Beezie Madden becomes the new Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Live Contender !

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

In contrast to Saturday’s BMO Nations’ Cup, which was bathed in warm early autumn sunshine, the International Ring was overcast and chilly for the final day of the 2019 CSIO Spruce Meadows 'Masters'. An unprecedented 48 horse and rider combinations contended the week’s showcase class, the CP 'International', presented by Rolex, for the enviable title of becoming a Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping Major winner and securing a place in equestrian history.

Spruce Meadows’ veteran Venezuelan course designer, Leopoldo Palacios and his assistant, Peter Grant set the riders from 22 nations a typically tough set of challenges, with the first round consisting of 17 obstacles and the second round 14. Of the 48 starters, 12 riders progressed to the second round, including eight, who were faultless after round one.

But it was the current world number six-ranked rider, American Beezie Madden and her 11-year-old chestnut stallion, Darry Lou, who triumphed, adding just one time fault to her clear first round in a time of 66.94 seconds, and claimed her first Major as part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping.

Also clear in round one was Australian Rowan Willis and his 13-year-old chestnut mare, Blue Movie, who put one fence down in round two to finished in second place in a time of 65.93 seconds, while Austria’s Max Kühner and his 12-year-old grey stallion, Chardonnay 79 slotted into third with a total of five faults in a time of 66.78 seconds.

A delighted Beezie Madden, commented: “It feels amazing. This is such an amazing place, it’s just an honour to be here. Any win is fantastic, but I have to say, this one is pretty special.

“I kind of have a feeling that Darry Lou is the fans’ favourite because he’s so cute. The fans here are great. Obviously, they’re very loyal to their Canadian riders, but they appreciate great sport.

“Today, he [Darry Lou] was just about right. I thought I left him a little too fresh when I was warming up the other day, but I got away with it and he was great anyway. It’s nice when you have a plan and it actually works out that way. If anything goes wrong, it’s my fault because he does absolutely everything I ask him to do. He has a beautiful gallop and a beautiful jump, and his temperament is amazing. He’s careful and scopey, and he’s really a pleasure.

“I wasn’t sure if I was going to go there [CHI Geneva] or not, but I guess this might seal the fact that I do want to go there. Winning this is amazing, and trying to win the Rolex Grand Slam, or even a portion of it would be amazing.”

(Photo: Adam Cromarty) (Photo: Adam Cromarty)

Behind the microphone with:

Adam Cromarty

What do you enjoy most about equestrian commentating, and what do you find is most rewarding?

Equestrian commentating is something I’ve been doing for quite a few years now. It’s got many highlights and sometimes it can be hard work, but you get to travel the world, and you get to socialise and meet a lot of very interesting people. You’re also lucky enough to experience places like Spruce Meadows, where you see the world’s best riders and horses compete at the very top level.

What are the highlights of your equestrian commentating career?

There have been so many highlights of my career so far. Spruce Meadows itself and this ‘Masters’ tournament is always a highlight – it hosts the biggest Grand Prix in the world and there’s CAD$3 million in the prize fund. Other highlights include the 2017 World Cup Jumping Final, which I commentated at in Omaha, Nebraska – for such a small town the atmosphere was electric.

Are there any sports commentators that you take inspiration from? Do you idolise anyone?

As far as commentators go, I’m a bit of a strange one, as I don’t really look towards other commentators for inspiration. I started my career at a very young age at stage school where I did some theatrical stuff. I then trained in radio and television, as well as riding all my life, so I very much combined the two. When I’m looking for inspiration or for people to get tips from, I’d look to television programmes like The X Factor or Britain’s Got Talent. In a way that gives me a little bit of a different edge, because I’m able to take elements from non-sporting events and weave that into my show jumping personality.

What makes an exceptional commentator?

Doing lots of preparation is key, as you need to know a lot about the riders, the horses and the sport. As well as being a commentator, I think you also need to be more of an entertainer that wants to inform those watching. There are a few commentators on the circuit who sound very much the same, even a little uninspiring. Although our sport is a minority sport, which is growing all the time, it’s incredibly exciting, and it’s my job to make it sound like it’s The X Factor.

What advice would you give to someone contemplating a career in sports commentating?

For someone considering a career in commentating, I’d say prepare, prepare, prepare. If you’re doing a one-hour broadcast, you should be doing approximately three hours of preparation. I’d also recommend trying to get as much different experience as you can. Starting off in radio, it taught me so much, as I used to sit in a studio for four hours a day, six days a week, and literally talk to myself! If something happens in the ring and I need to fill time, it’s not daunting to me, as I know how to talk. It’s also a good idea to watch as many different shows and other sports as possible, decide what you like and what you’re good at, and then form your own character.

What’s the best piece of advice you ever been given?

I think it goes back to preparation. If you don’t prepare, it’s so easy to sound bored or stale. You’ve also got to try and make sure you’re fresh all the time.

Which equestrian shows do you most enjoy commentating at, and why?

