'Couldn't be anything better': Canada's Tiffany Foster triumphs at Spruce Meadows in Olympic tuneup

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You can’t beat winning a five-star grand prix as mental preparation for the most prestigious event in show jumping.

“Obviously, there couldn’t be anything better,” admitted Tiffany Foster. “Any time there’s an Olympic year, that’s on the forefront in everyone’s mind. I think there’s no way to avoid that pressure. So when you have an outcome like this, it definitely helps. It makes you feel you’re putting yourself in the best position.”

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Foster, one of Canada’s finest riders who is ranked 22nd in the world, put in a pretty fine dress rehearsal on Saturday at the Spruce Meadows National tournament, winning the 1.60m RBC Grand Prix of Canada aboard Battlecry.

The two, the first pairing of four in the jump-off, sped through in a time of 42.23, perhaps to finish up before the expected rains. The moisture did hold off for the next three horses, with fellow Canadian Erynn Ballard — another certain Olympian for the Paris Games — and Nikka VD Bisschop coming in second in 42.71 and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy and Origi third in 42.77. Britain’s Matthew Sampson and Daniel were fourth, clear in 42.83.

“I can’t say enough good things about this horse,” Foster said of Battlecry, a 10-year-old Belgian warmblood part-owned by American rider Kent Farrington — keeping track from Europe. “It’s got a heart of gold. I was definitely not at my best today; I had a little chat with him internally and just asked him to be there for me today and he did it. I can’t even begin to describe the feeling that horse gives you when he gives his all.

“He’s a really fast horse,” continued Foster. “He’s still pretty green. This is his first year of trying at that 1.60 level. When you have a great horse like this, there are things that come along that we had to work through. But I’ve always believed that he would be able to do it. His stride length is incredible. Honestly, that’s where he makes up a lot of ground.”

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Tiffany Foster, Battlecry
Tiffany Foster rides Battlecry to victory in the RBC Grand Prix during the National tournament at Spruce Meadows on Saturday, June 15, 2024. Photo by Spruce Meadows Media /Mike Sturk

Ballard, who has enjoyed a tremendous two weeks here at Spruce Meadows, was in just her 12th class with Nikka VD Bisschop, a top-notch mare previously ridden by Beth Underhill. Under old Olympic rules, only one certificate of capability at the 1.60m level was needed; this year, that was changed to three. Their partnership was forced to blossom quickly.

“We’ve been under pressure from the very beginning,” Ballard, a superior horsewoman, claimed. “I had three chances between Vancouver, last week and this week. And we got it done … and I think we got it done with flying colours. We won the grand prix in Vancouver, placed last week and double clean today. If you look at our 12 classes together, this is the best she’s jumped. In the most pressure situation we could have put ourselves in, she really rose to the occasion today. She wants it as badly as I do. She’s so smart and she’s so kind. I told her, girl friend, we’ve got some work to do.

“I feel comfortable on that horse. And I’m going to wear this medal until I get to Paris.”

Ballard is currently 31st on the FEI rider rankings.

“I’m on a roll, too,” added Ballard. “I’m feeling every time I go in the ring, my horses are going to jump clear. It’s hard to explain that feeling you get. But at this moment right now, everything is going right.”

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Verlooy, whose father rode at the Olympics, had hoped to do the same. But Belgium being such a great show jumping nation, there is no shortage of candidates.

“I asked the chef d’equipe two months ago and said what are my chances for the Olympics, but he said ‘I have many experienced combinations. I think your chances are low this year’,” Verlooy related. “I think he’s sleeping right now … but I’ll send him the video!”

There were other fine performances by Canadians who hope to be named to the Olympic squad: Amy Millar and Truman had four faults, as did Mario Deslauriers and Emerson. Calgary’s Kyle Timm and Casino Calvin took down the very last fence and were just over the time limit.

After a brief hard rain shower, competitors returned to the International Ring for the 1.50m Apex Cup, which was won by Ireland’s Daniel Coyle and Farrel in a time of 68.14.

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