Team Canada came out on top in a tough 12-way battle for the honours at the second leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 series at Wellington in Florida (USA). Taking command with the only zero score at the end of the first round, the Canadians fended off a strong challenge from the British to claim the top step of the podium. But they only headed them by a single fault in the final analysis while the host nation, USA, slotted into third. Brazil and Ireland shared fourth place ahead of Venezuela in sixth, Columbia in seventh and Germany in eighth spot.
Just eight of the 12 competing countries qualified for the second round, and Mexico, New Zealand and Chile all missed the cut while the Israeli side was eliminated in round one.
With many of the most experienced riders partnering relatively inexperienced horses the course set by America’s Steve Stephens proved testing enough. However the Americans and Canadians sent out their big guns and it was the latter who proved the strongest on the night. Just three riders managed to jumping double-clear over the course set by America’s Steve Stephens, and they were Canada’s Yann Candele with Showgirl, Britain’s Tim Gredley with Unex Chamberlain Z and Brazilian pathfinder Alvaro de Miranda riding AD Uutje.
Canadian Chef d’Equipe, Mark Laskin, was delighted with the result. “Canada’s been on a bit of a roll! First it was curling! And then women’s bobsled… then it was hockey, two games! And now it’s show jumping!” he said, referring in part to the recent Sochi Winter Olympics. And he picked Candele out for special mention. “I want to welcome Yann back to our team, I’m really happy to have him, especially tonight. I think that’s a key for Canada right now. We have four fantastic riders with four fantastic horses, and they did an incredible job!” Laskin added.
The course was not enormous but first-round clears proved fairly elusive, with fences falling everywhere around the arena. The opening oxer was wide and German pathfinders, Andre Thieme and Conthendrix, picked up four faults at this one in both rounds. Another oxer at five was followed by the famous bicycle vertical, with super-narrow poles on top, which was first introduced by Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios at Spruce Meadows in Canada some years ago and which has been replicated at many other venues ever since.
Stephen’s course included three doubles, and the first of these was an oxer to vertical at fence seven while the next was a two-stride vertical to oxer at fence nine after which riders turned left-handed to the open water. Arguably the most difficult obstacle of all however was the one-strided double of verticals that followed the water which proved the undoing of many, but for the host side it was the water itself that prevented them from possibly forcing a jump-off.
As round two began, it was the Americans who were lying second carrying just four faults while the British were only a single point further adrift carrying five. The Brazilians and Irish were tied on nine faults at this stage, and they would remain locked together when each added a further eight faults to their tallies.
Ben Maher led the British into the second round with another four-fault run with Diva, but Gredley’s back-to-back clear bolstered his team’s chances only for third-line rider, Gemma Paternoster who had collected just a single time penalty first time out with Osiris, to collect nine faults at her second attempt. A brilliant anchorman clear from World No 1 Scott Brash and Hello Annie steadied the British ship however, ensuring they would add only Maher’s four to leave them on a final total of nine faults.
A surprising double-error from McLain Ward and Rothchild, at the bicycle vertical and the final oxer, put pressure on the Americans. But despite four, at the first element of the influential double at nine, for Brianne Goutal and Nice de Pressey, it seemed hope was not lost if Laura Kraut and Beezie Madden could leave the course intact. Kraut’s fabulous little grey, Cedric, had been foot-perfect first time around and seemed a banker for a second clear, but when he put a toe in the water at his second attempt, then not even Madden’s superb run with Simon could rectify the situation. Because by then the Canadians already had it in the bag.
Candele and Showgirl led their side into round two with another copybook clear, so despite a mistake from Tiffany Foster and Victor at the second element of the double at nine and for the legendary Ian Millar and Dixson who had been spectacularly clear first time out but who fell foul of the planks at the second element of the double at seven this time, it was all done and dusted. Canada’s total of eight faults would be good enough to clinch it, and anchorman, Eric Lamaze, didn’t need to bring Powerplay back to the arena for a second time.
“Tonight’s win was very exciting. The Nations Cup here in Wellington is getting bigger and bigger every year and it’s getting tougher and tougher to win it. Now there are so many strong teams, but tonight’s win has given us great momentum” Candele said.
Asked if the course was tough he replied - “it’s not easy to say how difficult a course is when you jump it double-clear! But the water to the double of verticals toward the end of the course was difficult” said the man who hails from France but who has been competing under the Canadian flag “for about six years now”. His horse, Showgirl, joined his string after the 2013 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona (ESP) last year.
The evergreen 67-year-old Ian Millar continues to mesmerise with his stunning performances at the top of the game. He showed all of his trademark skill as he steered Dixson into the winner’s enclosure. Talking about the horse he said, “I’ve had him for a year and he’s coming along extremely well, and I’m looking to include him in the next cycle for the World Equestrian Games, Pan Ams and Olympics. so its a very long term plan for him. I was very pleased with him today, his progress is great, he just gets better and better! He’s the right age, he’s a young horse and he has his whole life and his whole future ahead of him! And I’m very very proud to have him” said the man long-known as Captain Canada.
