By Louise Parkes - FEI
Irish eyes were smiling for the second year in succession as Robert Splaine’s impressive squad reigned supreme in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 qualifier at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada tonight. Winners of this same leg last year, the boys in green took the lead in the early stages of the competition and, once out in front, held on for a determined victory.
They were chased all the way by the USA Stars who eventually lined up second ahead of their American colleagues from the USA Stripes team in third. It was a disappointing night from a Canadian perspective as their crack side, reduced to just three team members when anchorman Eric Lamaze withdrew Zigali PS because the horse was lame, had to settle for fourth place ahead of the only other finishers, the Canada Two selection.
A total of seven teams competed, with the Mexico Mayas side-lined when lying last after the first round and the points-seeking Mexico Aztecas making the cut into the second round but not posting a team score this time out when Santiago Lambre decided not to jump following the elimination of second-line rider Sofia Larrea.
Tonight’s competition was the last round of the three-leg Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 North America, Central America and Caribbean League, and while the Irish were justifiably buoyant in the aftermath, the USA and Canada also had every reason to be pleased when sealing their places amongst the 18 nations that will line out at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Final in Barcelona, Spain in October.
Course designer, America’s Anthony D’Ambrosio, set them a straight-forward but challenging test. Irish team manager, Robert Splaine, described the track as “tough”, adding, “it was tougher than last year, significantly tougher I believe, but this is top sport. The ring here is intimidating, it’s not an easy ring, there’s a lot of colour out there and they haven’t missed a beat in Spruce Meadows, everything is covered” he pointed out.
The iconic fences at the Canadian fixture include the Mount Rushmore Wall which was first seen at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996 and which, this year, was the third on the 12-fence track. Horses swung right-handed after this to a water-tray oxer at four before galloping down to the open water which was quickly followed, on five short strides, by a narrow vertical that proved one of the main penalisers on the course when riders couldn't regain sufficient control after opening them up for the previous fence.
The triple combination at fence seven was also highly influential, the opening triple-bar inviting horses to jump in big and therefore leaving the two-stride distance to the vertical second element very tight, while some horses survived these two efforts only to lower the oxer on the way out. And the following oxer, jumped after a left-hand turn, also claimed a significant number of victims, particularly when riders became aware of the speed demanded by the time-allowed of 76 seconds. There was an opportunity to pick up some valuable fractions of seconds on the right-handed swing to the Maple Leaf planks at fence 10, but for some who dared to take a short-cut it proved costly, while the penultimate one-strided double - vertical to oxer - also caught out some horse-and-rider combinations as did the final oxer which often came up on a long stride.
MADE LITTLE OF IT:
The Irish made little of it all however, opener Shane Sweetnam with Eregast vant Klezelhof and second-line rider Richie Moloney with Slieveanorra each picking up just a single time fault while Darragh Kenny and San Souci Z went clear. Conor Swail’s stallion, Lansdowne, was pulling hard when hitting the planks at 10 and the second element of the double at 11. Swail is only just back in action after a seven-month break following a riding accident in which he seriously damaged an Achilles tendon. With just two faults on the board the Irish were leading after the first round, but had only a two-fault advantage over the USA Stars.
Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ opened the American side’s innings with a lovely clear, and although Kent Farrington’s Amber Gambler hit the middle part of the triple combination, McLain Ward raised US hopes again when fault-free with HH Cannavaro. But when Rich Fellers’ mighty 18-year-old gelding, Flexible, left the vertical after the water on the floor the Stars had to carry four faults into round two.
The Canada One team were one of the favourites ahead of the competition but things really didn't go their way. Tiffany Foster led off with a mistake at the middle part of the triple combination with Verdi lll while Yann Candele’s Showgirl faulted at the third element of the same fence. Canadian hero, Ian Millar, left two on the floor with Dixson, so when the news emerged that their last man, Lamaze, wouldn't run, their chances were already dashed by a 17-fault scoreline.
That opened the door for the USA Stripes who were carrying nine after a single time fault for Leslie Howard and Tic Tac, and four faults each from Charlie Jacobs (Flaming Star), Kirsten Coe (Baronez) and Jonathan McCrea (Special Lux). Canada Two finished the first round on a total of 18 while Mexico Aztecas racked up a score of 23.
