The Canadian Show Jumping Team, comprised of Yann Candele, Tiffany Foster, Eric Lamaze, and Chris Pratt, was the only country to produce a faultless effort in the opening round of the Longines FEI Nations’ Cup Final held Thursday, September 28, in Barcelona, Spain.
From the 15 countries contesting the fifth annual FEI Nations’ Cup Final, only Canada produced a perfect score of zero over the track set by course designer Santiago Varela of Spain. The top eight countries following Thursday’s opening round move forward to Saturday night’s €1,250,000 Final, while the other seven countries that failed to make the cut will compete for the Longines Challenge Cup on Friday night. Joining Canada in Saturday night’s Final, where all teams will start on a score of zero, are France, Germany, The Netherlands, and the United States who all posted scores of four faults in Thursday’s competition, and Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland who had scores of eight faults apiece. The newly-crowned European Champion, Ireland, also posted eight faults in the first round of competition but, as the team with the slowest combined time, failed to qualify for Saturday’s Final.
As Canada’s lead-off rider, Candele, 46, of Caledon, ON, not only had the pressure of riding first for his country; he was also riding Theodore Manciais, recently purchased by Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stable and Ken and Emily Smith’s Ashland Farms, for the first time in competition. Renowned for his catch riding capabilities, Candele produced a masterful clear with the ten-year-old selle francais gelding (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Power Light) to get Canada off to a strong start.
His 2016 Rio Olympic teammate, Foster, 33, of North Vancouver, BC, followed suit with her veteran partner, Tripple X III, owned by Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable. Foster and the 15-year-old Anglo European stallion (Namelus R x Cantango) used their major games experience to deliver for Team Canada, adding nothing to the scorecard.
Riding third in the rotation, Pratt, 48, currently based in Valencia, California, had rails down at the oxers at fence three as well as the penultimate fence for eight faults riding Concorde, a ten-year-old chestnut Dutch Warmblood gelding (Vaillant x Concorde) owned by The Epic Group LLC. Pratt and Concorde were also members of Canada’s fourth-placed Nations’ Cup team in Gijon, Spain, four weeks ago where they delivered scores of zero and four.
With the luxury of competing last among the 15 countries battling for supremacy, the Canadian team knew exactly what it had to do to qualify for Saturday’s Final by the time Lamaze entered the stadium. A score of zero or four faults would see it through to the Final, while an eight-fault effort would require a fast time to make the cut. Never one to shy away from pressure, Lamaze, 49, realized the best-case scenario by jumping clear with Coco Bongo, a 12-year-old Rheinlander gelding (Caretino x Calido) owned by Andy and Carlene Ziegler’s Artisan Farms and his own Torrey Pines Stable.
With three fault-free performances to its credit, Canada finished the first round at the top of the leaderboard. Originally tied with France, a subsequent appeal led to the disqualification of Roger-Yves Bost and Sydney Une Prince, leaving the Olympic Champions with four faults.
“It was pretty exciting!” said Canadian Show Jumping Team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin of Langley, BC. “You come here and take it one step at a time, but the goal was to get through to the Final on Saturday, and it’s exciting that we accomplished that.
“It was incredible that Yann did what he did, considering it was the first course he had ever jumped the horse over. And it was not in some back ring in Wellington, it was in the Nations’ Cup Final!” continued Laskin of his team’s performance. “His clear round really sparked us; it gave us momentum and we knew we were in the game! It is a testament to the quality of competition here that even with two clear rounds to our credit, Eric still had to produce to get us through to the Final. He knew all the scenarios of what had to happen, and the strategy was to give us the clear. He rode masterfully, as usual, and came through for us as he has done so many times in the past. There is no one I would rather have in that position than Eric.”
Following a day of rest, Canada will return to the Real Club de Polo de Barcelona on Saturday for the €1,250,000 Final, beginning at 9 p.m. locally. In addition to fighting for team supremacy, Candele, Foster and Lamaze are all in the running for the €100,000 bonus split between all riders who jump double clear. To date, Lamaze has been the only Canadian athlete to accomplish the feat, doing so in the 2013 FEI Nations’ Cup Final when jumped double clear with Powerplay and shared the €100,000 bonus with Scott Brash of Great Britain.
Catch all of the action from the Longines FEI Nations’ Cup Final on FEI TV. For more information, including full results, visit www.csiobarcelona.com.