The 2022 Spruce Meadows Pan American Grand Prix was, frankly, more noteworthy than most.
The scene was set by an oppressive day with clouds covering the stage and rain threatening to burst forth. It’s almost like the horses could sense it and reacted with a similar lethargy. Balking at the water jump, gawking at everyday obstacles, dropping riders left and right …
But for one individual, it was a most beautiful day. Giavanna Rinaldi, who posted on social media earlier this summer that the venue was her “bucket list horse show,” filled that bucket with joy (and a trophy).
“I’ve always dreamed of coming to this show; I’ve been dying to jump five-star my whole life,” smiled the 23-year-old from Wellington, Florida. “Now that I’ve finally done it, both my first grand prix for my horse and I and five-star, just couldn’t be prouder of her and my team behind us. Just ecstatic.”
Rinaldi and Cosmona were just one of two entrants to go clear in the initial round; Mexico’s Jose Antonio Chedraui and Mighty Mouse were the other. In the ensuing jump-off, Chedraui posted a spotless 51.13 but was easily usurped by Rinaldi’s 46.23 for the biggest victory of her career.
“A little bit of a loss of words,” Rinaldi claimed. “My horse is incredible and everything worked out just as it should. I didn’t get to watch the first person go. They said I just needed to take a chance; I had nothing to lose. Just gave it my all, tried to go for it.”
As for the first round that saw nine four-faulters, seven horses not finish, four eliminated – including Canada’s Tiffany Foster who came off Northern Light – Rinaldi viewed it as a straightforward challenge.
“Normally, when I try to figure out what I’m going to do with a big track like this, I try to make a plan, stick to it,” she explained. “My mare is with me 100 percent and she tried really hard for me. Everything rode just as I thought it would. It worked out perfect.
“I knew the triple combination [the penultimate obstacle] would be really delicate for us. I took a bit of a shot coming in because I know she’s careful; she still had the power at the last.
“I had a really good feeling about today. I don’t know what it was. I walked the course and I knew my horse would help me out.”
Cosmona is an 11-year-old chestnut mare and Rinaldi started riding her in September.
“She’s been incredible,” said Rinaldi, “and we’ve tried to form a bit of a partnership together and I’m super thankful to her owners, Anton and Michele Marano; without them none of this would be possible. I’m really looking forward to the future with this horse.”
Course designer Peter Grant believed the course was fitting for a major grand prix, although he was a bit baffled by the difficulty the water jump presented.
“We try to balance the questions out,” said Grant. “We knew it was a tough course. With the 30 riders, we didn’t want to drop the level; we thought winning a five-star at Spruce Meadows should still be a Spruce Meadows five-star. The water was the one thing that I thought jumped a little harder than I calculated, but at the end of the day, I thought it was fair. Giavanna and Jose Antonio did a fantastic job. I thought we had fantastic sport.”
One of the other feature events of the weekend was the Canadian Utilities Cup, a metre-50 test captured by American Kent Farrington with Orafina, a mount he’s been working with for just under two years.
“I’m thrilled with the horse,” said Farrington, currently the eighth-ranked rider in the world. “She’s already won a couple grand prix; she won a five-star grand prix. Building her up here, she’s hyper, hyper careful. Growing her confidence over impressive jumps is why I play around with levels with her, it’s why I jump a metre-55, drop back to 1.50, back up to 1.55 … I wasn’t sure if she was ready to jump a grand prix here but I thought it would be good growth for the horse to get a lot of rounds and I think it will help her further in her career.”
Another star of the tournament was Britain’s Matthew Sampson, who has quickly claimed Spruce Meadows as his favourite venue. After two tournaments in the summer series, Sampson has won eight classes, the latest the Moore Equine Winning Round on Curraghgraigue Obos Flight.
“We’ve got good horses, great team of people around us,” grinned the 32-year-old. “The horses really like it, my girlfriend [Kara Chad] is from Calgary, which makes it even better. It’s like a second home for me. Couldn’t be happier.”