Canada One made a brave effort second time out, with Foster’s opening five-fault result followed by lovely clears from Candele and Millar. But without Lamaze’s contribution there was no way forward for them, while Canada 2 added 11 more to their tally. Mexico Aztecas meanwhile were seriously compromised by a fall for Sofia Larrea when she got the distance to the double at 11 all wrong. As she got to her feet however, the Mexican rider could be seen apologising profusely to her lovely grey horse, Jumex Sport Archimedes, who stood quietly as she kissed him twice on the head before walking him from the arena. No doubt he will come back fighting for her again next time.
Jonathan McCrea returned a lovely clear second time out, but the USA Stripes were obliged to add eight more and the real battle was played out between the USA Stars and the Irish in the closing stages.
Charlie Jayne secured the only double-clear of the entire competition while team-mate Farrington was also foot-perfect at his second attempt, but the Irish withstood the pressure by posting fabulous clears from Sweetnam and Moloney. When McLain Ward hit the oxer at fence eight then Darragh Kenny knew what he had to do. It was still quite possible that American anchors, Fellers and Flexible, would post a clear at their second attempt so he had to ride the course in the knowledge that a single time fault would be fine, but two of them might leave Ireland on level-pegging with their American rivals and a fence down could prove fatal.
The 22-year-old Irishman has been enjoying an extraordinary purple patch since coming to Spruce Meadows for the National tournament over the last few weeks however, and with all the skill and horsemanship that has earned him his fourth Irish team call-up he brought the 11-year-old San Souci Z home without touching a pole and just over the time-allowed in 76.81 seconds. Looking up at the clock he punched the air, a single time-fault was plenty good enough for the win.
The final scoreline showed Ireland on three faults with USA Stars in second place on eight, Fellers wisely opting not to return to the ring as he now couldn't improve his team’s scoreline, while Swail’s services were not required by the Irish as the job was already complete.
Robert Splaine was thrilled with his team’s performance. “It is an achievement to compete here in this great arena, and to win here is a great honour. My job is easy, because I had four great guys who I knew would do their best in the ring, and it’s a credit to them that they made a difficult job look very easy! It’s a great honour to be here...and a particular word of thanks to the owners of these great horses, and of course the grooms who play such a significant part” he said.
Swail was also a member of last year’s winning Irish side, and he said “it’s a slightly different team this year, we have a few new guys in and I have to say the three guys on my left were outstanding tonight. The Americans were pressing us very hard, but you know we just kept pulling out the clear rounds so it was a fantastic achievement for all of us”.
Kenny’s horse lost a shoe in the first round, so his riding skills were called upon to keep his horse happy and balanced. “I was turning to fence number 4 and I felt him slip a little bit and I knew the time was tight so I had to still try and be as quick as possible - I was trying to be tight without turning too tight and having him slip” he explained.
Shane Sweetnam talked about the footing and the course. “The conditions were very good, which we were very worried about, because there was talk of a lot of rain but it was fine. I thought Anthony (course designer Anthony D’Ambrosio) did a great job, as Conor said we were neck-and-neck with the Americans and there was great jumping. There were plenty of big jumps out there and he obviously used the time-allowed, which I felt in the first round! But that’s the way it goes when you are early to go, I thought he did a great job and it was definitely great sport!”
Richie Moloney was delighted with his day. “It’s great to have the opportunity to compete in a Nations Cup anytime and especially here in Spruce Meadows which is such a great arena and a great facility. It’s always a proud moment to win a Nations Cup and to represent your country” he said.
The Irish of course do not pick up Furusiyya points for their win tonight as they compete in the Europe Division 1 series which resumes next week in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. Following tonight’s competition, the USA and Canada both finish the North American, Central America and Caribbean League with 280 points each, and are on their way to Barcelona for the much-anticipated second Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in a few months time.
