Rolex Grand Slam at Spruce Meadows: Questions & Answers with Course Designer Leopoldo Palacios

Leopoldo Palacios

You must be delighted that this year’s edition of the CSIO Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ is going ahead, after last year’s cancellation due to COVID-19?

I’m delighted and so happy to be back here in Canada. For so many years I’ve been coming to Spruce Meadows and designing courses, but for 2020’s and the first part of 2021’s shows to be cancelled, it was incredibly sad. I really hope the improvements we’re currently seeing continues and 2022 will be back to normal and things will settle down.

How much work has the team at Spruce Meadows put into making this year’s event happen?

They’ve all spent an incredible amount of time to put the ‘Masters’ Tournament on. The team has been working tirelessly to ensure that my visa was granted to allow me to travel to Canada from Venezuela. People have to understand how international this show is, the huge amount of people come from so many different overseas countries. To find show jumping crew was a huge challenge for the organising committee. Spruce Meadows is a seasonal event, which requires a lot of people to make it happen, and finding help wasn’t easy.

Have you faced any challenges this week?

Something that has been challenging for me is Saturday’s BMO Nations Cup, as we only have five teams competing. There have been a number of factors responsible for this, including COVID-19, the recent European Championships, next week’s CHIO Aachen, and the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. We seem to have everything against us. However, we still have a significant amount of prize-money [CAD$600,000] and a very proud sponsor in BMO, so we will aim to keep the standard as high as normal.

What makes Spruce Meadows different from other international shows?

We see other shows using long distances, very light poles, not a lot of materials and a short time allowed. Here at Spruce Meadows we have big poles, heavy fences, and I believe we’re using more space than any other show. I’m seeing other shows’ 5* courses around the world today with 1.60m and 1.70m oxers in their Grands Prix. This Sunday, I have1.75m and more, and I’m also using short distances. We like to be this way and we like to be unique.

Can you tell us a little bit about the course that you’ve designed for tomorrow’s CP ‘International’, presented by Rolex?

For many years, I believe the course that I’ve been designing for Sunday’s class is one of the hardest in the world. The feature class at Spruce Meadows has become a benchmark for what the horses are able to jump, and this year I feel confident that we will have an excellent Grand Prix, as I think we have a group of riders here who are absolutely world class. The first round will require a normal level of show jumping. You then have to remember that only 12 riders will progress to the second round, which I think will prove to be the absolute limit to what their horses are able to handle.

Source: Press Release from Rolex Grand Slam

Photo: © Rolex Grand Slam / Ashley Neuhof