I’m extremely lucky, as I get to travel to a lot of the world’s best shows. There aren’t any shows I do these days just for the sake of it, or because they pay lots of money; every show I work at is ultimately because I enjoy it. Spruce Meadows is where I started my commentating career in North America. They advertised on Facebook, and I sent them a showreel of everything that I had done. This is my seventh year coming here, so it’s one of my most enjoyable shows.

As well as commentating at the top-level events, I also enjoy being part of the smaller shows at home in the UK, because it means so much to the riders, as they don’t get to hear that standard of commentary very often. I suppose it would mean more to them than it would to Kent Farrington or Steve Guerdat, for example.

What makes Spruce Meadows so special?

Spruce Meadows is incredibly special, and if you haven’t been here you should come and experience it. There are so many elements that make it magical. The rings are spectacular, the crowds Spruce Meadows attracts are electric, and everything is pristine. The thing I first noticed when I first came to Spruce Meadows was the attention to detail. Because it’s a family run venue and it’s so international, it attracts people from all over the world, not only to compete but also to watch.

You then have highlight classes such as the CAD$3 million CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex, which is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. Other highlights include the ATCO Electric Six Bar, and an evening’s entertainment with an orchestra and fireworks. You just wouldn’t see that at any other shows in the world.

What do you believe the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping has done for the sport?

The Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping just keep growing. It attracts so many of the world’s top riders, who are all focussed winning one of the four Rolex Grand Slam Majors and going down in history. I was here when Scott Brash became the only rider to ever win the Rolex Grand Slam, and he still talks about it to this day. I don’t think it’s the financial incentive that drives riders, I think it’s that trophy and that title. So many other sports have got their own Grand Slams, and for show jumping to have its very own Grand Slam, it’s just transformed the sport.

(Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof) (Photo: Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof)

Behind the stable door with:

Eric Lamaze's groom Kaytlyn Brown

Which horses has Eric brought to Spruce Meadows this year? Can you tell me a little bit about each of them?

Eric has brought Coco Bongo, Chacco Kid and Fine Lady 5. All three horses have very different personalities.

Coco Bongo is very easy going and nothing seems to really bother him. He’s very simple to take care of and has very low stress levels – I’d say he’s pretty cool. You can literally do anything with him – he’s so easy to have around all the time.

Chacco Kid is the sweetest thing I’ve ever met – I’ve never met a horse that understands humans like he does. He always wants someone’s attention and he always has something in his mouth – he will literally try to eat anything. When Eric is around his stress levels go up and he gets quite anxious because he always wants to please, and he knows that Eric expects a lot of him.

Fine Lady 5 is without doubt the most complicated out of the three. She’s the only mare that we have. She’s very sensitive and is bothered by everything, particularly music and anything loud – it drives her crazy. If it’s loud and she’s in the horse box, she’ll dig and roll around and generally cause a huge scene. She’s my absolute favourite, though and we’ll never have another one like her – she’s so willing to please all the time. When I look at her, I know I’ll never have another relationship with a horse quite like this one – she’s unbelievable.

How has your last year been? Any highlights?

After the 2018 CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’, Eric had a long break, so things were a little slow. My absolute highlight was to see him back in the ring – it’s unbelievable what he can do. It wasn’t just a highlight for me, it was the highlight for all of the team. It was very difficult for all of us when he stopped showing. After everything that happened, to come here for the Summer Series and win two 5* classes back to back, we couldn’t have asked for any more than that.

Have any new horses joined Torrey Pines stable since the 2018 Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’?

We have a bit of a dealing stable and we always have a lot of horses coming and going. We have a few promising prospects at home, who we believe could do something, and Eric is hoping that they’ll be able to step up soon.

How much time do you spend travelling?

We’re only in Canada for five weeks of the year during the Summer Series. We’re then in Florida, USA from December through April, and the rest of the time we’re in Europe. It’s more exciting to be in Europe, as you’re at a new place every week, and in my opinion every European location is always beautiful.

Canada has qualified for Tokyo 2020; how are you and the team preparing for the Games next year?

We’re still a while away from Tokyo 2020 and it’s a long process, but we’re starting to discuss which of the horses we believe have the potential perform at the Games, and which types of classes we need them to jump to ensure they’re ready. We need to consider what time of the day we need to jump them, and if they need to jump more night classes, and we also must factor in the weather, as Tokyo could be very hot.

Eric and Fine Lady 5 finished seventh at last year’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex; can they improve on that this year?

I would like to think so, as Fine Lady 5 is in a good place right now. We all have high hopes for her, but I personally think she’s going to perform well. Not that last year was a bad result, but I think she and Eric can improve.

As a groom, do you feel added pressure coming to a Rolex Grand Slam Major?

Always. The week before the show starts, the stress levels at home are high. We’re doing absolutely everything we can to prepare to come here, as we know it’s a long hard week for Eric and the horses. The horses came from Europe, so they had to endure a long flight, and our aim is for them to be the best that they can be and on top form, as soon as they arrive here. For sure, it’s stressful – coming here for the ‘Masters’ isn’t the same as coming here for the Summer Series, as there’s a clear end goal at the end of this week.

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