Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 17, 2019 – Riding for their countries, the greatest share of the prize money and valuable points towards the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, Spain, later this year, patriots from USA, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Israel and Ireland showcased their talents Sunday in the $290,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America CSIO5*, the final event during the second week of the 2019 CP Palm Beach Masters Series. Finishing on an impressive score of 4 faults accrued over two rounds of riding, the four-member team from Mexico surpassed the rest of the field to emerge victorious, led by Eugenio Garza Perez aboard Victer Finn DH Z and Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane with the ride on Hortensia van de Leeuwerk thanks to their double-clear rides, two of only three pairs to accomplish the feat.
Following the initial 24 trips of round one, Mexico held a commanding early lead, having best mastered course designer Alan Wade’s (IRL) 15-fence track, which included a wide open water jump followed by a delicate vertical, which proved to be one of the bogey fences of the afternoon. With only one rail down between the four partnerships and the ability to drop one score, the Mexican troupe retained an impressive cumulative tally of zero. Garza Perez, Gonzalez Dufrane and Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado each piloted their respective mounts to penalty-free efforts, making them three of the eight total clear rides during the first round, while Fernando Martinez Sommer downed a single fence. Sitting on scores of 8 faults, the United States and Ireland sat tied for second place, followed by Israel close behind with an additional time fault to their name to accumulate 9 faults.
Riding in reverse order of the team standings, the returning challengers once again faced the same pattern of formidable nationalistic obstacles. Colombia, Canada and Israel began the rotation, with the United States and Ireland following suit, while the leading scorers, Mexico, had the advantage of tackling the track last. Always a top contender, Israel’s Daniel Bluman and Ladriano Z, the horse co-owned by Alexa Schwitzer and Blue Star Investments, 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 and improving his team’s chances of claiming a podium spot.
First back for the leading team, owner-rider Martinez Sommer and Cor Bakker turned in another strong round with only a single rail down, but it opened the door for horse-and-athlete partnerships to chase down the high standard initially set by the Mexican squad. Unfortunately for the rest of the teams, Garza Perez and Axel Verlooy Euro Horse Bvba’s Victer Finn DH Z’s produced their second penalty-free ride, with only two other remaining pairs hailing from other nations managing to also master Wade’s design during the second round. Moving towards the conclusion of the class, Zendejas Selgado took to the ring in the saddle on Enny Isabel Salgado Negrete’s Tino La Chapelle as the third to ride for Mexico with the opportunity to clinch the win with a clear ride due to the team’s superb scores and competitors’ series of clipped rails. The pair ultimately lowered two fences to earn 8 faults, which would end up being the drop score, and as the final rotation commenced Mexico had a rail in hand heading into the final duo to ride.
Finishing the class on a high note and sending the Mexican representatives into roarous applause, team anchors Gonzalez Dufrane and his own Hortensia van de Leeuwerk left all of the rails up, effectively securing the championship rosette for his team. In the end, Mexico led the class from start to finish, capturing the top spot on the podium in the $290,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America CSIO5* and precious points towards the year-end finale in Barcelona in October.
Maintaining their round one score of 9 faults with three clear rides throughout the second phase, Bluman, Danielle Goldstein, Ilan Ferder and Ashlee Bond of Israel were awarded the reserve position, followed by the United States in third overall with a composite score of 12 faults.
A very young team, none of the riders from Mexico are over the age of 30, but have ridden beyond their years in recent competitions. Though the team lacks experience in comparison to the large number of seasoned veterans that played roles in teams from other nations, Sunday’s victory was preceded by the Mexican squad’s triumph in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Ireland in Dublin in August 2018, where they outperformed the elite field to claim the top spot. Garza Perez and Victer Finn DH Z were key members of the winning team in Dublin and Zendejas Salgado and Tino La Chapelle helped win the 2016 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping in Mexico, but their two other teammates at Deeridge Farms had not yet added a Nations Cup win to their trophy case. With his twin clear rides Sunday, Gonzalez Dufrane made his incredible debut in Nations Cup competition, and Martinez Sommer claimed his first Nations Cup victory.
