A young buck from the Czech Republic made history today, becoming the first rider from his country to win a 5* event at Spruce Meadows.

It was also the first-ever 5* win for 29-year-old Vaclav Stanek, with Quintin, who beat a field of seasoned pros to take top spot in the Duncan Ross Grand Prix, the final event of The ‘Continental’, presented by Rolex.

Stanek, who just two years ago was working as a groom at the Spruce Meadows Summer Series, told how going into today’s contest, he “didn’t even expect to get a clear round, let alone win my first 5* event.”

“It’s so special because this is my favourite show in the world,” said Stanek, a former Rolex Young Riders Academy pupil who went into the test ranked 1,813th in the world. “I have watched Spruce Meadows since I was a little kid hoping one day I could ride here, but I would never even dream about winning here.

“I finally got my cooler in the best way possible,” he added, referencing the championship blankets winning horses receive at the end of a 5* competition, in this case bearing the name of event sponsors Duncan Ross.

Stanek’s win proved a bit of a shake-up in a seasoned field.

Riders from 15 countries, on 37 different horses, entered the preliminary round. Just five made it past a challenging set of 13 obstacles and 16 efforts for clear rounds in under 83s.

In the end, Stanek beat Britain’s Matthew Sampson on Daniel, Conor Swail (IRL) with Casturano, Nicholas Dello Joio (USA) on Cornet’s Cambridge, and Sharn Wordley (NZL) atop Champion League. (Two Canadians placed top-10 in this class – Ben Asselin and Luikan Q, 7th, and Mario Deslauriers with Bardolina 2, 9th.)

A new face on the leaderboard was welcomed by course designer Marina Azevedo (BRA), the first builder to test out the newly-renovated All Canada Ring this year.

“It’s so nice to have some new riders coming up,” said Azevedo. “As a course designer, I love it here. It’s very different, very nice.”

Excellence On Both Sides of the Fence

Earlier in the day, it was victory for Vanessa Hood (USA), with Burlington Riverland, in the Canadian Utilities Cup 1.45m-1.50m.

Hood was presented with her trophy by Canadian Utilities Chair and CEO Nancy Southern, who was this week named as one of four Calgarians who will be granted The Alberta Order of Excellence later in the year. The title is the highest citizen honour the provincial government can grant, for contributions to the ‘greater good’, and we couldn’t be prouder of our Spruce Meadows Co-Chair.

Vanessa topped a class of 55 FEI competitors, with Josh Verlooy (BEL) and Nixon Van’t Meulenhof taking second, followed by Canada’s Sean Jobin, on Arkuga, coming in third.

Complete results HERE