Often considered to be one of the toughest and most prestigious show jumping competitions in the world, the CPKC ‘International’ Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, held at the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament, was once again a true spectacle of the world’s best equestrian talent. In total, 34 combinations from 12 nations, including five of the world’s top-10 ranked riders, took on the typically massive course designed by Leopoldo Palacios.

The first round consisted of 17 fences and 12 combinations and was a true test of stamina, skill, and bravery for both horses and riders. It was third in the ring, Angelie Von Essen, who produced the first clear round of the class with her Selle Francais gelding Alcapone des Carmille. At the halfway mark, only four riders had finished the course faultless, including home favourite Tiffany Foster, who set the ‘International Ring’ alight with a foot-perfect round.

Disappointment came for the newly crowned FEI European Champion and 2021 winner of the class, Steve Guerdat, who was one of 10 riders in the class who faulted at fence 12. Shocks also came as some of the class favourites did not proceed to the second round including World No.4 Ben Maher riding Dallas Vegas Batilly, winner of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, Scott Brash riding Hello Jefferson, and Dutch rider Harrie Smolders on Darry Lou.


Tiffany Foster and Figor jumping a fence at Spruce Meadows.

Tiffany Foster (CAN) placed second riding Figor in the CPKC International. (Spruce Meadows Media/Dave Chidley)


With the 12 top riders from the opening round proceeding into the next round, those who could produce a fast-four fault round would stay in contention for one of the sport’s most coveted prizes. For Canada these riders included Erynn Ballard with Gakhir, Mario Deslauriers riding Bardolina 2 and Amy Millar aboard Truman. In total, five riders cleared the technical course, including Martin Fuchs, who impressively jumped a portion of the course with only one stirrup after a huge effort from Leone Jei over the Canadian flag planks.

After a short break, the sold-out crowds waited with bated breath to welcome these incredible combinations back into the sun-bathed arena. Combinations returned in reverse order from the first round, with any combinations that tied on scores after this round proceeding to the jump-off. Only one rider on four faults from the opening round put pressure on those who carried forward zero faults, Mexico’s Andres Azcarraga on Contendros 2, who looked pure class, breezing the course inside the time limit of 77 seconds.

To the delight and cheers of the fans, Tiffany Foster was first to jump a double-clear, setting the standard for the remaining three riders. Fuchs, a double Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping major winner, ensured that there would be a jump-off. Heartbreak came for the last to enter the arena, Bertram Allen on Pacino Amiro, who faulted at the CPKC triple, meaning that just two would jump off for the million-dollar first place purse.

Anticipation was heavy in the air, with Canadian fans hoping to have their first home victory since Ian Millar’s win in 2014. Foster produced a respectable round with just one down in a time of 44.45 seconds. As the striking grey Leone Jei walked through the clock tower you could hear a pin drop. The Swiss rider flew across the International Ring with the scopey 11-year-old showing all of his talent to cross the finish line clear in a time of 43.58 seconds and take the victory in this prestigious class.

Speaking of his victory, Fuchs, who is the nephew of Olympian Markus Fuchs, commented, “It is unbelievable to win here at this historical show – I have always wanted to win this class. My dad [Thomas] competed here a number of times and never won. He told me that I would have to win for us both and I am so pleased that I have been able to do so!”

The new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping live contender continued, “Leone Jei is incredible – he is such an amazing horse with so much talent! I have always thought he was the horse that could win this Grand Prix. It has been a perfect end to a perfect week! I haven’t had a single fault on any of my horses this week – it has been a dream come true.”

He added about his tack mishap, “He [Leone Jei] jumped incredibly in the first round – so well that he jumped me out of the saddle over the Canadian flag planks, and I lost my left rein and stirrup. I tried hard to get my stirrup back but had to jump three or four fences before I could get it back. After the first round we had a discussion about changing his bit as he was so keen, but my dad told me that we shouldn’t do this and that I should just ride better!”

Tiffany Foster was delighted with Figor’s grand prix effort following Saturday’s two-round Nation’s Cup. “He’s an amazing horse and he always has a lot of energy, so I knew he wouldn’t be too tired, but it is a lot of jumping for any horse to do both days in a row. We all had an agreement that [the BMO Nations Cup] would be the priority and if we had a good result in the grand prix it would just be gravy on top of that.

“I’m so proud of my horse; I can’t say enough good things about him. He’s an incredible athlete and he just kept jumping better throughout the week. The most difficult thing with him is to just manage his nervous energy – he doesn’t like to be alone and I was warming up today and there was no one in the grass ring and I was like ‘someone come out here, he needs a friend!'” But other than that, “he’s beautiful to ride, has all the power and the scope and he tries so hard; he knows when it’s a big day and he gives his all.”

She added, “I’m so lucky to have owners like Andy and Carlene [Ziegler of Artisan Farms] who have supported me for fifteen years. I have the strongest group of horses that I’ve ever had and that’s a testament to all of my owners.”

Fresh off their bronze placing in Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup, all four Canadian riders showed up in a big way on Sunday, with Mario and Bardolina 2 taking 7th, Erynn Ballard and Gakhir placing 8th and Amy Millar and Truman snagging 11th spot.

The CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament is the third Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major in the calendar year and the second to celebrate the 10-year anniversary of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

Results here.

Watch tournament highlights here:


~ with files from Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping