Tiffany Foster Comes Full Circle with First 5* Star Grand Prix Win

It’s hard not to lead with a bit of a cliché following Tiffany Foster’s win in Saturday’s CSI5* MLSJ Grand Prix at Thunderbird Show Park.

“Hometown Hero” seems the obvious choice, Foster having grown up here and going on to represent Canada at the Olympics. (She’s currently is the highest placed Canadian rider on the FEI Longines World Rankings.) But you could also lead with “nestled in the foothills of BC, with Mount Baker peeking through the trees surrounding the grand prix ring, under a clear blue sky…” Or you could start with it’s her first CSI5* Grand Prix title. 

It’s all true. 

Clean rounds were in short supply over the maximum-built 1.60m course from Germany’s Olaf Petersen. 

Fifth in the ring, Canada’s Erynn Ballard posted the first clean aboard her Herning 2022 World Championship mount Gakhir, much to the delight of the capacity crowd (and Olaf, presumably). Then the waiting game began. Horse after horse racked up faults on the leaderboard as the class wore on and then Karl Cook (USA) and Kalinka Van’T Zorgvliet with a heartbreaking two time faults.

Fortunately, Foster (CAN) with Northern Light and Shane Sweetnam (IRL) with James Kann Cruz were also able to find a fault-free path in the first round, followed by Lillie Keenan (USA) and Fasther, who stopped the clock smack on the time allowed of 73.00 seconds. Had she been 73.01 she would have had a time fault. Now we have a jump off.

First to return, Ballard had no choice but to play all her cards and force the rest to chase her. It was not to be, with the tbird vertical followed by the final fence coming down.

Foster was next, riding the fine line between a more conservative clear and still putting the pressure on. Clear in 39.18 seconds moved them into the lead.

Sweetnam’s spectacular James Kann Cruz, a horse with a 71% top 10 finish rate at the height (Jumpr App), had an unfortunate early rail. Keenan’s proven campaigner Fasther — the pair have earned 13 podium finishes and over 324k euro in prize money since 2019 (Jumpr App) — had a very hard look heading to the first fence, followed up by a refusal at the tbird vertical. The win was Foster’s.

Her first five star Grand Prix title. 

“It still hasn’t quite hit me, but I’m so happy and I’m so happy that this happened here at Thunderbird,” said an emotional Foster.

Northern Light (‘Nora’) is not the horse that she generally uses for these larger classes.

“I’ve called on her a couple of times to step up and jump some of these big 1.60m classes,” Foster explained. “But in general, I sort of keep her in the 1.50m/1.55m slot. That’s partly because I am so lucky with my owners and I have other horses that can jump that height so easily in Figor and Hamilton. 

“She’s the kind of horse who doesn’t like to jump that big every single week, because I think she has to make such a great effort. So I have played with jumping really small rounds and just keeping her happy, comfortable and relaxed. I think that I’m figuring out the formula with her. She also likes a smaller sand arena.

“So if I continue with my strategy and place her in the right spots, I think that I should never say that she’s my ‘third’ horse again!”

Both Sweetnam and Keenan admitted fault for their faults on course. “I’ll take the blame for that [rail]. I just wanted to be tighter to the triple bar, and the distance didn’t really come up,” said Sweetnam.

“But I’m very happy with the way he jumped and it was great class.”

And Keenan: “My horse could not have done any more for me and I made a really stupid mistake. That’s how the sport goes when you’re trying to win, but I mean, with the mistake I made, with the fact that I ended up third, I don’t deserve to be third, but my horse deserves everything. So I’m just really, really happy and grateful that I got to keep going with him and looking forward to the next show.”

Course designer Olaf Petersen didn’t anticipate a big jump off, but admitted to a moment of nerves.

“I knew we had a very good group of horses,” said Petersen. 

“Also it was an Olympic qualifier and so today was really five star to the maximum build. I knew that we wouldn’t get more clear rounds. But the riders walked the course and they thought it was a little bit on the easy side. Then I got a little bit nervous, until I watched the first horses jumping.”

Show president and operations director Chris Pack summed up how the tbird family feels about bringing the Major League Jumping tour to the Park: “I think I speak for them when we say we’ve become fans. We’ve had three riders in the top ten in the world here this week. That’s never happened. This was our biggest purse for a Grand Prix, and for Tiff to win it at home is pretty cool. We had a great afternoon, lots of people. So we’re really appreciative of what Matt Morrissey and Keean White have started and brought to us and we’re really grateful to be a part of the circuit.”

CSI5* $414,300 Grand Prix 1.55m

Place / Horse / Rider / Owner / Country / Round 1 Faults/Round 2 Faults:Time

  1. Northern Light / Tiffany Foster / Artisan Farms LLC / CAN / 0/0:39.18
  2. James Kann Cruz / Shane Sweetnam / Gizmo Partners LLC / IRE / 0/4:38.80
  3. Fasther / Lillie Keenan / Rider / USA / 0/4:44.95
  4. Gakhir / Erynn Ballard / Ilan Ferder & Esperanza Imports LLC / 0/8:37.07
  5. Kalinka Van’t Zorgvliet / Karl Cook / Sign Ostby / 2:74.33
  6. Legacy / Daniel Coyle / Ariel Grange / IRE / 4:69.05
  7. Ariso / Jordan Coyle / Elan Farm / IRE / 4:70.92
  8. Oakingham Lira / Alison Robitaille / Alison Firestone LLC / 4:71.35
  9. Emerson / Mario Deslauriers / Wishing Well Farm LLC / 4:71.69
  10. Greya / Kent Farrington / Kent Farrington LLC / 4:72.10

 

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