Amazing what five weeks immersed in Calgary can do for a show jumper.
No only in the ring but outside, too.
When Bernardo Alves arrived in Calgary for the Spruce Meadows summer tour, the Brazilian's command of English was so minute he deferred to his wife to act as translator.
However, after his best day yet -- in terms of results -- he made a vow.
"For next year, I'll go to learn English," said Alves, who lives in Brussels. "Maybe next year, my English will be better."
It'll have to be if he continues to boast the success he had during yesterday's International Ring events in the opening day of the North American tournament.
After first claiming both first and second places in the $25,000 Molson Cup, Alves followed it by winning an exciting jump-off with Fort Neuville De Joter to claim the $30,000 Enerflex Cup.
"An incredible day. A fantastic day," Alves beamed before turning his praise to the Selle Francais gelding with which he won the nightcap event. "A good horse but not very fast. Today, unbelievably fast."
Just a glance at the competition he held off in the jump-off can attest to that. Rodrigo Pessoa (Richmont Park), Richard Spooner (Hilton Flight), Molly Ashe (Cocu) and Norman Dello Joio (Quriel) -- all riders known for their ability to blaze around the course, especially in jump-offs -- rounded out the top five in the Enerflex Cup.
Pessoa, the three-time World Cup champion, taught and still trains with Alves, and was thrilled for his friend.
"He was always a very good rider, very ambitious and a very good student," said Pessoa, who said he wasn't in the least bit slighted to finish behind Alves. "It means you're doing your work quite well."
And that the rider has something special.
After all, Alves won the Molson Cup with Concept 2, an eight-year-old Holsteiner stallion, and placed second aboard Corino 7.
Three different horses, three ribbons and $21,700 in total winnings.
It's just the latest chapter in what's been a very successful summer tour for Alves, who who had a trio of top-three placings during the National and also won the CN Performance Wold Cup at the Continental.
So successful he's almost supplanted Pessoa as the top Brazilian here this summer.
"Oh no, impossible," said Alves, who who wouldn't dare compare himself to the world's top-ranked rider. "Rodrigo wins all the competitions."
Besides, he has a completely different goal in mind.
"Maybe this will help me get my first (invitation) to the Masters," he said.
Spooner placed third in the Molson Cup with Bradford to win $2,800, while Ian Millar was the top Canadian, placing sixth with Aftershock, and Kim Farlinger and Del Distino also finished in the ribbons by placing 10th.