On Saturday (10 September) at the CSIO5* Masters Tournament, shortly after his latest victory in the Suncor Winning Round riding the great mare Ebolensky, show organisers presented Matt with some impressive silverware and a cooler rug as he was awarded the title of Spruce Meadows’ Xerox rider of the year.
“It’s an amazing venue to be at, so to win in the five-star here is every rider’s life ambition,” said Matt, who racked up $430,000 in prize-money from his 17 wins.
The 32-year-old’s first visit to the winner’s circle during the summer series came in early June with the 10-year-old Irish sport horse Curraghgraigue Obos Flight. Since then, he has ridden Evora BJX, Fabrice DN, new mare Elisa BJX and the 13-year-old Ebolensky to success in the show’s international classes, including a landmark first five-star grand prix victory.
Adding a winning hat-trick at the CSI3* at Vancouver in June stretches Matt Sampson’s list of international accomplishments in the past three months alone to 20.
“I’ve just had such an amazing year,” Matt told H&H.
Spruce Meadows president and CEO Linda Southern-Heathcott acknowledged his achievements in front of a packed house on the penultimate day of the season. “I don’t know that we’ve ever had an athlete who’s won 17 events at Spruce Meadows in one year,” she said.
Matt Sampson: ‘A life-long ambition’
Organisers and spectators alike have been charmed by this fierce competitor with his “contagious smile”, and he received rapturous applause for his winning performance in Saturday’s class on the 13-year-old mare Ebolensky, who he co-owns with the Evison family.
Drawn late in the 10-way decider, the pair soared into the lead in 58.14sec. But no class is over until Kent Farrington has jumped and with the advantage of last draw, the US rider and the buzzy chestnut Creedance pulled off a heart-stopping inside turn that Matt had spotted but had elected wouldn’t suit his mare.
The short-cut handed Kent a 3sec advantage but, as the crowd roared him home, the final oxer fell and victory went to Matt Sampson, who had finished second to Kent earlier in the week.
“I got my own back!” he said. “Ebolensky is an amazing horse, so careful. That ring is massive and the way they built the jump-off course, there were about 16 strides between fences! I’m lucky she has such a big stride and I can trust her to go at that speed to clear the fences. She really covers the ground. A lot of the time in a jump-off like that you have to slow down when you get to the fence because you’ve picked up so much speed, but with her I can put her in a rhythm and she stays in it.
“It’s not often Creedance or Kent has a fence down so we got lucky – but I’ll take it!”
Matt first jumped at Spruce Meadows in Calgary last year and returned for this year’s summer series.
“I’ve been lucky enough to win two five-star grands prix [one of which resulted in a rare dead-heat] with two different horses,” said Matt. “The horses just grow here and the facilities are the best in the world, so I’m just very grateful to be able to ride here.”
Matt contested Sunday’s CP International presented by Rolex, won by Daniel Deusser with Killer Queen VDM, with Fabrice DN, but unfortunately came unstuck at the difficult treble combination which came just a few strides after the open water in round one. It was the Luis Alejandro Plascencia-owned 12-year-old Fabrice DN who took Matt to his first five-star grand prix victory in the RBC grand prix of Canada in June.
“That was a life-long ambition, it’s what every rider strives to achieve,” said Matt.
You can read the full report from the Spruce Meadows Masters Tournament in this week’s magazine, in the shops Thursday 15 September.
You may also like to read…
Credit: Peter Llewellyn/Alamy Live News
Credit: Sportfot / HUBSIDE JUMPING
Horse & Hound magazine, out every Thursday, is packed with all the latest news and reports, as well as interviews, specials, nostalgia, vet and training advice. Find how you can enjoy the magazine delivered to your door every week, plus options to upgrade your subscription to access our online service that brings you breaking news and reports as well as other benefits.