First time the charm for Italian

CAMERON MAXWELL -- Calgary Sun

, Last Updated: 7:14 AM ET

Italy's Juan Carlos Garcia made the most of his first foray into the International Ring at Spruce Meadows.

When you come to the Stampede City for the first time and beat the likes of Olympic gold medallist Rodrigo Pessoa and English veteran Michael Whitaker, life's pretty good.

That's just what Garcia did yesterday, capturing the $32,500 Finning Welcome with his mount Loro Piana Albin III and afterwards, he said the result didn't comes as a surprise, despite the top-calibre competition.

"I try to win every time but for sure these are the best riders in the world and the best horses," said the 37-year-old.

Garcia figures he's got a pretty decent ride in Loro, a well-seasoned 17-year-old. He's also had the mount for 10 years, so each knows what the other's thinking.

"After 10 years I know him pretty good and what he's going to do next," said Garcia, who's competed in three Olympics, a trio of world championships and one World Cup Final.

While he's had some international success, Garcia, who won $11,000 yesterday, is still seeking that elusive big-time victory and he hopes he and Loro can get it on Sunday in the $1 million CN International.

"I need that first big win. I'm always fifth or sixth but never first and I hope here I can do that," Garcia said, adding he finished sixth in the European Championship earlier this year.

In the Finning, Garcia cleared the circuit in 66.14 seconds, just beating Germany's Otto Becker and his mount, Grandilot, who finished in 66.476.

Pessoa and Baloubet Du Rouet grabbed third in 68.34.

Earlier in the day, Belgium's Ludo Philippaerts left the field in his dust.

The Nation's Cup rider captured the $25,000 Akita Drilling Cup in a blazing 58.44 seconds, with the next closest competitor, Great Britain's Michael Whitaker and his horse, Laconda 25, more than two seconds behind.

Philippaerts, who was last to go in the 57 horse/rider field, credited his horse, a nine-year-old Belgian warmblood named Tauber VH Kapelhof.

"He's done well here in the past and he's a very quick horse, very quick," said Philippaerts, who earned $7,500 his minute of quick-work.

"He was hurt earlier in the season and Spruce Meadows is the first show for him again."

Brazil's Bernardo Alves and Concept 2 were third in a time of 61.48.


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