‘Nobody would have put a penny on us winning a grand prix’ – Steve Guerdat reveals the secret to Spruce Meadows victory

  • Just a week after claiming team gold at the European Showjumping Championships, Swiss sensation Steve Guerdat is now bidding for glory in the Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping after winning the world-famous 1.70m CP International at Spruce Meadows, Canada, on Sunday, 12 September.

    The 2012 Olympic champion described jumping the only double clear on the 12-year-old Venard De Cerisy to lift the coveted silverware as “one of the best days of my career”.

    “I’ve walked past the winners’ wall at Calgary 100 times and thought, ‘I’m not going to quit riding until my name is on there’,” revealed Steve after winning the historic sporting event, landed in the past by the likes of Eric Lamaze and Hickstead, John Whitaker with Milton and Ian Millar on Big Ben.

    “Venard jumped here two years ago and always feels great in this arena. He felt amazing from day one and gave me an unbelievable feeling in every round. So I didn’t really mind what the course would be – if I rode well, Venard was going to be on my side and that’s exactly what happened. We had a good first round, a much better second round and the way he was feeling he could have gone for a third. So I’m so proud of him today. It’s a big reward for him and his owners.”

    The CP International presented by Rolex is an illustrious addition to the pair’s list of five-star successes, but they endured a rocky start to their jumping career after Steve Guerdat bought the French-bred gelding as a seven-year-old.

    “If you’d seen our first two years together, nobody would have put a penny on us winning a grand prix like this,” said Steve. “I couldn’t make him jump well at home and things only got better when I started training him over the Derby fences I have. He loved that and it’s changed him completely – he’s more happy to jump, easier to ride and at home, I rarely jump him other than those natural fences. He’s been unbelievable these past three years and he’s won a number of five-star grands prix. He’s given me so much, which is why I’m so happy for him to go in the history books today.”

    Since failing to make the individual final of the Tokyo Olympics with just one fence down in the qualifier and going on to help the team finish fifth, Steve has targeted the “strong, powerful and brave” gelding for Calgary.

    “The only way to make up for Tokyo was to win this class,” revealed Steve, who also admitted to suffering from terrible nerves, despite his ice cool exterior.

    “I’m nervous even jumping a 1.45m class at a two-star show, so you can imagine how nervous I am jumping here!” he said.

    US riders Kent Farrington (Gazelle), whose only fault came at the water in round one, and 2009 winner McLain Ward on Kasper Van Het Hellehof took second and third respectively in the CP International.

    British contender and two-time victor in Spruce Meadows, Scott Brash, finished sixth on Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham’s Hello Vincent, picking up four faults in each of his two beautifully executed rounds.

    Steve Guerdat has been committed to winning the Rolex Grand Slam since its inception in 2013 – the only rider to compete in each of the Majors during this time – and the next leg takes place in Aachen this week.

    “I’ve been lucky enough to win Geneva a couple of times, but Calgary and Aachen have been missing; I’ve won one now and I’m going to be able to aim for the second one very soon,” he said. “This is what drives us as riders.”

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