Canada Defends FEI Nations Cup Title in Festive Night at CSIO Wellington – Promising American Horses Look to Future with Strong Fourth Place Finish
RELEASE: March 5, 2010
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Joanie Morris
– The pace at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center continued to be rapid as the $75,000 FEI Nations Cup presented by CN got underway before sell-out crowds. The jumping was international with 11 countries fielding teams – the atmosphere was infectious and anyone that wasn’t feeling patriotic must have been watching something else.
Of the 11 teams, seven came back for the second round of the eight that qualified and it appeared that it was going to be a fierce battle between Canada, who had a first round score of 0, and the Americans on 5 faults. The American team defied their experience in the first round, as many of the horse and rider partnerships are still developing.
In the first round, Kent Farrington was the best of the Americans and he put in a stylish clear round with the class grey gelding, United. The 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood, owned by RCG Farms stepped up to the plate in his first Nations Cup and jumped easily around Anthony D’Ambrosio’s course. The 29-year-old Chicago rider was on the winning Nations Cup team in 2008 in the same Arena.
California rider Ashlee Bond wasn’t going to be outdone – despite only riding Apache since the beginning of the year – she looked confident on the 10-year-old Selle Francais gelding and jumped a great round picking up one time fault. Only 24, Bond has jumped consistently brilliantly in Nations Cup for the US over the last year. She didn’t disappoint the home crowd.
Lauren Hough and Casadora led the US contingent – jumping first for the home team, Casadora showed her class, but had one rail down – plenty good on a night where clear rounds were hard to find. Laura and Meredith Mateo’s 11-year-old Dutch mare and her signature tail flip got the US team off to a very positive start.
McLain Ward and Amoroso, a relatively new ride for one of America’s most experienced jumping riders, showed his inexperience, the 9-year-old Holsteiner gelding, owned by Grant Road Partners, LLC had three rails down – but looks to be a wonderful horse for the future for Ward, a two-time Olympic Gold medalist.
The Canadians arrived with a title to defend, having won impressively in 2009 – they left no doubt that they were on a mission. Their three first round clears meant they had the enviable advantage of coming into the second round on a score of zero. Yann Candele and Pitareusa, Beth Underhill on Top Gun and the Olympic Individual Gold Medalist from 2008, Eric Lamaze on Ronaldo, had plenty of fans to cheer them to their clear rounds. Veteran Mac Cone wasn’t to be outdone – he led off the Canadian charge and added four faults – which was the drop score.
Mexico lay third after round one – they carried 13 faults into the final, and their fans – who gathered on the hill in front of the judges’ tower, were as noisy as any in the venue. Three riders would return for each nation.
Hough returned to the ring first for the US, Casadora was distracted and then spooked at the crowd on the landing side of the ninth fence, a very vertical gate – she stopped once and then had the rail on the second attempt – sadly as it was the only place she made a mistake in an otherwise flawless performance. The first round form began to dissolve.
When Candele and Pitareusa put in their second double clear for Canada – and Mexico’s Antonia Chedraui got them off to a great start with a clear round on Don Porfirio to the delight of the Mexican contingent. They continued their clear round charge when Nicolas Pizarro and Crossing Jordan won the crowd over with a dazzling clear. They made it evident it wasn’t going to be a two team competition.
Underhill answered with one down on the wonderful grey Top Gun for Canada, Bond had two down on Apache for eight faults for the United States which meant that the final rotation of riders was going to decide the top three places.
Mexico’s third rider Jaime Azcarraga had one rail on Celcius after his first round clear meaning that Mexico ended on 13 – to the delight of their fans it was good enough for a spot on the podium but the win was going to depend on what the top rider in the world did in the ring.
Lamaze was up to the challenge, and jumped another brilliant round in his horse’s first Nations Cup.
“He felt really good,” said Lamaze. “Better in the second round than in the first.”
Canada won on a score of five after he picked up one time fault, Mexico was second on 13 and the Irish were third. Farrington and United had two down for a US total of 31 – good enough for fourth and proof that the US has a very promising generation of horse and riders coming up.
“There were some lovely horses,” said US Chef d’Equipe George Morris. “Some of the best riders in the world here, Olympic Gold medalists right and left are here. This is a world class event – a very important world class event. Our big focus has been on the trials, the timing is just off. We need to produce in the Top League and at WEG. I want to congratulate Canada yet again.”
With many of the top US horse/rider combinations contesting the Trials, Morris knew he didn’t have the top horses for this event.
“In this sport I know ahead of time usually what is going to happen,” said Morris about his expectations.
But it meant the Canadians won for the fifth time in nine tries.
“As Eric said, ‘I think Wellington is our town,’” said Canadian Chef d’Equipe Terrance Miller. “We are extraordinarily lucky here. We try hard for this event, it’s the highlight of the winter. Many fans come down for this event.”
The fans stayed warm, and the competition didn’t disappoint.
The CSIO Wellington finishes Sunday afternoon with the $150,000 CN International Open at 1 PM which serves as the fifth and final USEF Selection Trial for the US Show Jumping Team. All the information is available here: http://www.usef.org/_IFrames/breedsDisciplines/discipline/alljumping/sjSelectionTrials.aspx. ENDS