With all teams beginning with no points, Sunday’s event served as the kick-off to the series and the only qualifier in the United States for the year-end finale. North American challengers will be offered two more chances to earn a spot at Nations Cup competitions in Coapexpan, Mexico, and Langley, Canada, later this spring. With Mexico’s victory, they head into the next jewel of the series on their home turf boasting 100 points towards the flagship competition, trailed by the United States’ 80 points and Canada’s 60 points in the North and Central America and Caribbean League.
The day’s festivities concluded CSIO5* week, the second of three weeks in the 2019 CP Palm Beach Masters Series, with hunter competitors taking center stage next. From Feb. 27–March 3, the Deeridge Derby will bring together the nation’s most elegant show hunters to compete in prestigious classes, highlighted by the $50,000 USHJA International Hunter Derby.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Eugenio Garza Perez
On his second 5* win with Team Mexico:
“It feels good. Coming off of Dublin, we knew that we had a good team. Mexico has great riders and horses. This is a bit different because over there I was the young one and here, I’m still a young one, but at least I don’t feel out of place. These three riders are amazing. They really ride much more than their age. I was really happy to help pull out the win.”
On Victer Finn DH Z:
“My horse, Victer, is the same horse I rode in Dublin. He’s a great horse. He was off a bit last year but he came back great and feels great. He’s an all around great horse.”
On the development of the Mexican show jumping team:
“It all starts with [Stanny Van Paesschen]. He’s really brought a change as well as the team of people behind him. Our federation has been amazing to us. They’ve really pushed the sport to a whole new level. Hopefully this can continue happening and you’ll see Team Mexico at more press conferences.”
On Sunday’s course:
“I thought it was a lovely course. Alan Wade is one of the best course designers in the world. We’re lucky to have him here. It was a really nice course and my horse jumped it great.”
Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado
On Tino La Chapelle:
“I got him when he was 9. I’ve jumped a couple of Nations Cups with him. He was really good in the first round. In the second round, he was a little bit hot but my teammates were amazing and they pulled out the win. I’m really happy.”
On the course:
“It was a very delicate course. You had to be on point. If you had one mistake in one line, it could cost the next fence. It was really good, challenging and big enough.”
Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane
On his double-clear performance on Sunday as the anchor combination:
“It’s amazing. This is my first-ever Nations Cup. I tried to focus and keep calm. Everything went good.”
On Hortensia van de Leeuwerk:
“I know my mare quite well. Today, [my team] gave me some advice on getting her more connected and that made her jump even better.”
On competing on the Nations Cup team in Coapexpan, Mexico:
“I, for sure, will be there in Mexico but it depends on the chef d’equipe. I would love to be on the team.”
Fernando Martinez Sommer
On Cor Bakker:
“I got my horse when he was a late 7-year-old. I’ve been jumping him at the grand prix level for two years. This is my first Nations Cup win. I love him. He has a big heart and is always a fighter. I’m really pleased with him.”
On the course:
“For me, the course was difficult enough. I think it was a careful course. My horse has a really big stride so he was a bit steady on time.”
Stanny Van Paesschen – Team Mexico chef d’equipe
On Team Mexico’s gold medal finish:
“First off, I want to thank my riders and their supporters, and we can’t forget all of the good trainers in Mexico, who have helped this great team of young guys perform so well. Enrique Gonzalez was also a part of the winning team. He was with Manuel in the practice ring because I was watching the riders at the ring and he made it happen with a double-clear round. I think we have a great team.”
On how he determines the team’s order-of-go:
“I always have a little bit of an idea. Eugenio is often number one and I wanted to put him a little further back. He must not always pull the car and I think it was good. Enrique [Gonzalez] was our fifth one but unfortunately his mare had a little bit of a temperature — she’s OK today.”
On the course:
“I think we should always have Alan Wade because he brings us a little luck. We had him in Dublin too so I think we should take him to every Nations Cup.”
For full results, please click here.