While Adam Cromarty prefers to ad-lib his commentary, he made an exception for the very sad news he had to share while working at Spruce Meadows Masters
Every year as the outdoor season draws to a close, I head to Canada for the always memorable Spruce Meadows Masters tournament, the final Major of the summer.
The year before that saw sunshine turn to snow, and over 200 people with true Calgarian spirit hand-shovelled over 1ft in snow off the entire international ring and helped restore essential services to allow the competition to continue.
This year brought a mixture of memories and emotions as seven of the world’s top-10 riders rode through the iconic clock tower. It was on the second day that we heard the heartbreaking news that Her Majesty The Queen had died.
Pageantry is a key element of the Masters with the King’s Troop Royal Horse Artillery, Household Cavalry Mounted Regiment and 50 members of the Household Cavalry band all in attendance. Very quickly, the Spruce Meadows team had to help facilitate the immediate return trip of these serving soldiers who now had pressing ceremonial duties to perform.
Whether I am on television or commentating, I rarely script anything. I find ad-libbing provides a much more natural delivery. However, when it came to breaking the news of The Queen’s death, I made an exception. As competition paused, it was the most difficult few paragraphs I have ever had to deliver.
A commonwealth stadium fell silent, and although my commentary position is far from the stands, I was told of the tears and hugs shared by an audience who appreciated Her Majesty as a monarch, but also as a mother, grandmother and great-grandmother who shared their love of the horse.
The Queen has always had a place in the hearts of those at Spruce Meadows. Her visit there in 1990 is still widely talked about with much fondness. The venue co-founder, Marg Southern, was Her Majesty’s lady-in-waiting, and the Queen Elizabeth II Cup still features as a focal point in the summer series.
“What our sport is all about”
A standout campaign grew to a climax for Britain’s Matt Sampson. After grafting his way through the national grades, it’s fantastic to see his talent and ambitions realised. Just two years ago, he was struggling to get into shows in Europe. Since June, he has won 20 FEI competitions; he and his partner Kara Chad work tremendously hard and I couldn’t be happier for them.
The CP International grand prix, won this year by Daniel Deusser and Killer Queen VDM, is the toughest competition in the world. The athletes know what to expect and if you’re a showjumping purist, then it has all the ingredients to make your taste buds tingle. It’s also the richest day in our sport with $3m on offer, with Rolex Grand Slam bonuses on top.
The time allowed is always a factor, and when added with the unique fence material, mostly purchased from Olympics and championships, and the course design by Leopoldo Palacios, you better walk the track twice and make sure you’ve had a good breakfast!
After two rounds, we were left with three double clears. Coming into the final round, a jump-off against the clock, I couldn’t resist saying, “It’s time to play, who wants to be a millionaire!” It’s cheesy, but unless Jeremy Clarkson leaves the ITV show and a few others step aside, it’s the only time I’ll get to use that line.
I mentioned when Daniel entered the ring, “all” he had to do was jump clear – no pressure. As he came down to the last, a delicate vertical, I whispered to a sold-out stadium, “Jump this for a million dollars,” and luckily, he did.
This horsemanship, drama and excitement is what our sport is all about.
- This exclusive column is also available to read in Horse & Hound magazine, on sale Thursday 29 September
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Credit: Jennifer Donald
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