Equestrians Farrington, Lamaze among stars set to impress at Spruce Meadows Masters
Weekend features 3rd stop of the Grand Slam of Show Jumping
With the Spruce Meadows season coming to an end, the world's best riders will have a chance to vie for the year's third major as the Masters continues at the prestigious Calgary venue this weekend.
American Kent Farrington, Great Britain's Scott Brash and top-ranked Swiss star Steve Guerdat are a few big names to watch at Sunday's CP International (live on CBCSports.ca at 1:45 p.m. ET and on CBC television at 3 p.m. ET), which serves as the Grand Slam of Show Jumping's third competition of the season.
Farrington, 38, is the current grand slam live contender, having won July's Grand Prix in Aachen, Germany aboard his mare Gazelle. A victory on Sunday would bring him one step closer to capturing the Grand Slam by winning four consecutive shows.
While he's found huge success at Spruce Meadows in the past, he has yet to win a 1.60-metre Grand Prix event in Calgary this year. The closest Farrington has come was a fourth-place finish in June's Continental.
"I am going to try my best and that's where my focus is now," Farrington said of the Masters. "My mentality is very much to always focus on the next thing and the next task. When I finish something, my focus quickly moves to the next job at hand and right now that is the Spruce Meadows' Masters."
Deep field of riders
He'll have his work cut out for him, with world No. 1 Guerdat in the mix this weekend. Guerdat, 37, had a top-10 finish in Aachen and won Spruce Meadows' 1.60m Pan American Cup on June 30.
The 2012 individual Olympic gold medallist has won at the fourth Grand Slam event in Geneva, Switzerland twice (2013 and 2015), but has not been able to replicate that success away from home.
He's likely hungry to break that pattern and is in good position to do so. Guerdat is in the midst of a strong run that has secured him the top spot in the world standings for the past eight months.
Brash, 33, is the only rider to have completed the slam, having done it at Spruce Meadows in 2015 after winning three consecutive stops. This was before 2018's addition of the fourth event in the Netherlands.
He'll be competing for the first time in Calgary this year and has been in good form this season, coming off a Nations' Cup win in Dublin last month.
While the international competitors will be focused on the $3 million Grand Slam, Canada's riders have more than just that at stake this week.
Last chance to impress
It'll be the last time this year that they'll be able to make an impression on Canadian team chef d'equipe Mark Laskin.
"Our riders are scattered all over the world in their various bases and generally they all try to compete at Spruce Meadows," Laskin told The Canadian Press. "It's a great chance for us to compare apples to apples and see everyone jumping in the same conditions, the same course specs and against each other."
Team Canada stalwart Eric Lamaze would be a good bet for Tokyo 2020 if his health allows. The 51-year-old from Montreal revealed in May that he has been dealing with a brain tumour for more than a year.
Despite his health concerns, he's managed to continue to compete at a high level throughout the season.
"It's my goal, yes. Don't know if I'll get there, but it's my goal to go," Lamaze told The Canadian Press' Donna Spencer of the possibility of competing at the Olympics. "One show at a time for now."
WATCH | Lamaze wins the National Grand Prix:
He won the National Grand Prix at Spruce Meadows with Chacco Kid on June 8, edging Guerdat in the jump off. A week later, he added to his more than $6 million of winnings in Calgary by capturing the Continental Grand Prix with his most recent Olympic mount Fine Lady 5.
He already qualified for Sunday's Grand Prix on the strength of a third-place finish with Chacco Kid in Wednesday's Telus Cup. He also won Thursday's CANA Cup.
As the 2008 individual Olympic gold medallist and 2016 bronze medallist, he brings much-needed Olympic veteran experience to Team Canada.
Erynn Ballard, Lisa Carlsen and Mario Deslauriers will also be competing this week at Spruce Meadows. The three riders were part of the team that helped Canada secure an Olympic spot at the Pan Am Games in Peru last month.
Of course, they are all possibilities for Tokyo and will be looking to continue to impress. With a similar team setup to the Olympics, Saturday's BMO Nations' Cup (live on CBCSports.ca at 4 p.m. ET and on CBC television at 8 p.m. ET) should offer a good indication of how Canada stacks up against teams from around the world.
With files from the Canadian Press