Wellington, Fla. – Mar. 3, 2018 – Patriotism was abundant at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Saturday evening for the FEI $150,000 FEI Nations Cup CSIO 4*, sponsored by U.S. Trust and Bank Of America Merrill Lynch, which challenged nine teams of nations to vie for the prize money and bragging rights as 2018 champions. Reigning 2016 and 2017 champion Ireland fought hard to make it a trifecta, but were unable to match the efforts of Great Britain, who finished the class on a spectacular cumulative score of zero faults over two rounds of competition. Emily Mason and Poden Farms’ Explosion W as well as Ben Maher and Jane Forbes Clark’s Tic Tac turned out the best performances for the winning team with double clear nights, with each of their two other teammates also proving their prowess in the ring with clean trips to solidify the victory.
After 36 rounds of riding, Great Britain led at the conclusion of the first phase on an impressive composite score of zero faults, having ridden three clear rounds with a drop score of 13 faults. Teammates Amanda Derbyshire and Gochman Sport Horses’ Liubanta BH, Mason aboard Explosion W, and Maher with the ride on Tic Tac each logged faultless trips, with Emily Moffitt and Poden Farms’ Hilfiger Van De Olmenhoeve’s high score canceled out of the final tally.
Course designer Kenneth Krome’s (USA) track saw 12 total clean and clear rides in the initial portion of competition, weeding out a number of contenders over the fifth jump of the course, an imposing vertical set at maximum height, and the middle oxer of the triple combination.
With a 7-fault accrued score serving as the cut-off for the top six returning teams, competition was tight as only a handful of penalties separated the top qualifiers. Sitting behind Great Britain tied for second position after the first half of jumping was both Mexico and Brazil with 4-fault scores, trailed by reigning champion Ireland with 5 accumulated faults. Venezuela claimed fifth position with a mere 6 faults, and Chile rounded out the group of returning nations with 7 faults. The U.S. team had a total of 8 faults on their home soil during the first round to be ranked seventh, and did not qualify for the second round.
Returning in reverse order of the standings for round two, Ireland’s Shane Sweetnam and The Blue Buckle Group’s Indra Van de Oude Heihoef were the third back in the ring and the first of the evening to earn a double clear, setting the bar for those that would follow. Maintaining momentum, Irish counterparts Paul O’Shea and Denis Lynch, respectively aboard Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, owned by Skara Glen Stables, and RMF Cadeau De Muze, owned by Rushy Marsh Farm, later piloted their mounts to two subsequent clear rides, allowing anchor Cian O’Connor to save Clenur’s energy with no need to ride with a perfect score already in the bag. The Irishmen finished the night on a 5-fault score, at that time a strong prospect for the lead with earlier teams having accumulated numerous penalties against themselves.
Although their team lacked some experience in Nations Cup competition, all of the athletes rallied to bring home a win for their country as they focus on the World Equestrian Games and qualifying for the 2020 Olympic Games. First back for the early leaders, Great Britain’s Derbyshire rode Luibanta BH to a single downed rail and a foot in the water to pick up 8 faults, but Moffitt redeemed herself the second go around, keeping all the rails up to navigate a clear trip. Making chef d’equipe Di Lampard proud, Mason and Explosion’s successful second turn around the track opened the door for Maher and Tic Tac, who in turn produced Great Britain’s third clean and clear trip of the second phase to ultimately propel his team to a final score of zero, with Derbyshire’s 8-fault ride serving as the drop score.
Though Saturday evening’s competition did not count for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Series, teams in the North/Central America and Caribbean division will have a chance to accrue valuable points for their home nations in two more Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ events – CSIO5* Coapexpan in Mexico on Sunday, April 22, followed by CSIO5* Langley at Thunderbird Show Park on Sunday, June 3. Canada currently leads the way in the standings with 100 points, followed by USA in second with 75 points and Mexico in third place with 55 points.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
On Tic Tac and the importance of winning tonight:
“Tic Tac is experienced and we had a long talk before the weekend here. We needed Great Britain to get off to a good start this year. We’ve had a few rocky times recently. This year we are going to change it around. Tic Tac is a great horse and he has all the experience. I’ve actually never ridden him at WEF, but he jumped great for me tonight. My life was made much easier with the team that we have.”
On what needed to change:
“Stop losing! We’ve been losing for too long. I think that for any rider or any team you can’t go on a run of bad luck or bad results and all of a sudden come out with a championship. We have to start this year stronger as a country, as a team within the riders that we have and get off to a positive start. Now we can take this result back to Europe for Super League division and look forward to Tryon for Olympic qualification.”
On how to make the changes
“We had many discussions behind the scenes. British Equestrian Federation talking about how to change, we’ve had some changes in the riders in the country. We’ve had some horses that were sold, some that got older and retired, some riders got older and retired. We have a younger generation now, I think everyone else here has ridden one or two Nations Cup and this is my 50th, so I feel really old now. We need to make Di’s jobs a little easier, everyone complains back home. That we need to produce more results and Di should do this and Di should do that, but in the end the riders are accountable and we need to start producing in the ring like we did tonight.”
On her first Nations Cup experience:
“It was an honor to be picked for the team, and the fact that we managed to get a double clear today is mind blowing. I am so happy with the horse, he’s inexperienced at this level and he jumped absolutely incredible tonight.”
Di Lampard – Great Britain Chef d’Equipe
On the second round:
“It was all down to the last round, but it’s fantastic that they came together. Every rider put his or her corner in. They dug deep. As Ben said, the plan was to come and get off to a good start. We were focused on this weekend.”
On her clear second round:
“The first round was not great; it didn’t go to plan. The second round I definitely had to take a deep breath focus on what I needed to do. I rode as well as I could and Tommy was definitely more with me the second round. He really knows when he has to do his job. I told him ‘Listen, we have to get it done,’ and we did, we got it done!”
About coming away with the win:
“Last year was the first time was the first time I did a Nations Cup and it went well, I was little nervous. This year we had a great, strong team, and we were all pretty confident we could do a good job. I was delighted with the mare, she always does her best.”