Foster said “I thought my horse jumped really well, the first round he was a little bit unsettled, got a little bit rushed in a few places, but the second round he came back really well and I was very happy with him”, while her mentor, Eric Lamaze, described tonight as “a fantastic evening!” He continued, “my horse jumped very well, but I had the pleasure to ride with many great riders on the Canadian team, but no one but this young man next to me has ridden so much for our nation” referring of course to long-time legend Millar. “We take it very seriously, and we pull together, and it results in tonight!” Lamaze added.
Candele explained in more detail how Showgirl came his way. “We were in Barcelona for the Final last year, and Eric (Lamaze) was thinking already about WEG. And he looked at that mare and approached the owner to be able to acquire it for me, because Eric is not selfish and he’s all about the team. And he put a group together of Canadian and American owners to be able to have that mare compete for Canada under me. I think all the success of today is all about Eric and his team spirit, as well as Captain and Tiffany, we are solid as it can be!” he pointed out.
Canadian Chef d’Equipe, Mark Laskin, is now looking ahead to the rest of the Furusiyya season and on to the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy (FRA) later in the year. Talking about his selection process he said “well, I think there’s a long way to go, but these four would be our front runners for the present moment. We have to get through a very difficult summer series at Spruce Meadows (CAN) and we’ll make our final selections through those final competitions. And we’re still discussing and finalising our WEG preparations in Europe. But yes, there will be a european component to it, definitely” he pointed out.
The weekend's competition was the first qualifier in the North America, Central America and Caribbean League. Next stop for riders in this league on the road to Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Final will be Coapexpan in Mexico which follows one week after the opening round of the Europe Division 1 League at Lummen, Belgium on Friday 2 May.
1. Canada 8 faults: Showgirl (Yann Candele) 0/0, Victor (Tiffany Foster) 4/4, Dixson (Ian Millar) 0/4, Powerplay (Eric Lamaze) 0/DNS.
2. Great Britain 9 faults: Diva (Ben Maher) 4/4, Unex Chamberlain Z (Tim Gredley) 0/0, Osiris (Gemma Paternoster) 1/9, Hello Annie (Scott Brash) 9/0.
3. USA 12 faults: Rothchild (McLain Ward) 0/8, Nice de Prissey (Brianne Goutal) 4/4, Cedric (Laura Kraut) 0/4, Simon (Beezie Madden) 4/0.
4. Ireland 17 faults: Eregas van't Kieselhoft (Shane Sweetnam) 4/4, Carrabis Z (Richie Moloney) 8/0, Lilli (Paul O'Shea) 5/4, Quidam's Cherie (Cian O'Connor) 0/8.
4. Brazil 17 faults: AD Uutje (Alvaro de Miranda) 0/0, First Division (Yuri Mansur) 5/4, Quintol (Eduardo Menezes) 4/4, Status (Rodrigo Pessoa) 5/4.
6. Venezuela 24 faults: Caballito (Andres Rodriguez) 8/0, G&C Quitador Rochelais (Gustavo Arroyo) 4/4, G&C Flash (Luis Larrazabal) 16/8, Zara Leandra (Pablo Barrios) 0/Ret.
7. Columbia 31 faults: Woklahoma (Roberto Teran) 0/5, Zipo CG (Manuel Espinosa) 10/8, Lagran (Mark Bluman) 12/Ret, Sancha LS (Daniel Bluman) 8/0.
8. Germany 39 faults: Conthendrix (Andre Thieme) 9/17, Mic Mac du Tillard (David Will) 0/4, Quintana Roo (Johannes Ehning) 18/5, Evita dan de Veldbalie (Daniel Deusser) 4/Ret.
9. Mexico 21 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Colasko (Nicolas Pizarro) 8, Jumex Sport Archimedes (Sofia Larrea) 1, Vicky Van Het Geinsteinde (Luis Alejandro Plascencia) 25, Chepepe La Escondida (Fernando Martinez) 12.
10. New Zealand 34 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Watch Me (Grant Wilson) 18, Que Pasa Z (Kirk Webby) 16, Derly Chin de Muze (Sharn Wordley) 0.
11. Chile 49 faults IN FIRST ROUND: William Wallace (Samuel Parot) 12, Player de Brocelia (Carlos Milthaler) 17, Carla TM (Jorge Matte) 20.
12. Israel Eliminated IN FIRST ROUND: Carisma (Danielle Goldstein) 1, Zamillus Again (Elad Yaniv) Elim, Quito 36 (Joshua Taylor) 20.