Daniel Coyle (IRL) and Cita proved uncatchable in the $235,000 CSIO5* Longines Grand Prix, capturing the first five-star grand prix in the 45-year history of Thunderbird Show Park.

Part of the 2018 Odlum Brown BC Open, the Longines Grand Prix saw 34 competitors battle over what proved to be a very challenging course designed by Canada’s Peter Holmes. Just six were able to crack the code to produce a clear first round, only the top three jumped without fault again in the jump-off. Coyle topped the class with a time of 40.98 seconds. Mario Deslauriers finished second, crossing the timers in 42.02 seconds, while Eugenio Garza Perez (MEX) placed third with Armani SL Z (43.29 seconds).

“It was a difficult course and it was a separator,” Holmes said. “It was scopey, and it was fast, and it was also very controlled. You had to be there every stride, and these riders are amazing, the ones that can make it look silky smooth and just go and do it.”

Garza Perez was the first to produce a clear first round, which didn’t come until nearly halfway through the class. In the jump-off, he put the pressure on with a second clear. Deslauriers was able to up the ante two riders later. However, it was Coyle who set the standard that couldn’t be beat when he sliced turns back to the Longines combination and Rubik’s cube vertical two fences from home.

“I’m not quite sure [where I won the class], but from talking to people outside, I’d say it was probably back to the second-last fence,” Coyle explained. “I was very tight there, and there was a hedge behind it, which made it not easy to jump, and I took a big risk there, and that’s probably what did it.”

The win marked Coyle’s second five-star grand prix victory of the year, after topping the Douglas Elliman Real Estate Grand Prix CSI5* in Wellington in March. Coyle said his and his mount’s partnership has reached a new level in 2018. The duo will also jump for Ireland in the week’s feature event, the $400,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Canada, on Sunday.

“It took me a little bit in the beginning to figure out which way she likes to go and where she likes to jump the bigger fences easier,” he said. “She likes you to be very nice to her, just like any girl does. She’s very sweet horse, and the more you believe in her, the more she believes in herself. That’s probably the biggest thing I had to learn.”

What the riders said:

Daniel Coyle (IRL): “Cita’s been amazing since the moment I got her. But this year she’s been right up there. She’s just been amazing. It’s incredible to have a horse as good as that, to have as good as owners as I have and a team around me that is amazing. I’m a lucky guy and also a happy guy!”

Mario Deslauriers (CAN): “[Bardolina] really jumped well today. We’ve been pacing ourselves to try to peak over here and at Spruce and hopefully down to [the World Equestrian Games in September]. She’s made a lot of progress through the winter and up through spring. She jumped great today.”

Eugenio Garza Perez (MEX): “I’ve had Armani since the end of his 6-year-old year. So we grew together. I have a lot of faith in him. I’m just happy to have a horse like him in the barn. I really love the guy.”

45th Anniversary

Jane Tidball, Thunderbird Show Park President: “This is our 45th year. I loved the day my mom and dad started this place. It was a small boutique horse show and we still maintain that boutique horse show. This is the biggest size we will become. But really it’s improvements for the horses and riders. That’s what we focus on. That what you’ll see in my mother’s work. She wanted everybody to wonder what would be new at Thunderbird next year so I’m carrying on that legacy for her. You can expect something new here next year, don’t you worry about that.”

Full results here.