Brian Morton (CAN) scored a popular hometown win Sunday afternoon at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC, riding Spruce Meadows’ Cadillac to the top of the $73,000 ATCO Cup Grand Prix CSI2* at the Harvest Welcome.
The Harvest Welcome 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.
Morton, a Langley native, has had his fair share of memorable moments at tbird, having grown up at the venue, but his latest win might just rank among some of his best. The 34-year-old relocated to Calgary this year to ride for the prestigious Spruce Meadows operation, and the Harvest Welcome was his first international competition for his new employer. Needless to say, he made a strong impression.
Riding the talented 10-year-old Hanoverian Cadillac, Morton, returning first of 10 to contest Peter Holmes’ (CAN) 1.45m jump-off track, set a standard that could not be topped, even by the likes of Olympian Tiffany Foster (CAN), reigning Canadian Champion Beth Underhill (CAN) or Katie Laurie (AUS), who claimed both the $37,000 Artisan Farms Welcome CSI2* and the Volvo Canada 1.45m under the lights earlier in the week.
Morton’s winning time was 40.66 seconds. Rachel Cornacchia (CAN) and Valkyrie de Talma came closest, finishing second (40.99 seconds), while Tiffany Foster (CAN) and Brighton finished third with 4 faults (40.29). The win also secured Morton a $2,500 bonus as FEI divisional champion for the competition.
“It’s always an interesting position to go first in the jump-off. It’s almost advantageous if you end up pulling off your plan,” Morton said. “My plan was to try to be fast and smart at the same time. I think there were two pretty difficult right turns—one to the second jump in the jump-off and one, a hard inside line to the combination.
“[In] both of those places, I really took a shot at it,” he continued. “They weren’t places where you could totally make it easy for your horse. 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.”
While a healthy number advanced to Holmes’ jump-off, the shortened track claimed many more rails, with only the top two able to execute a double-clear performance. Morton set himself apart with a sharp turn back to the combination midway through the course. Meeting the obstacle at a daring angle, his mount gave a brilliant effort, and despite the rail rolling a bit in its cups, the fence remained in tact. The pair continued on a strong rhythm the rest of the way through, and no other pair could match the effort.
“It ended up being a hard jump-off, and you could see that, because not many jumped clean again in the jump-off,” Morton said. “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.”
Even in the immediate moments following his win, 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 said. “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.”
Watch Brian Morton and Cadillac’s winning round in the $73,000 CSI2* ATCO Cup Grand Prix:
$73,000 ATCO Cup Grand Prix CSI2* 1.45m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1.Cadillac / Brian Morton / CAN / Spruce Meadows Ltd / 0/0 40.66
2. Valkyrie de Talma / Rachel Cornacchia / CAN / Eventyre Farms Ltd. / 0/0 40.99
3. Brighton / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Artisan Farms, LLC / 0/4 40.29
4. Millioninmind / Emily Ward / GBR / Emily Ward / 0/4 40.88
5. Enzo / Kyle King / USA / Seabright Investment Consultants Ltd / 0/4 40.88
6. Katie Laurie / Casebrooke Lomond / AUS / Katie Laurie / 0/4 41.40
7. Veyron / Ben Asselin / CAN / Attache Stables / 0/4 45.28
8. Aramis de b’Neville / Braden James / CAN / Braden James / 0/8 40.87
9. Northern Light / Tiffany Foster / CAN / Artisan Farms, Ltd / 0/12 38.88
10. Count Me In / Beth Underhill / CAN / Sandy Lupton / 0/25 72.73
Carly Stevens Cannot 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 advancing to Joey Rycroft’s (CAN) shortened course.
Carly Stevens (CAN) arguably had the most difficult task as the jump-off’s pathfinder, but the 17-year-old rose to the challenge. Laying the gauntlet down with a brilliant effort aboard VIP des Majuros, she set a standard that simply couldn’t be caught, 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 (GBR) and Evita DKG were the only other double-clear performers on the day, finishing second (38.71 seconds) and claiming the reserve championship. Kassidy Keith (CAN) and Havana had the winning time (38.14), but a single rail relegated them to third.
Stevens did not hesitate to describe the victory as the biggest of her young career, but she wasn’t expecting it. Watching her five competitors follow her, she battled her nerves. While happy with how she finished her jump-off, she believed she hadn’t gone as quickly as she could have early in her track.
“I was quite happy with my horse, but I was a little disappointed in myself [initially], because I did realize from [fence] one to [fence] two, I left the door open,” she explained. “I didn’t quite get there as fast as I wanted to and turn back fast enough. But the rest of it, I thought was quite ideal for the track I wanted.”
tbird’s Lynn Foster, COO Chris Pack and president Jane Tidball with Grant Stevens, Lee Gottschlich, “amazing groom” Nikki Larson and class winner Carly Stevens. Photo by Totem Photographics/tbird
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 (CAN) had already recorded wins on the week, while Keith and Makayla Barta (CAN) 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 two have logged miles in championship situations at both the 2019 FEI CSIOJ Junior Nation’s Cup at tbird and the North American Youth Championships in New York (USA). However, the pair has only recently hit its best stride, after some experimentation with bits—the gelding now goes in an eggbutt snaffle with a small gag rein—and a focus on relaxation.
“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!
“We were figuring things out, but now he’s really stepping up and showing a lot more scope than we knew he had.”
$10,000 Trademark Stables & Friends U25 Final 1.40m
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1. VIP des Majuros / Carly Stevens / CAN / Grant & Susie Stevens / 0/0 38.42
2. Evita DKG / Emily Ward / GBR / Kent Farrington / 0/0 38.71
3. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/4 38.14
4. Evita P / Jenna Lee Gottschlich / CAN / Jenna Lee Gottschlich / 0/4 39.22
5. Cohinoor 4 / Mackayla Barta / CAN / Makayla Barta / 0/4 39.90
6. Viva la Vida / Cassie Gorseline / CAN / Lisa Carlsen / 0/4 39.97
CSIU25-A Series Champion
Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Prize Money
1. VIP des Majuros / Carly Stevens / CAN / $4,550
2. Evita DKG / Emily Ward / GBR / $3,875
3. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / $3,000
4. Evita P / Jenna Lee Gottschlich / CAN / $2,950
5. Cohinoor 4 / Mackayla Barta / CAN / $1,900