Great Britain won the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ at the Brook Ledge Great Meadow International, presented by Adequan® (GMI). The British had a sizeable lead following show jumping on Saturday, however Sunday’s challenging cross country course left the title in question until the last rider crossed the finish line. In the end, Canada placed second and the United States came in third.
Individually, Olympian Will Coleman of Gordonsville, Va., finished first on Off the Record, owned by the Off the Record Syndicate, with a score of 35.1. Second place went to Georgie Spence of Great Britain on Halltown Harley (35.2) and Canada’s Jessica Phoenix was third riding Pavarotti, owned by Don Good (36.7). The race for the individual title was fierce as only one tenth of a point separated the top two.
“I’d be lying if I didn’t say that I wasn’t paying a little bit of attention to the scores,” said Coleman. “I’m very pleased and I’m very happy for the owners. He kind of answered the bell. He was a little green here in the arena, but besides that he was pretty honest everywhere.”
The large crowd appreciated the world-class competition at the only North American leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing competition outside Europe. No one appreciated it more than British Chef d’Equipe Philip Surl. In the past they have not fared as well, but Surl believed the previous experiences at GMI proved valuable this time around.
“I think coming over the third time has helped. We were familiar with the layout,” said Surl. “We’re just incredibly grateful to be here and give our horses and riders the opportunity to ride at this level at a competition of this magnitude. We’ve had a couple of more challenging years and today was a rollercoaster. It just shows you that in a team competition anything can happen until the very end.”
Initially, the day looked to be as pleasant as the weather for the riders, with the pathfinders easily negotiating the course designed by Mike Etherington-Smith. First to go was Waylon Roberts (CAN) who jumped clear on Kelecyn Cognac adding 6.4 time faults for a final tally of 51.9 points. Georgie Spence (GBR) and Halltown Harley had the first of only five double clears of the day. Phillip Dutton (USA) jumped clear on Sportsfield Candy only adding 1.6 time faults to his score for a total of 39.6 points.
“I think the course has been amazing here. I’m lucky that I went early. I trust my horse 100 percent, he’s been good to me. I think sometimes you can overanalyze how you should jump it, so going early could be a benefit,” said Spence. “It’s been fantastic and it’s worked out well for us.”
The second rotation did not work out as well. All three nations had problems at the obstacle located in the Fleming Arena. The Beverly Equestrian Brush Corners, fences 9AB, caused problems for several horse-and-rider combinations throughout the day. Shelby Brost (CAN) was eliminated due to three refusals on Crimson. Sophie Brown (GBR) and Wil had a refusal adding 20 penalty points to score 64.8. Caroline Martin (USA) on Spring Easy also had a refusal for the additional 20 penalty points for a final score of 67.4.
The third rotation was a turning point. Jessica Phoenix helped Canada improve their position going double clear on Bogue Sound for a final score of 50.9. Overnight leader Ben Hobday (GBR) and Shadow Man had a stop at bogey fence 9A for 20 penalty points, scoring 56.9. Sydney Elliott and Cisko A moved the U.S. team up, going double clear, with a final score of 50.5 points and placing the title in question.
“I’m super excited about going double clear,” said Elliott. “I have probably one of the best cross country horses in the field, so I felt pretty confident going into today. My horse loves cross country and loved the course today, so I really enjoyed the moment. It was wonderful.”
The anchor riders had a herculean task ahead of them and the pressure was palpable. Canada’s Lisa Marie Fergusson went double clear on Honor Me, scoring 45.9 and a final team score of 148.7. Leslie Law (GBR) jumped clear with time faults on Voltaire De Tre, for a final score of 46.4 and an overall British team score of 138.5. The U.S. hopes were high as Buck Davidson left the start box. A clear round on Park Trader would secure a win for the U.S. However the pair had a refusal at fence 9A, which gave the U.S. team a final score of 157.5 points and Great Britain the victory.