Guerdat arrives

RANDY SPORTAK -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:18 AM ET

As long as he's been riding horses at home in Switzerland, Steve Guerdat has been hearing tales about Spruce Meadows.

When Guerdat was just a toddler, his father Philippe competed at the Masters tournament, jumping in the International Ring in both 1985 and '86.

It's been a long-time coming for the 25-year-old Guerdat who finally made the trip he's wanted to make.

"He told me how good and how nice it is," he said between events yesterday.

"Actually, all the riders talk about this show. It's a place I really wanted to come to.

"When you're a rider and never come here, you really try to come because everyone speaks so well about it."

A few years back Guerdat couldn't help but wonder if he'd ever get the chance to compete in Calgary.

He was supposed to come with the Swiss Nations' Cup team for the 2003 Masters, but a stroke of bad luck kiboshed the trip.

"The day before the horses would travel to the airport, my good horse was injured so I had to cancel," he recalled.

"I was really disappointed, but I'm here now and really happy."

Even the storm that interrupted yesterday's action for nearly an hour couldn't wash away his excitement.

"It's even better than I thought. It's amazing."

Now, all Guerdat needs is for some great performances to go with his exuberance.

He opened the Masters tournament by finishing second with Tresor V -- an 11-year-old Belgium Warmblood stallion -- in Wednesday's Finning Welcome.

Guerdat teamed with Tresor V to third spot at this year's World Cup Final.

However, he's looking for bigger and better things this week, now that the horse he considers his best -- 10-year-old Selle Francais mare Jalisca Solier -- is almost back on track after a bout of colic.

She's been back in action for six weeks, but it's a slow process.

"She's maybe 85 or 90 percent now," he said.

"She's jumping good and feeling great, but we still don't have the same feelings as when she was at her best.

The hope is Jalisca Solier will be at her peak in time for Sunday's $1 million CN International Grand Prix.

Well, that and tomorrow's Nations' Cup, which Switzerland has never won at Spruce Meadows.

"We have a pretty good team," Guerdat said.

"We have Beat (Mandli), and he's a very good rider, my mare is one of the best horses when she's in top form and the other two (Niklaus Schurtenberger and Pius Schwizer) have always been great.

"In team competitions, they've all done very well.

"I think we're very motivated and have a very good chance."


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