Spruce Meadows win ‘even more special’ for Calgary’s Jim Ifko

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There is victory and then there is victory on your own turf.

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Jim Ifko could not dream of a better scenario.

The 53-year-old Calgarian, teaming with longtime partner Un Diamant Des Forêts, eclipsed the fastest time posted over 30 races earlier, winning the Jayman BUILT Cup on the opening day of the Northeast tournament. American Show Jumping Spruce Meadows.

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“Coming into the ring and knowing, one, that you have a good chance is a good feeling and, two, when you know that you have a good plan that is great and everything is falling into place, you can’t beat this. feeling,” Ifko describes. “Apart from what’s happening at Spruce Meadows, it’s that much more special. It’s not just Spruce Meadows, but being able to do it in front of a local crowd is also an amazing feeling.

Ifko and his 14-year-old stallion completed the 50 meter course in a time of 66.37. The previous fastest were the Irish Paul O’Shea and Hellcat in 69.13. Third place was taken by another Irishman, Jordan Coyle with Picador, in 69.69.

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“Having a horse that likes to go fast and always has so much energy on the first day, it’s inevitable that you do a fast lap,” explains Ifko. “I’m still hoping that eventually we’ll leave all the jumps. But usually Day 1 will be a fast day. I just stuck to my plan and I must say that everything went exactly as I would have liked. It’s an incredible feeling and it always makes for a great victory.

Ifko knows Un Diamant Des Forêts, nicknamed Monty, extremely well, but always marvels at the horse.

“I can’t say I’m surprised, but what surprises me is that every time he steps into the ring, he seems to feel better and better,” Ifko explained. “In recent weeks, he has again reached another level of technique and ability. It’s an incredible feeling. So just when you think you’ve felt all there is to feel, it’s amazing how all of a sudden there’s more out there.

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“It’s his incredible heart and his desire to compete,” he continued. “Having a horse that wants to go out there and be competitive and want to do it as badly as you are is definitely the greatest feeling. He almost beats a horse that you know can jump the big jumps but lacks the will. He puts out 110% every time, which is pretty incredible for a horse.

Jim Ifko rides Un Diamant des Forêts to victory at Spruce Meadows on Thursday July 7, 2022.
Jim Ifko rides Un Diamant des Forêts to victory at Spruce Meadows on Thursday July 7, 2022. Photo by Mike Sturk /spruce meadows

When not competing, Ifko manages training and oversees the breeding stables at Eventyre Farms in DeWinton, which was founded by colleague Rachel Cornacchia.

In the second round of the International Ring on Thursday, Mexico’s Nicolas Pizarro beat seven other competitors in the jump-off to win the $37,500 Pepsi Challenge aboard Carquilot.

Pizarro and his horse, first in the second lap, won in a clear time of 42.25. The closest challenge came from Canadians Ali Ramsay and Lutz, with a time of 42.39. Another Canadian finished third, Jacqueline Steffens with Freaky (42.58).

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The top five qualify for the $500,000 ATCO Queen Elizabeth II Cup grand prize on Saturday.

For Pizarro, it was a double success: first, because it was his first victory on the International Ring in very many appearances; second, because it was a return to glory for Carquilot, who had been lame for nearly three years.

“It was amazing and very special for me,” said Pizarro, 44, who has just returned to the Meadows after competing in Aachen, “and with a very special horse. His first show with me was at the Nationals (in June) and I finished fifth (in the grand prix). I always wanted to jump the Queen’s Cup with him. So I took a guess and I think he’s more than ready.

“I have a very special relationship with this horse. I developed it to the highest level. He jumped his first 60 meter event here at the age of nine, then he was injured. The injury has been difficult to bring back into the sport.

Pizarro sent the horse to a clinic in Europe with his vet and for six months they worked to get him back.

“We never lost faith, but we were starting to get nervous, thinking we were forcing things,” he admitted. “This is only my fourth lesson with him. The horse feels amazing. He’s 100 percent.

North America continues on Friday.

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