIN WARD (USA) BREWSTER, NY Double H Farm & Francois Mathy: 0/0/45.71
6. $3,825 QUINTOL Oldenburg / G / 10 Quintender x Cento
EDUARDO MENEZES (BRA) CARLSBAD, CA Eduardo Menezes: 0/0/46.18
7. $2,550 GAZELLE Belgian Warmblood / M / 9 Kashmir van Shuttershof x Indoctro
KENT FARRINGTON (USA) WELLINGTON, FL Robin Parsky: 0/0/46.69
8. $2,125 SIMON Dutch Warmblood / G / 16 Mr Blue x Polydox
BEEZIE MADDEN (USA) CAZENOVIA, NY Abigail Wexner: 0/0/46.92
9. $1,700 ZAMIRO 16 Brandenburg / G / 15 Zenturio x Landstreicher
KARA CHAD (CAN) CALGARY, AB Stone Ridge: 0/0/47.00
10. $1,700 CYLANA Belgian Warmblood / M / 13 Skippy II x Darco
REED KESSLER (USA) LEXINGTON, KY Kessler Show Stables: 0/0/49.36
11. $850 ROYCE Oldenburg / S / 11 Cafe au Lait x Grandilot
MARGIE ENGLE (USA) WEST PALM BEACH FL Elm Rock LLC: 0/1/50.45
12. $850 COCO BONGO Rheinlander / S / 10 PRH Caretino x Calido
ERIC LAMAZE (CAN) SCHOMBERG, ON Artisan Farms, LLC: 0/2/51.16
Source: Spruce Meadows Media Service