Rider, Scott Brash riding Hello Jefferson from GER competes in the CANA Cup during the Masters at Spruce Meadows in Calgary on Thursday, September 7, 2023. Darren Makowichuk/Postmedia Photo by Darren Makowichuk /DARREN MAKOWICHUK/Postmedia

As Rolex celebrates the 10th anniversary of the Grand Slam of Show Jumping series, it doesn’t need to think too hard about a poster boy.

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Scott Brash has done what no other has in those 10 years and it was at Spruce Meadows that his legend was cemented. He is the only rider to string together three wins in a row in the Rolex series, the third coming in September of 2015 at the Masters, earning Brash a 1-million euro bonus.

You could hear a pin drop when the Scotsman emerged under the clock tower on the excellent Hello Sanctos and when he finished the round, victorious, the stands lining the International Ring erupted as if he were one of their own.

“I remember jumping the last fence and all sorts of emotions … but certainly relief,” the 37 year-old recalled. “Kind of weird, in a sense, one of them was sadness afterwards. What now? It’s all you’ve been focused on. But jubilation … my owners were here, my father.

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“I think when you’re having a down day or thinking I’m not going very well right now, you can always think back to that day and it makes you feel good. I’m still so determined to win it again even though we have achieved it.”

Brash – competing this week at the 2023 Masters – recalled that day like it was yesterday instead of eight years ago.

“I woke up and was down here for half-seven or eight,” he said. “I remember walking down to see what the course was going to be and there was no one there.

“I think I was just very focused. I rode Sanctos in the same way as any big competition. I wanted his muscles warm. I remember knowing he felt really good. It was probably the fittest I ever had him in his life.

“When we did win, to show how fit he was, when I was walking out I remember thinking, he hasn’t even broken a sweat. We still have some photographs of that day and he looked a million dollars.”

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Asked if he’s watched the video since, Brash grinned, a faraway look in his eyes.

“Yeah, I’ve certainly watched it. Yeah, yeah …I can still watch and think ‘I could have been better’.”

The horse sometimes gets lost in the shuffle when talking about great performances but there is no sidelining Hello Sanctos. The now happily retired gelding won in Geneva in 2014, then it was onto a sterner test.

“Aachen was an arena that I knew Sanctos didn’t like and not everyone knows that,” said Brash. “It was the one ring that you felt uncomfortable in. I didn’t know until I went with him myself (the first time); I came out of that show scratching my head, thinking why did we not go so well.

“When we won Geneva, if I’m honest, I had two top horses, Sanctos and Ursula and Ursula is amazing. If she had been fit, I would have taken her but she was injured at the time so it was Sanctos or no one.”

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Serendipity, anyone?

He and Sanctos were also part of the gold medal-winning British team at the 2012 London Olympics … the second highlight of his career.

“I remember afterwards there being a little bit of a lull and the same after the grand slam,” said Brash. “What’s next? What’s the next goal? I think that’s quite normal.

“I remember chatting with Bruce Springsteen one time and I said why with so many musicians do things go wrong, and he said you go out and there’s such a buzz, so much adrenaline, the atmosphere. And then when you walk off stage, there’s nothing. So naturally there’s a bit of a lull. And I certainly felt that after winning the gold medal in London.”

On Sunday, Brash turns to Hello Jefferson to try and win another leg of the Grand Slam, the CPKC International grand prix, and maybe start another triple.

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“He has all the attributes you need to win any grand prix,” Brash explained. “He is really talented … and I think he has a good chance on Sunday.”

American McLain Ward came close this year, winning both Geneva and the Dutch Masters, and Brash recalled having had a second opportunity in 2016 with Hello Ursula.

“It’s possible,” said Brash, asked if his feat can be replicated. “Everything has to go right. With our sport, working with a living animal, things can go wrong. But it can be done again.”

In Friday’s competition in the International Ring, Swiss master Martin Fuchs added another victory with the 1.60m Tourmaline Oil Cup, he and Commissar Pezi winning the three-horse jump-off; Brazil’s Santiago Lambre and J’Adore Van Het Klinkhof were triumphant in the Paramount Resources 2-star grand prix; and the entertaining ATCO Electric Six Bar was captured by Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Albfuehren’s Maddox.

 Scott Brash reflects on his three-consecutive wins in the Rolex series as the competition celebrates 10-years.