THE world’s best riders descended on Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada last weekend for one of the ‘Majors’ in world show jumping – the CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex.

Ireland’s Conor Swail, who is riding the crest of a wave at the moment, got his excellent campaign at the show off to a flying start on Thursday when he won the 1.60m CANA Cup Grand Prix qualifier. He was riding his Dublin hero Count Me In and was one of six to make it through to the jump-off.

In the timed round, the 15-year-old gelding, owned by Mannon Farm, produced the only clear in a time of 43.46 seconds to earn $24,750. Germany’s Daniel Deusser slotted into second place with Bingo Ste Hermelle (0/4 44.50) and Frenchman Marc Dilasser was third aboard Chamann HAS.

Delighted with his win in Spruce Meadows and lauding the support of his team, Swail commented: “I get on every day and ride for an hour or two, but they’re the ones putting in all the hard work, making sure he [Count Me In] is healthy, ensuring he’s travelling from A to B correctly. We’re obviously very good at what we do but it’s the team behind you that makes it all work and makes the success happen.

“I’m very excited because my horse is on good form. He’s already jumped here during the summer and he’s been second in the Grand Prix [CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex] here. He always gives me good chances, so if I have a bit of luck on Sunday we’ll hopefully be knocking on the door in or around the top spot.”

Daniel Deusser won the CP International Grand Prix, presented by Rolex, at Spruce Meadows \ Mike Sturk Photo

Rolex Grand Prix

Sunday’s CP International Grand Prix was typically enormous and challenging for the 40 starters and, in the end, Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM were the only pair to keep a clean sheet over three rounds to win the biggest purse in show jumping, a first-place prize fund of a whopping $990,000.

In the opening round, no clears after the first 20 starters and a string of retirements was testament to the gravity of the test built by Leopoldo Palacios, with the triple combination after the water jump just one of the obstacles catching lots out. However, 24-year-old Gilles Thomas from Belgium and his 14-year-old gelding, Aretino 13 soon proved that Venezuelan Palacios’ course was rideable, after confidently clearing the 14 obstacles fault-free in a time of 84.72.

McLain Ward demonstrated his superstar mare HH Azur’s class and harmony, notching up the second clear of the day in 83.73 seconds.

Swiss Steve Guerdat and Venard De Cerisy recorded the day’s third clear in a time of 85.53 seconds. After exceeding the 86-second limit, a time fault for Dutchman Harrie Smolders and his 2019 CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex winning horse, Darry Lou, blemished what was an otherwise flawless round. 2021 CHIO Aachen Major-winning duo, Germany’s Daniel Deusser recorded the fourth clear and the final one of the first round.

Six further combinations progressed to the second round, including Co Limerick’s Paul O’Shea, Mexicans Eugenio Garza Perez and Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson, Martin Fuchs of Switzerland, and Brazil’s Francisco Jose Mesquita Musa.

Fifth to go in the second round, Fuchs and his 10-year-old grey gelding looked pure class, breezing the course without fault in 69.80 seconds, the first of three consecutive clears with bringing four faults from the first round. However, their hopes were short-lived after the 2021-winning duo, Steve Guerdat and Venard De Cerisy, were the first pair to go double clear. Current world number 39-ranked rider Gilles Thomas went next and, much to the delight of the Calgarian crowd, also went clear, meaning there would be a jump-off, before Deusser made it three in jump-off.

Against the clock in round three, Guerdat knocked the first part of the double, crossing the finish line with four faults in 41.70 seconds. Next to go, Thomas finished with eight faults which mean Deusser knew exactly what he needed to do and duly delivered to take the win and become the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping ‘live contender’.

“It is an historic Grand Prix here, it’s a class that I’ve followed since I was very, very small,” Deusser said afterwards. “I watched it on television, and I still have VHS cassettes at home that have the Grand Prix here. I’ve watched it over and over again, and I could never imagine to be here, so to win is a fantastic feeling. Killer Queen jumped three fantastic clear rounds and she will definitely have a big, big dinner tonight and some carrots and sweets!”

Paul O’Shea picked up $60,000 prize money when finishing in 10th place with Imerald van’t Voorhof after 12 faults in the second round.