Leopoldo Palacios: Up Close & Course Insights for the $3,000,000 CP International Grand Prix CSI 5*

2019. Spruce Meadows CSI 5 GP Interview Leopoldo Palacios Rolex Ashley Neuhof

Are there any tricky parts to the course on Sunday?

The reality is I try to make most of the fences the same level of difficulty. The start will be big but not too tough. In the first round there will be a triple combination with the dry ditch, which I believe will be challenging for the competitors. I also have included a double vertical after the water jump, which will also be difficult. Then in the second round the double Liverpool could prove to be tricky.

I have heard there could be some rain on Sunday, but in my experience, during my 25 years of course building in Calgary, the forecast can change in five minutes. I know this ring perfectly, so if there is bad weather, I know where the good and the bad spots of the course are, so I can change it to make sure the fences are in the best places.

How many clears are you expecting?

No more than three and no less than one!

Which horse/rider combinations do you think the course will suit?

I think the course will suit the smaller athletic horses, and the bigger horses with lots of power. I’ve tried to give those two different types of horses an equal chance.

Who do you think will win the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

This is very difficult. We have five of the world’s current top-10 ranked show jumpers competing in the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday. It’s nearly impossible to predict which rider will win. Last year’s winner, Sameh El Dahan (EGY) always performs well at Spruce Meadows, so maybe he has a chance. But this showground intimidates the horses and the riders, especially when the stands are full of people and the flags are flying. The horses really need experience, so those that have been here before and have performed well will stand a better chance.

How did you first get into course designing?

Originally, I was a national rider in Venezuela. I come from a riding family – my older and younger brothers rode and so did my father. It was, in fact, only my older brother, who was professional, and the rest of us were amateurs. But now, nobody in my family rides! However, the situation in Venezuela deteriorated, and because show jumping is an expensive sport, I decided to pursue a career in construction. I always loved design and creating things, so I guess you could say I’m a frustrated architect. I ended up building courses all over the world for free; however, I started doing too much and was losing money, so I knew I had to start charging for my expertise to make a living.

Then I started making a living out of course designing. I remember there was a year when I worked at 42 shows across the world, with only 10 weeks resting – I was living out of my bag. These days I’m still working at a lot of shows, but a large part of my job is also overseeing the designing and advising organising committees.

What are the biggest challenges you face?

A constant challenge for course designers is having enough material to work with. However, the material I and my assistants have at our disposal at Spruce Meadows is exceptional – plenty of fences and a wide variety of obstacles. Spruce Meadows has one of the most complete and diverse collections of jumping obstacles out of any show I’ve designed at, including fences from the Olympic Games, European Championships, and Pan American Games.

My challenge here at Spruce Meadows is to ensure that the course for the CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex on Sunday is big and wide, and that it is the signature of the whole year. The challenges I face are made easier by the fantastic team of assistants I have around me. They have a lot of experience working with me and they know what I like, and the support the offer me is invaluable.

Source: Press release from Rolex Grand Slam of Showjumping

Photo: © Rolex / Ashley Neuhof