Las Vegas, NV - April 18, 2015 - After a beautiful Native American Tribute, national anthem rendition by Kristen Hertzenberg and a pyrotechnic performance, tonight's Canadian Pacific Grand Prix of Las Vegas was underway. With an international field of twenty-two starters including past World Champions and Olympic Gold Medalists, only three rode the Anthony D'Ambrosio course without fault.
Early on, twenty-three-year-old Alec Lawler illustrated that the course could be ridden clean when he piloted Agamemnon without fault. Directly after, world-renowned German rider Marcus Ehning and Singular LS La Silla appeared to be clean, only to be caught by the clock and finish with a single time fault.
Riding in the ring in the lucky thirteen spot, twenty-eight-year-old Katie Laurie of New Zealand and Kiwi Iron Mark left all the rails in the cups and guaranteed a jump-off. The final rider in the ring, Todd Minikus on the talented ten-year-old mare Babalou, made it three to return.
Lawler set the pace going double clean in 39.36. Laurie met that bet and raised it, riding double clean in 37.39. The Kiwi cheering section went wild. With a rail part-way through the jump-off, Minikus couldn't match that ride. Victory to New Zealand.
Tonight was extraordinarily memorable as the arena went dark and the jumbotron lit up. The crowd was quiet as Las Vegas Events' President Pat Christensen, Spruce Meadows Founder Ron Southern and others gave a fitting tribute to their friend and colleague, John Quirk. This magnanimous man brought the FEI World Cup™Finals to Del Mar and later to Las Vegas.
His wife of forty-four years, Tish Quirk, summed it up by stating, "John came into the horse world as a gift to me and he made it better for everyone. He embraced it and helped it grow and brought joy to everyone he met. This week is the celebration of John's life and we are all celebrating his dream."
As the winner of the 2015 Canadian Pacific Grand Prix of Las Vegas, Katie Laurie was presented with the John Quirk Cup. Special in its own right, Laurie's story was similarly moving.
"A friend of mine, Melanie Purcell, used to ride Kiwi Iron Mark, and she was diagnosed with cancer. She asked me to ride him while she was sick and she died around the time he turned seven. The rest of her family is here, which has been really great and makes the win extra-special for me."
Entertainment is a Las Vegas trademark and following the show jumping was a saddle-switch extravaganza called the 'Duel in the Desert' where three show jumpers - Lucy Davis, Steve Guerdat and Tanya Levorchick - teamed up with three National Reining Cow Horse Association riders. In a saddle and discipline switch, each show jumper executed a sliding stop, spin, cut a cow and did a short fence work run, and each cowboy rode a jumper course of seven obstacles. The crowd cheered enthusiastically for their favorites and a good time was had by all.