For further information on round 12 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 series at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada on Friday 13 June go to website www.sprucemeadows.com or contact Press Officer Jennifer Wood, Email firstname.lastname@example.org,Tel +1 803 240 7488. The series now returns to Europe for the fifth leg of the Europe Division 1 League at Rotterdam, The Netherlands on Friday 20 June. For details of the Dutch fixture go to website www.chio.nl or contact Press Officer Anita Lussenberg, Email email@example.com / firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +31(0)621585878.
1. Ireland 3 faults: Eregast vant Klezelhof (Shane Sweetnam)1/0, Slieveanorra (Richie Moloney) 1/0, San Souci Z (Darragh Kenny) 0/1, Lansdowne (Conor Swail) 8/DNS.
2. USA Stars 8 faults: Chill RZ (Charlie Jayne) 0/0, Ambler Gambler (Kent Farrington) 5/0, HH Cannavaro (McLain Ward) 0/4, Flexible (R Fellers) 4/DNS.
3. USA Stripes 17 faults: Tic Tac (Leslie Howard) 1/8, Flaming Star (Charlie Jacobs) 4/4, Baronez (Kirsten Coe) 4/4, Special Lux (Jonathan McCrea) 4/0.
4. Canada One, 22 faults: Verdi lll (Tiffany Foster) 4/5, Showgirl (Yann Candele) 5/0, Dixson (Ian Millar) 8/0, Zigali PS (Eric Lamaze) DNS/DNS.
5. Canada Two, 29 faults: Bobby (Christian Sorensen) 4/4, Pironella (Keean White) 13/DNS, Alberto ll (Kara Chad) 5/5, Calvin Klein (Jonathon Millar) 9/2.
6. Mexico Aztecas Elim in second round: Colasko (Nicolas Pizarro Suaez) 9/6, Jumex Sport Archimedes (Sofia Larrea) 9/Elim, Pekin St Denis (Claudia Lorenza O'Farrill) 9/5, Skovlundegaards Cassius (Santiago Lambre) 5/DNS.
7. Mexico Mayas 28 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Quin Chin (Juan Carlos Franco) 9, Cartier (Salvador Onate) 10, Caressini (Luis Alejandro Placensia) 10, Aristotelis (Antonia Chedraui) 9.
FULL RESULT www.sprucemeadows.com
FACTS AND FIGURES:
Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada presented the third and last leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping North America, Central America and Caribbean League tonight.
Canada and USA have now qualified for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2014 which will take place in Barcelona, Spain in October.
A total of 40 teams are competing in 20 qualifying competitions around the globe, with 18 going through to the Final.
A total of 7 teams from three different nations - Canada, USA and Ireland - lined out tonight at Spruce Meadows.
Just three teams were vying for qualifying points towards the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Final - USA Stars, Mexico Aztecas, and Canada 1.
Course designer was America's Anthony D'Ambrosio.
The Canada One team was reduced to just three team-members when anchorman, Eric Lamaze, withdrew his horse Zigali PS due to lameness.
The Ground Jury was Colleen Hoffman (CAN), Kim Morrison (CAN), Lisa Osachoff (CAN), Lorne Robertson (CAN) and Joao Moura (POR).
The oldest horse in tonight's competition was the 18-year-old Irish-bred Flexible ridden by America's Rich Fellers.
Just one double-clear performance in tonight's competition, from the USA Stars team's Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ.
Irish Chef d’Equipe, Robert Splaine: “I think if you jump good here you can pretty much travel to wherever you want”.
Ian Allison, Spruce Meadows - Talking about the fences used for tonight’s competition. “We used a lot of our Championship collection, much of it is material from World and Olympic competitions dating back to 1976. It gives everybody a sense of the history, but also of modern showjumping as you saw by the quality of the horses tonight”.
Standings after Round 3 of Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping North America, Central America and Caribbean League 2014 at Spruce Meadows (CAN):
1. Canada - 280
2. USA - 280
3. Mexico - 220
For further information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series http://tinyurl.com/m9dwzd5
Photo Caption: Team Ireland on the podium after their convincing victory in the third and last leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping North America, Central America and Caribbean League at Spruce Meadows in Calgary, Canada. L to R - Shane Sweetnam, Darragh Kenny, Chef d’Equipe Robert Splaine, Richie Moloney and Conor Swail. Photo: FEI/Jennifer Wood Media.