Riders remember tenor

DAVE DORMER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 10:19 AM ET

While many were mourning Luciano Pavarotti's death yesterday as the loss of one of the greatest tenor voices the world will ever know, for riders competing at this week's Spruce Meadows Masters, his passing meant the loss of one of the equestrian world's biggest supporters.

"He had a love for the sport," said legendary British rider John Whitaker between events yesterday.

"I knew him personally, and it's a big loss."

Known for his tremendous voice, the Italian tenor's second love was horses, which he showed through his creation of the Pavarotti International.

The competition is considered one of the quintessential events on the European show jumping circuit during its run through the 1990s, which the singer held in conjunction with his Pavarotti and Friends charity concert every year.

"It was good to have somebody so famous take interest in the sport," said Whitaker, who competed in the Pavarotti International several times.

"I was shocked really when I found out (he died).

"We knew he wasn't well, but we didn't know it was so serious."

Pavarotti died at his home in Modena, Italy, following a long battle with pancreatic cancer.

Diagnosed in July 2006, Pavarotti underwent emergency surgery and was said to be recovering before being re-admitted to hospital last month.

Even though the legendary singer didn't visit Spruce Meadows during his life, he will be missed, said spokesman Ian Allison.

"His second love, really, was horses and he spent a lot of his free time not only being a fan of (show jumping) but building his knowledge," said Allison, adding there was a definite Spruce Meadows influence at the Pavarotti International.

"He had contacted (Spruce Meadows co-chairman Ron Southern) when he was getting the idea of starting a tournament and he spent quite a bit of time with him getting everything ready.

"They became what I would call better than casual acquaintances.

"Mr. and Mrs. Southern went to a number of his concerts as his guest."


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