The Canadian Show Jumping Team comprised of Ben Asselin, Mario Deslauriers, Eric Lamaze, and Ian Millar placed fourth in the $400,000 BMO Nations’ Cup held Saturday, September 9, as part of the Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ tournament in Calgary, AB.
A total of eight countries battled for supremacy in the 41st annual BMO Nations’ Cup over a testing track set by two-time Olympic course designer Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela.
As Canada’s lead-off rider, 1984 World Cup Champion Deslauriers, 52, was making his return to the Canadian Show Jumping Team following a nine-year absence representing the United States. Based in New York, NY, Deslauriers was riding Westbrook, a nine-year-old grey Swedish Warmblood gelding (Jaguar Mail x Cardento) that was purchased in March by owners Luja LLC and Wishing Well Farm LLC. With a single mistake at fence number four, a skinny vertical that came down throughout the competition, Deslauriers posted an opening round score of four faults.
Local favourite Asselin, 23, of Calgary, AB, was called up to the Canadian Team on Thursdayfollowing the withdrawal of Keean White of Rockwood, ON, and For Freedom Z. With only two day’s notice, combined with riding a new mount, Asselin ran into trouble down a line that snaked through the center of the International Ring, having fence four, the open water, and the Canada planks at fence six before also knocking down the ‘b’ element of the triple combination at fence eight for a first-round total of 16 faults.
2008 Olympic Champion Lamaze, 49, who is based in Wellington, FL, brought it back for Team Canada by delivering a clear round with Coco Bongo, a 12-year-old bay Rheinlander gelding (Caretino x Calido) owned by Andy and Carlene Ziegler’s Artisan Farms LLC and Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stable.
Ten-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar of Perth, ON, rode Dixson in the anchor position. With only one rail down at the ‘b’ element of the triple combination, Millar’s four faults allowed Canada to drop Asselin’s score, as only the best three scores are counted towards the team total.
At the end of the first round, Brazil sat at the top of the leaderboard with a perfect score of zero, despite losing its lead-off rider, Eduardo Menezes, who took a hard tumble off his mount, Quintol, at fence six and did not return for round two. Team Germany was close behind with a single time fault, while the United States and Canada sat tied on eight faults apiece for third position. Belgium and France were tied for fifth place with 13 faults apiece, while the defending champion, Switzerland, and Italy failed to make the cut for the second round with scores of 18 and 21 respectively.
Deslauriers opened the second round with a clear round for Canada, cheered on by the 86,222 spectators in attendance.
“It was just like the old days!” said Deslauriers, who last competed for Canada in the BMO Nations’ Cup at Spruce Meadows in 2006, when it scored its first victory. “I was a little nervous in the first round but the second round felt better and more relaxed; I was right back at home. It was exciting making my return at Spruce Meadows, and all the crowd made it so special.”
Next up for Canada was Asselin, who last rode in the BMO Nations’ Cup at the ‘Masters’ tournament in 2014 when Canada hoisted the trophy for only the second time in the event’s 41-year history. He and Chalacorada, a 15-year-old dark bay Holsteiner mare (Chalan x Corrado I) owned by his grandmother, Margaret Southern, and Spruce Meadows Ltd., kept it to eight faults the second time out, but again their score would be dropped in the final tally.
Lamaze and his 2015 Pan American team gold medal mount left all the rails in place, but touched the tape on the open water to pick up four faults. At the age of 70, Millar then put his five decades of international show jumping experience to good use, guiding Dixson, a 14-year-old bay Belgian Warmblood gelding (Vigo d’Arsouilles x Olisco) owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, to a clear round.
Counting only four faults in the second round, Canada had a two-round total of 12 faults to finish in fourth place. A jump-off was necessary to determine a winner between the United States and Brazil, who were tied on eight faults apiece. Cool under pressure, Beezie Madden, who had already jumped one of only two double clear rounds on the day, delivered yet another clear in a time of 39.21 seconds with Darry Lou to put the pressure on Brazil. Pedro Junqueira Muylaert looked fast as he left all the rails in place riding Prince Royal Z MFS, but his time of 39.75 seconds left Brazil in the runner-up position, giving the United States its ninth BMO Nations’ Cup title.
Germany took third with a total of nine faults, while Canada finished just off the podium in fourth. Belgium took fifth with a total of 18 faults while France finished sixth with 30 faults.
“We were so close today, but that’s the way it is sometimes with show jumping; the result can hinge on a rail that stays in the cups here, or a foot in the water there,” said Canadian Show Jumping Team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin of Langley, BC. “If Mario, Eric, or Ian had had four faults less, we would have been jumping off for the win.”
The Canadian Show Jumping Team will make its final Nations’ Cup appearance of the year in the FEI Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain, from September 29 to October 1, 2017. Canada was one of two countries from the North American, Central American and Caribbean League to qualify for the Final, alongside the United States.
The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ tournament culminates with Sunday’s $3 million CP International, presented by Rolex, beginning at 12 noon MT. For more information, including full results, please visit www.sprucemeadows.com.
Photos by Starting Gate Communications