Langley’s Brian Morton scored a hometown win Sunday afternoon, Oct. 19, at Thunderbird Show Park, riding Spruce Meadows’ Cadillac to the top of the $73,000 ATCO Cup Grand Prix at the Harvest Welcome.
It was the first FEI competition in Canada since the COVID-19 pandemic brought global competition to a temporary halt this spring.
The event featured more than $180,000 in prize money, including a $20,000 U25 division.
This was the year the 34-year-old relocated to Calgary to ride for the Spruce Meadows operation, and the Harvest Welcome was his first international competition for his new employer.
Riding the 10-year-old Hanoverian Cadillac, Morton posted a winning time of 40.66 seconds. Rachel Cornacchia and Valkyrie de Talma came closest, finishing second at 40.99 seconds, while Langley’s Tiffany Foster and Brighton finished third with four faults and a time of 40.29.
Morton, who went first in the jump-off, said his plan “was to try to be fast and smart at the same time.”
There were, he explained, two difficult right turns – one to the second jump in the jump-off and the other, a hard inside line to the combination.
“You had to give your horse the best shot you could and trust them to help you out, and that’s exactly what Cadillac did, and it paid off for us today,” Morton elaborated.
“It ended up being a hard jump-off, and you could see that, because not many jumped clean again in the jump-off,” Morton added.
“To be honest, when I came out of the ring, I thought I had been too slow. These jump-offs have gotten so fast with all these great riders and a lot of fast riders, too. I thought I would be placed, but I didn’t think, right out of the gate, that I would end up winning it.
“It was just a long, nail-biting wait. As it started to get deep into the field and I saw all these good riders have a fault, that’s when I actually started to think that today might be my day.”
Morton was reflective, recognizing the significance in recording his first FEI win with Cadillac at the venue that jump-started his show jumping career.
“It’s kind of cool that I’ve gotten to see Thunderbird evolve into what’s now a really top-class international show jumping venue,” he commented.
“At the same time, I’ve been on this parallel journey of trying to [work my way] up in international sport. There’s something that just seems very fitting on a day like today, where I get to win in my hometown and get to go home and have a glass of wine with my parents and celebrate the journey.”
The win also secured Morton a $2,500 bonus as FEI divisional champion for the competition.
Carly Stevens Could not Be Caught in $10,000 Trademark Stables & Friends U25 Final 1.40m
A more competitive jump-off couldn’t have been scripted in the $10,000 Trademark Stables & Friends U25 Final, with each of the top five riders in contention for the divisional championship.
Carly Stevens arguably had the most difficult task as the jump-off’s pathfinder, but the 17-year-old rose to the challenge, coming away with a class victory and the overall title as U25 Series Champion.
Stevens and her mount’s winning time was 38.42 seconds. Emily Ward and Evita DKG were the only other double-clear performers on the day, finishing second and claiming the reserve championship. Kassidy Keith and Havana had the winning time (38.14), but a single rail relegated them to third.
Sunday’s 1.40m competition certainly lived up to expectations as the most challenging of the week, with just six combinations qualifying for the jump-off. The cream rose to the top, as the week’s most successful riders held their form. Both Ward and Jenna Lee Gottschlich had already recorded wins on the week, while Keith and Makayla Barta had earned podium honours.
All would end up chasing Stevens, who had been knocking on the door throughout the competition with consistent efforts aboard her family’s 11-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding. Her win earned her $3,300 in prize money, which pushed her total for the week to $4,550—just $675 more than Ward—and earned her a $1,000 bonus as series champion.
“It was crazy!” Stevens exclaimed. “I wasn’t really going in expecting to come out the winner of the overall championship, to be honest. I was just looking to be consistent the past couple of days, which worked out okay. I had a rail in the jump-off [on Friday] but the fastest time. Today, it just played out nicely for me. Everybody was fast, and everybody was great—just a couple unlucky rails.”
Stevens has been partnered with VIP des Majuros for nearly two years, and the pair has only recently hit its best stride.
“He’s so different from any of the other horses I’ve owned. He’s quite sensitive in the mouth and also a little arrogant,” Stevens explained. “He can get quite cocky and tune you out. He kind of has a mare attitude, almost!
The Harvest Welcome marks the end of the Fall show jumping season at Thunderbird Show Park. International competition returns in 2021.