Spruce Meadows hosted the second leg of competition for the North American region in the $100,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™, and it was Ireland who took home the win after they logged six clear rounds. The Irish team consisted of Conor Swail and Lansdowne, Darragh Kerins and E Muze Yek, Richie Moloney and Carrabis Z, and Cameron Hanley and Antello.
The Team USA Stripes finished second, while Team Canada One were third. Later in the day, it was Quentin Judge (USA) and Dark de la Hart who took the top placing in the $35,000 Husky Energy Cup 1.50m. Abigail McArdle (USA) and Cosma 20 led the victory gallop for the second day in a row, this time in the $33,000 RSA Cup 1.45m.
The 'Continental' Tournament CSIO-W 5* runs June 12-16. The next highlight class of the week is the $200,000 CN Performance Grand Prix CSI-W on Sunday, June 16. There will be complimentary admission and parking for spectators during the 'Continental' Tournament.
There were seven teams in today's Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™. The United States, Canada, and Mexico all fielded two teams and nominated one team to earn points toward the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final in September. The course was designed by Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela. Six teams returned for the second round, and the young Team Mexico Maya finished in seventh place.
Ireland came out with a bang in today's Nations Cup competition when all four riders went clear in the first round. Cameron Hanley, Richie Moloney, and Darragh Kerins were all riding horses that were in their first Nations Cup. They had four clear rounds in the first round and finished on four points in the second round for a winning total of four faults.
Conor Swail and Lansdowne, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion by Guidam x Wolfgang owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, were double clear for the Irish team. Swail noted that he had to be aware of the tight time allowed. “My horse in particular is a big, slow mover, so I have to try and take advantage of a few places. The course today was a nice track. Leo did a great job. Thankfully we jumped it the best,” he said. “I have only had one other Nations Cup round with him and that didn't go so well, so today I'm very happy. I'm glad that first Nations Cup is in the past. Today he showed that he has gotten more educated and is learning his job very well. I'm delighted.”
Cameron Hanley and Antello, a 10-year-old Warmblood gelding by Animo Z x Continue, were the anchors of the Irish team and were also double clear. Hanley, who just returned to the show ring this year after a long layoff from injury, was excited to be back with Antello and on a Nations Cup team. Hanley had the ride on Antello as an eight-year-old, but when he was hurt, the horse went to British rider Michael Whitaker. When new sponsors Elonore Paschoude and Yves Bouvier were looking for a grand prix horse, Hanley knew Antello would be a great fit.
“He has a lot of blood and is a little tricky and is a real talented jumper.” Hanley described. “I knew I could ride him because I rode him when he was younger. I got him back and started doing well in some shows. Three weeks ago he won the Riders Tour Grand Prix in Wiesbaden, which was a five-star. Robert (Splaine) was good enough to let me come here and do a Nations Cup with him.”
Richie Moloney and Carrabis Z, a 10-year-old Zangersheide stallion by Canabis Z x Grannusso owned by Equinimity LLC, were clear in the first round and had just four faults in the second round. Moloney noted that Carrabis Z is a “very inexperienced 10-year-old” and that they were just doing 1.35m last year. “I'm very proud of him. He's a very scopey horse, (and) he doesn't get tired for the second round,” he said.
Darragh Kerins had the youngest horse on the team in nine-year-old E Muze Yek. Owned by Kerins and Maarten Huygens, the For Pleasure x Carthago gelding was also clear in the first round but had three fences down in the second round. Kerins noted, “The biggest classes he's ever jumped were probably in these last two weeks. To jump two back to back rounds like today, he was a little inexperienced for it, but I'm proud of him.”
Chef d'Equipe Robert Splaine was complimentary of Spruce Meadows and the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ competition. “The arena is just wonderful. When I arrived this morning, there were people in there paying such close attention to the grounds. The whole ambiance of the day was truly special,” he said. “It's a new Nations Cup for us. We have riders based all over the world, some in America, which makes it quite a great and extra opportunity for us to come and compete.”
He pointed out that this competition will help him in choosing teams for future events as well. “For me to come here and get the opportunity to see these guys in action in a venue that could hold the Olympics has given me a lot to consider. I have to continue to look forward and broaden the base of our team to help us in our mission to win medals. So it was great, the guys did a fantastic job, and thank you to the owners of these horses for giving these guys the opportunity to compete at the highest level. It was just a great day, it was great to win. Compliments to the other teams as well.”
Team USA Stripes, led by Chef d'Equipe Will Simpson, were not the team competing for Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ points today, but two of their riders finished double clear. Katie Dinan and Nougat du Vallet, a 12-year-old Selle Francais gelding by Scherif d'Elle owned by Grant Road Partners, were one of those combinations. For her great riding today, Dinan was named the Furusiyya Rider of the Day, which recognizes the rider that gives the most outstanding contribution to his or her team over the course of two rounds.
“I feel very honored,” Dinan said. “I feel honored to be on the U.S. Team and to be chosen as the Rider of the Day in this company. It's great. This is only my second Nations Cup and I really wanted to show I belonged on the team. It's a little more pressure being on a team, so I was happy with my performance today.”
The other double clear came from McLain Ward and Rothchild, a 12-year-old Belgian Sport Horse gelding by Artos x Elegant De L’Ile owned by Sagamore Farm. Rounding out the team were Brianne Goutal on Nice de Prissey, who had five and four faults in the two rounds, and Candice King on Campbell VDL, who finished with 12 and nine faults. The Team USA Stripes finished on nine total faults for second place.
Chef d'Equipe Will Simpson credited U.S. Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland for his vision and said they were both happy with the team's performances. “The young kids got some good experience along with the older riders. It's very important and it's a stepping stone. This is where the riders get their experience. It's a great competition that we need to keep going,” he said.
Ridland added, “In a perfect world, we would have loved to have beaten the Irish. But what we really came here to do was one, qualify for the final. Number two, was really giving some young horses and young riders some experience on competitive teams.”
He went on to say, “To me, the only way to do that is to do what we did, which was a little against the grain. There was no question that normally, as the Canadians did, you stack the deck on one team and that's your point team. That's the more conventional way of doing it. My feeling, the whole way along, is that it's so important for the young riders to be able to experience Nations Cups on contending teams with veterans. We got huge experience today. We saw them perform well. I'm very excited.”
The Canada One team was led by Chef d'Equipe Mark Laskin, and he was pleased to see his riders perform well with new horses. Eric Lamaze and Powerplay were clear in the second round (and had five faults in the first round), as were Ian Millar and Dixson (who had four faults in the first round). Joining them on the third place Canada One team were Tiffany Foster and Verdi II, who had four and five faults, and Mac Cone with Amor van de Rostal, who had five faults in the first round and just one time fault in the second round. The team had a total of 13 faults in round one and one faults in round two for a total of 14.
On the Canada Two team, Chris Sorensen and Bobby, in their first Nations Cup performance, improved to a clear trip in the second round.
“It was a fantastic opportunity for our developing riders. It was an invaluable experience that they'll both draw on in the future,” he remarked. “We're only going to get better and it bodes well for the future. We're really excited to qualify for Barcelona and we'll be there.”
This was the second and final qualifying event for the North American region for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™. The United States won the region with 175 points, while Canada were close behind with 172 points. Both teams will move on to the Final in Barcelona, Spain.
Irish Chef d'Equipe Robert Splain nicely concluded on today's event, “Nations Cup competition is really what the sport's all about. It makes great riders because of the special type of pressure it creates. I think the riders that come forward and compete and take the good days with the bad turn into very special competitors. They become the riders that can win at the Olympic level.”