Brian Morton (CAN) and Chili Pepper SM won the $15,000 Kubota Canada Winning Round. (tbird/Quinn Saunders)

Brian Morton (CAN) and Chili Pepper SM won the $15,000 Kubota Canada Winning Round. (tbird/Quinn Saunders)

Brian Morton and Chili Pepper, Kassidy Keith and Havana win events at tbird

Morton celebrates win on ‘home turf,’ Keith calls Havana ‘sweetest horse in the barn’

Brian Morton tipped his cap to the crowd at Thunderbird Show Park and couldn’t hide his smile.

Morton may no longer live in Langley, but each time he crosses under the tower into the Fort Grand Prix Arena, it’s a homecoming – and Saturday’s trip was especially meaningful.

Morton, now the head rider for the famed Spruce Meadows operation, rode Chili Pepper SM to victory in the $15,000 Kubota Canada Winning Round 1.45m.

“This show feels more like pre-pandemic. Being in that main arena with a little bit of a crowd and some atmosphere, that felt pretty fantastic,” Morton said. “It’s always great to get a win on home turf.”

READ ALSO: Fans return to stands as Langley’s tbird welcomes first international competition in 10 months

Both Morton and Carlsen capitalized on the winning round format, which invited the top 10 combinations from the first round—regardless of score—back for a winning round on a clean slate. Despite having a rail in the first round, Morton and Chili Pepper SM comfortably advanced to the winning round and made their intent clear from the fist jump of the shortened track.

Chili Pepper SM is a Spruce Meadows hombred; Morton has been strengthening his partnership with the 12-year-old gelding since beginning his job nearly two years ago. “I absolutely love the job,” Morton said. “Now, I’m in my first full year of competing the string. In my second season, I’m starting to feel now like I really know the horses. We’ve had a chance for them to know me and for a partnership to really form.”

Kassidy Keith and Havana won the $5,000 MarBill Hill League U25 1.40m. (tbird/Quinn Saunders)

Kassidy Keith and Havana won the $5,000 MarBill Hill League U25 1.40m. (tbird/Quinn Saunders)

Kassidy Keith and Havana win $5,000 MarBill Hill League U25 1.40m.

The second of three MarBill Hill U25 League events at the Summer Fort Classic saw 15 combinations take on Peter Holmes’ (CAN) 1.40m speed track.

Clear rounds were hard to come by and ultimately reserved only for the podium.

Jumping midway through the order, Kassidy Keith and Havana jumped to the lead and never looked back.

“My horse is naturally very quick. I was just going for kind of a clear, quick round,” Keith said. “She naturally covers the ground when she’s going forward, and she can leave a stride out anywhere,” she added.

Keith, 23, works alongside her mother Cheryl at the locally-based Keepsake Farms.

The 2015 Canadian Junior Equestrian of the Year, Keith is also a past recipient of the Dianne Tidball Legacy Scholarship at tbird. Keith has hit many milestones at the venue, including a third-place finish with Havana in tbird’s FEI U25-A Series at the Harvest Welcome in October.

“She has the best character out of any horse I’ve ever had,” Keith said. “She’s exceptional on the ground. She does everything: She trail rides, she goes out in the field and she’s in her paddock 24/7. Little kids ride her. She’s the sweetest horse in the barn.”

READ ALSO: Second win for Swail at tbird


$15,000 CSI3* Kubota Canada Winning Round

Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Chili Pepper SM / Brian Morton / CAN / Spruce Meadows Ltd / 4/0 39.8

2. Atena de L’ermitage / Lisa Carlsen / CAN / / 4/0 40.55

3. Balzane de Mazes / Vanessa Mannix / CAN / Vanessa Mannix / 0/0 40.55

4. Goodwill VB / Katie Kruger / CAN / / 1/0 40.84

5. Collin 4 / Kendall Bourgeois / USA / / 0/4 39.55

6. Driek / Jaimie Ackerman / CAN / / 0/4 40.28

7. Coupis / Robert Blanchette / IRL / / 0/4 40.93

8. Hercule de Tamerville / Braden James / 4/8 38.99

9. Kactus / Johanna Siefert / USA / / 4/8 40.65

10. CMS Garadice Shore / Karianne Boyce-Lockhart / CAN / / 4/8 45.39

$5,000 MarBill Hill U25 League 1.40m

Place / Horse / Rider / Nationality / Owner / Faults / Time

1. Havana / Kassidy Keith / CAN / Cheryl Keith / 0/60.48

2. Fay / Stella Chernoff / CAN / Stump Lake Ranch & Cattle Co. / 0/60.58

3. Casino de Vincy / Jenna Whitehead / CAN / Laura & Brent Balisky / 0/66.08

4. Witja / Isis Landsbergen / CAN / Isis Landsbergen / 4/64.33

5. Crown Royal / Hayley Mercer / CAN / Hayley Mercer / 4/66.37

6. Vainqueur de Brekka / Anneke Power / USA / 4 / 67.87

7. Marquis le Beau Courally / Claire Doty / CAN / Claire Doty / 4/68.44

8. Lestat OLD / Ashley Arnoldt / CAN / Jennifer Arnoldt / 4/68.80

9. LCC Diamond Dazzaler / Lia McHardy / USA / Caledonia Stables / 4/69.61

10. Concelo / Ava Wong / CAN / Ava Wong / 8/67.01

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