Final Day of the 'North American' Tournament

July 09, 2023

Robert Blanchette (IRL) & Chardonnay © Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk

Robert Blanchette (IRL) wins the Sun Life Derby to bring the Spruce Meadows summer tournament season to a close

July 9, 2023 (Spruce Meadows) - The final day of the Spruce Meadows ‘North American’ CSI5*/2*, presented by Rolex brough tens of thousands of fans to the grounds to wrap up a great summer season of show jumping. The Sun Life Derby was the feature event of the day and the crowds were ready to cheer the 16 entries on.

The signature derby course was modified in 2022 by FEI Course Designer Leopoldo Palacios (VEN) but modeled after the original designed by the great Pamela Carruthers (GBR). There is over 1 kilometer of track, 18 obstacles (24 jumping efforts), yet to be jumped clear and under the time allowed of 158 seconds.

The natural obstacles including the Road Jump (Table Top) were no match for Robert and Chardonnay © Spruce Meadows Media/Bart Onyszko

Sixteen athletes representing 8 countries stepped through the iconic Clock Tower once more hoping to take a piece of the $145,000 purse of the Sun Life Derby. Robert Blanchette (IRL) was the second rider into the ring and put some major pressure on his competitors by navigating the derby track with no faults. Now Blanchette had to sit on the sidelines and wait to see if anyone else could also manage such a feat.

Clear through the Devil’s Dyke for Robert and Chardonnay © Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk

Tenth into the ring was Jim Ifko (CAN) and his stallion, Un Diamant des Forets. After watch a number of competitors have rails throughout the course Ifko was ready to make no mistakes. A hard bounce on the final fence of the Devil’s Dyke, but it stayed up and Ifko posted the second clear round of the day - there would be a jump off.

© Spruce Meadows Media/

Two was the final number of riders in the jump off with no one else posting clear rounds. First into the ring was Blanchette, he laid down a clear round in the jump off with a time of 39.01s.

The Canada Planks were the final jump on course of the derby © Spruce Meadows Media/Tony Lewis

Ifko and Un Diamant des Forets came into the ring for the jump off, they had to be clear and fast. Unfortunately they were not fast enough to catch Blanchette, crossing the finish line in a time of 39.69s and into second place.

Well deserved treat for Chardonnay after a clear round in the Sun Life Derby © Spruce Meadows Media/Tony Lewis

“You can go to a a show and you think you're you think you're almost invincible, and then you come here (Spruce Meadows) and you think, shoot, I can't jump that. And then by the end of the tournament, you can jump it. I think get on your pony bareback and gallop around, jump up and down on the fields. Don't just don't just go to a flat ring and get to take riding lessons. Go and have fun on your horse and get to know it.” - Robert Blanchette (IRL) on competing at Spruce Meadows for the full suite of summer tournaments and finding success in the Sun Life Derby.

We face the nation’s flag pole one last time this summer © Spruce Meadows Media/Jim Wells

Conor Swail (IRL) & Gamble © Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk

Conor Swail (IRL) wins the Lafarge CSI2* Grand Prix

Thirty-five riders qualified for today’s Lafarge CSI2* Grand Prix. It was a 510m track with 13 obstacles (16 jumping efforts) that had to be completed in 82 seconds or less. The course was designed by FEI course designer Santiago Varela (ESP), who has been designing the International Ring courses all week in a way that has allowed the horses to grow and progress.

Only eight horse/rider combinations and Canada had five chances to take top spot. Tiffany Foster (CAN) held onto top spot right up until the final horse entered the ring. Conor Swail (IRL) has had a phenomenal summer here at Spruce Meadows and he wanted to add one more victory to an impressive list of 24 top 3 placings.

Aboard the big bay gelding Gamble, the pair jumped to victory with a clear round in the jump off and a time of 41.58s.

Conor Swail (IRL) celebrates his victory following his round © Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk

Over 62 competitions at the 1.45m height, Swail and Gamble have a clear round rate of 44% and are in the top 10 placings 45% of the time.
*stats courtesy of JUMPR App

Paul O’Shea (IRL) & Dirty Girl © Spruce Meadows Media/Dave Chidley

Paul O’Shea (IRL) wins the Pepsi Cup (1.35m)

Thirty eight horse/rider combinations entered today’s Pepsi Cup (1.35m) on the North American Ring - the final event on that ring for the summer. The 520m track was designed by FEI Course Designer Joey Rycroft (CAN) and riders who jumped clear in round one, qualified for a jump off.

Twelve of the riders qualified for the jump off, and Australia’s Katie Laurier led for a while - but it would be the last rider into the ring who would surpass them all. Paul O’Shea (IRL) riding Dirty Girl, jumped to victory in the Pepsi Cup. The pair crossed the finish line in a time of 41.59s.

Paul O’Shea (IRL) & Dirty Girl © Spruce Meadows Media/Dave Chidley

Having only jumped one other 1.35m round, the pair have a great set of stats* with a 100% clear round rate.

*stats courtesy of JUMPR App

Best of the Rest

#604 Friends of the Meadows 1.10m
Katherine Kana (CAN) & Caviar of Picobello Z
© Spruce Meadows Media/Bart Onyszko

#609 Moore Equine Cup 1.25m
Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado (MEX) & Hector V.D. Papendijk
© Spruce Meadows Media/Bart Onyzsko

Seen Around Spruce Meadows

 © Spruce Meadows Media/

Time to celebrate a successful summer season of show jumping © Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk

 Nothing like a cool beverage on a hot day after a great round © Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk

Teamwork makes the dream work © Spruce Meadows Media/Tony Lewis

Seeing Jumps © Spruce Meadows Media/Jim Wells

Many riders now wear safety vests that inflate if they come out of the saddle in the event of a fall. Both horse and rider were okay © Spruce Meadows Media/Dave Chidley

Jim Ifko was the highest placed Canadian in the Sun Life Derby (placing second) © Spruce Meadows Media/Bart Onyszko

Fans enjoyed the new seats in the East Grandstand © Spruce Meadows MediaTony Lewis

Thumbs up to a great summer tour! © Spruce Meadows Media/Mike Sturk

The South bank is now part of the Sun Life Derby © Spruce Meadows Media/Tony Lewis