September 9, 2012 -- The 2012 Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament had great significance for U.S. riders, as it was their final competition under the guidance of legendary Chef d' Equipe George Morris. The prestigious competition is always a destination event for not only the best in North America but also draws top competitors from Europe. The signature classes of Spruce Meadows would once again draw a packed house of spectators, as horses and riders competed for top individual honors in Sunday's CN International Grand Prix. While just 24 hours earlier team's jumped for bragging rights in the BMO Nations Cup.
The U.S. got off to quick start on Wednesday with Richard Spooner (Agua Dulce, Calif.) riding Little Valley Farms' Apache and Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.) with Coral Reef Ranch's Coral Reef Via Volo placing first and second respectively in the Akita Drilling Cup. While on Friday Kent Farrington (Wellington, Fla) and RCG Farm's Uceko captured top honors in the Encana Cup. Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo would also head to the winner's circle on Saturday as they topped the field in Suncor Energy Winning Round competition.
Morris was very pleased with the individual results of the U.S. riders collected throughout the week in Spruce Meadows. He also believes that the sport will continue to progress forward under the guidance of incoming Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland.
"We had a great individual show," said Morris. "I'm very happy, Robert is young and from the new generation. This is a great transition and good for the country. It's perfect."
CN International Grand Prix
The United States closed out the 2012 Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament on Sunday with a solid showing in the final class, the CN International Grand Prix. Thirty-three of the world's best riders would start in the influential first round over Leopoldo Palacios intricate course. The top 12 combinations from that first round would move onto the decisive second round, which saw the height of fences raised over a shorter track. The U.S. had strong representation in that final round as Beezie Madden, Leslie Howard and Reed Kessler would vie for top honors.
Madden would jump midway through the order in the second round with Abigail Wexner's Simon after having incurred four faults in the first round. The 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding easily cruised to a clear round in the second round stopping the timers well within the time allowed.
The pair finished in second just two faults behind the winner Olivier Philippaerts and Cabrio Van De Heffinck of Belgium, who collected a single time fault in each round.
Finishing in fourth place was U.S. team veteran Leslie Howard (Darien, Conn.) and Utah. They were the first of the twelve horse field to jump in the second round after having lowered two poles in the first round for eight faults. The Utah Group's 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding produced a classy fault-free round that would propel him up the standings to finish in fourth place.
Kessler (Lexington, Ky.) and her own 10-year-old Belgian mare Cylana were the only combinations to navigate faultlessly over the first round. In the second round, the 2012 London Olympic Games veterans once again produced a classy effort but rails in the double combinations would leave them with an eight fault total and in fifth place.
Only Madden, Howard and Belgium's Ludo Philippaerts (father of winner Olivier) with Challenge VD Begijnakker were able to jump fault-free in the second round.
BMO Nations Cup
The United States was one of nine teams that lined up to claim top honors in the BMO Nations Cup held on Saturday afternoon. Clear rounds were at a premium over Leopoldo Palacios demanding track, with only Daniel Deusser of Germany producing a double clear. For the U.S. team of Ashlee Bond, Brianne Goutal, Kessler and Howard Saturday's class had added significance as they would be the final team Morris would lead into Nations Cup competition.
The U.S. team put forth a determined effort on an afternoon that saw up-and-down results for the Americans. They finished tied for fifth with the team from Canada on a score on of 28. Germany proved unbeatable finishing on a score of 16 in the extremely competitive class; where the 2011 champions, France, would not advance to the second round.
Bond (Hidden Hills, Calif.) led off the American effort with a confident trip just adding four faults with Little Valley Farms' Cadett 7 in the first round. In the second round, the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding returned to the International Ring producing an eight fault effort.
Next up for the U.S. was Kessler (Lexington, Ky.) riding her Cylana, the pair produced a stylish trip in round one just rolling one pole for four faults. In the second round, their clear trip never looked in doubt as they easily cruised around the 12 obstacle course.
Goutal (New York, N.Y.) and Remarkable Farm's Nice De Prissey jumping in the third spot for the U.S. ran into trouble in the first round resulting in elimination and no score. The 11-year-old Selle Francais stallion returned with an improved performance in the second round with a 20 fault effort.
Riding in the anchor position for the U.S. was Howard. The veteran rider guided Utah to a 12 fault score in round one. Returning in round two, Howard showed all her experience producing an immaculate clear trip with the agile gelding.
For Howard being part of the U.S. team in final competition under Morris' direction was especially meaningful as they share a lengthy history together.
"Personally it was wonderful to be here with him in the team at his last show," said Howard. "It was so wonderful having been with the team 10 years, to be here for George's last show."
For results from the 2012 Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament visit; http://sprucemeadows.com/tournaments/orderAndGo.jsp?id=29
Follow the 2012 U.S. Jumping Team here.