Langley, British Columbia, Canada – July 11, 2021 – Tamie Phillips (CAN) entered the $20,000 Odlum Brown Grand Prix at Thunderbird Show Park’s Western Family with confidence. After all, she was fresh off a victory in the previous week’s $20,000 Maui Jim Grand Prix with her longtime mount, Ecatino. But when she walked Joey Rycroft‘s (CAN) course, she knew she would be facing a stiffer test.
“I thought it was more of a proper grand prix, and there were some good tests out there,” Phillips said. “I was somewhat confident, but I really hadn’t jumped a bigger grand prix in two years. I was really thrilled [with the result].”
Phillips and Ecatino, her 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood partner of more than four years, came away from the class with a second straight grand prix victory at tbird. Crossing the timers of Rycroft’s shortened track more than three seconds faster (38.43 seconds), the pair was simply uncatchable.
Christopher Lowe (CAN) and Cunningham 4 came closest to take second honors, registering a double clear and a jump-off time of 41.73 seconds.
Katie Kraft (CAN) and Goodwill VB were right on the heels of the latter two, finishing just five-hundredths of a second slower than them, being timed at 41.78 seconds during the tiebreaker.
“[Ecatino] has been jumping well here and really likes that tbird grand prix field. He thinks it’s great!” Phillips exclaimed.
Jumping ninth in the original starting order, Phillips and Ecatino were the first combination to crack the code of Rycroft’s first round course. Just four others would replicate their effort in the 26-strong field. Pathfinders in the jump-off, they again set the standard with a beautiful clear round. Phillips admitted, she wasn’t sure she’d done enough with the strong combinations behind her, but her performance would more-than hold up.
“It wasn’t the easiest jump-off for us,” Phillips explained, “[with] a couple of short turns to the oxers. I actually felt like I put in a good, solid jump-off but was a bit conservative. I was obviously delighted with the win, but I was definitely thinking someone could [catch us].
“[Ecatino] did such beautiful job and jumped so well in the first round,” she continued, “but he came back out and was a little bit tired in the second round. I have jumped some very fast jump-offs with him, but today, I just gave him a nice ride. True to form, he kept the poles up.”
A key to this combination’s success has been Phillips’ sensitivity toward her horse, who can be “an anxious kind of guy.” Extra carrots at the ingate, long trail rides at their Calgary-based farm and a focus on fitness keep Ecatino happy, relaxed and show ring-ready.
“Everything is very calm [with him],” Phillips said. “As long as I can do that and make sure he doesn’t get too worried, he goes out there and give his all. I let him cruise around and pretend I’m riding a hunter derby. I try to channel that!”
The Western Family marked tbird’s biggest event since October, with the ongoing global pandemic forcing the cancellation of the venue’s spring season—along with other equestrian events across the country. While some riders traveled outside of the country to compete, Phillips remained at her home base throughout the period of downtime.
“We go back to basics in our downtime. I do feel like it gives us an opportunity to have the horses really fit,” she said. “Because there were no competitions, we did a lot of strength work and fitness. I felt like [Ecatino] came off the ‘COVID break’ in great condition. For me as a rider, I feel a little bit unsure of where we’re at. It’s been such a long time since we’ve had some bigger classes. He showed it’s no problem.”
With the show calendar beginning to return, Phillips hopes to continue her strong form at tbird in August, when the venue will host three weeks of competition, including two international weeks at the Summer Fort Classic CSI 3* and Summer Fort Festival. Then she’ll venture to her home venue at Spruce Meadows, located just 15 minutes from her farm.
“I’m so grateful to have the support of people helping us come back to sport,” she said. “I have to send a big thank you to the sponsors of these grand prix classes—Maui Jim and Odlum Brown. I really appreciate tbird and what a spectacular effort they’ve put in. It’s nice to see everyone again and be back in action.”
Final Results – $20,000 Odlum Brown Grand Prix 1.40m
Place / Rider / Horse / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time
1) Tamie Phillips (CAN) & Ecatino / Tamie Phillips – 0 / 0 – 38.43
2) Christopher Lowe (CAN) & Cunningham 4 / Christopher Lowe – 0 / 0 – 41.73
3) Katie Kraft (CAN) & Goodwill VB / Caledonia Stables – 0 / 4 – 41.78
Source: Press Release from by Catie Staszak for Thunderbird Show Park
Photos: © Thunderbird Show Park / Quinn Saunders