Canada clinched their second victory in a row in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 series after a thrilling head-to-head with the U.S. at Coapexpan, Mexico. Just four teams lined out in the second of the three qualifiers in the North America, Central America and Caribbean League, and the Canadians won through in a two-way jump-off against the clock against their old rivals. Having also topped the opening leg in Wellington, Florida (US..) in March the Canadians are now in a very strong position going into the third and final qualifer on home turf at Spruce Meadows in Calgary (CAN), next month.
The competition came down to a real clash of champions, America’s Beezie Madden pitted against the legendary Ian Millar who has long been known as Captain Canada. And, going last in the third and final round, ten-time Olympian, Millar, opted for a careful clear after Madden faulted. Millar is as super-cool as he has ever been, and at 67 years of age is almost 50 years older than the other Canadian team member who helped seal the victory with a double-clear performance. For 18-year-old Kara Chad it was a career-defining day as she stepped up to senior Nations Cup level for the very first time, and did it in style.
The winning Canadian side also included Ian Millar’s son, Jonathon, while Chris Sorensen was pathfinder for the side.
The Mexico 1 team finished third ahead of Mexico 2 in fourth place.
French course designer, Frederic Cottier, set them a test that Chad described as “big and technical enough”, and only four went clear in the first round. However two of those four fault-free efforts were registered by the Canadian side who would go on to victory.
The U.S. and Canada were tied on five faults each at the half-way stage, the Americans assisted by a foot-perfect run from second-line rider Sarah Segal who would make no mistake all day with her 13-year-old horse Ramses.
Cottier’s course started out over a multi-coloured oxer which was followed by a vertical at fence 2 and an oxer at three. The white vertical at fence four led on to an oxer at five and then the triple combination – vertical, oxer, vertical with just one stride between each element – at six. There was a wide blue oxer at 7 before riders turns right-handed to the open water and then on to the double at fence 9 with its big opening oxer followed by a vertical.
The final snaking line began with an oxer at 10 followed by a vertical at 11 and another big oxer at 12.
As the second round progressed the Mexico 2 team, lying last on 16 faults, made a dramatic improvement when collecting just eight faults this time out. Juan Carlos Franco Hernandez made it all the way to the very last fence with Quin Chin, who had been clear at his first attempt, before putting that on the floor while Luis Alejandro Plascencia reduced his scoreline from eight in the first round to just four at the oxer at fence 10, with Caressini L second time out. The most impressive second-round run on this team however came from anchorman Hector Caro who steered his lovely chestnut, Siterma, to a great clear with a bold, brave ride. Their final team score of 24 however would ensure Mexico 2 would finish last of the four nations.
Mexico 1 were giving the Americans and Canadians a real run for their money when lying just a single fault behind them at the halfway stage. Sofia Larrea (Jumex Sport Archimdes) and Manuel Rodriguez (Wick) had collected just a single first-round time-fault each while pathfinder Lorenza O’Farrill (Pekin St Denis) had one fence down which allowed them to drop the 19 collected by anchorman Jaime Azcarraga (Anton).
But the value of Nations Cup team competition as a learning curve was fully in evidence when it was Azcarrage who produced the best second-round result, making a great recovery to post just a single time fault after an excellent effort which, with five from O’Farrill and four from Larrea, allowed them to drop the nine posted by Rodriguez at his second attempt. Their finishing score of 16 however would ensure they were well out of contention with the leading sides who, after round, two were still tied on five faults each.
The real battle was played out between two sides who each relish victory in an age-old battle for supremacy. It is this kind of national pride, and determination to be the dominant force every time they come face-to-face, that is at the heart of the sport of Nations Cup Jumping, and today the Americans and Canadians gave it everything they had.
Irish-born Jonathan McCrea improved from a first-round four faults to jump a fabulous clear to get the Americans off to the perfect start in round two and that was followed by the second of two quality clears from Sarah Segal and Ramses. Christine Tribble McCrea and Zerly landed on the back bar of the big blue oxer at fence seven and also hit the first element of the double at nine for eight faults, but Beezie Madden and Coral Reef Via Volo followed their single first-round error with a foot-perfect second round to ensure the US side had nothing to add to the five faults they posted in round one.
The Canadians looked a little vulnerable when Sorensen and Bobby hit the oxer at fence five, but when Jonathon Millar and Calvin Klein improved from a five-fault first-round effort to leave the entire course intact and then Chad followed with a second sensational clear with Alberto ll it was up to Ian Millar to keep them in the game, which he did despite a very lucky moment at the second element of the double at nine.
The stage was now set for a two-way showdown, and you could hear a pin drop as Madden returned to the ring for the jump-off.
The new course was twisting, and it was clear from the outset that the turnback to the tricky double at fence nine would prove crucial, and so it was, Madden’s 16-year-old Coral Reef Via Volo clipping this one for four faults in 33.40 seconds.
It was no surprise when the Canadians sent Ian Millar back into the ring, and with the door now open, he had to decide whether to go for a slow clear or to attempt to beat his rival’s time. He joked afterwards, “you don’t often have this type of situation when competing in a Nations Cup but Beezie did a really nice thing for our team and we’re really delighted with the result!”. His decision to take it slowly paid dividends as he left all the poles in place to cross the line in 41.96 and seal the victory.
Millar was hugely impressed by Kara Chad’s performance. “We’re so lucky to have a great team with members such as Kara Chad who’s just turned 18 and participating in a Nations Cup for the first time, producing a double clear, this is amazing!” he said.
Chad certainly was an eye-catcher today, and looks set for a very big future.
From Calgary, she competed on Canadian Young Rider teams in Austria and Belgium in 2012 when she also made her international competition debut at nearby Spruce Meadows . “I started in jumpers five years ago and have jumped every season since then at Spruce Meadows” she explained this evening.
Talking about her 11-year-old horse who she calls Albert she said, “I got him from Nick Skelton in the winter three years ago, we bought him as an 8-year-old and he has done everything for me. He has been my main horse for two-and-a-half years now and I have grown to his level. He’s the sweetest horse, although he has quite an attitude, but that’s what makes him what he is! He has a lot of confidence and a huge heart!” she pointed out.
She has trained with Susie Schroer and Dick Carvin, and in 2013 with Britain’s Ben Maher. “I graduated from High School in 2013 and took a year off to go riding. I’m mostly focused on riding now because I wan to go to the next level and my parents are happy with that. This is my first senior Nations Cup and it’s been an incredible experience, a dream come true – the whole team are just amazing, they are all experienced riders. It’s been a bit intimidating and there have been big expectations but they couldn’t have been more welcoming to me. Ian is like the father of the team!” she said.
This talented young lady has already set out her plans for the coming months. “It’s going to be quiet for the rest of May while the horses take a rest and then we go to Spruce Meadows for the summer series. After that I’m hoping to get on more Nations Cup teams, but we will have to see how that works out….”
The thrilling competition was all the more remarkable for the fact that it might not have happened at all following an earthquake yesterday that was quickly followed by hurricane-force winds and rain, ripping the roof off parts of the stadium and corporate hospitality areas, and drenching the arena.
A crew of 200 worked overnight to repair the damage however, and such is the quality of the arena surface that it was foot-perfect by mid-day local time today.
Course designer, Frederic Cottier, complimented the show organisers for their epic work in restoring the facility so quickly. “This ground is amazing, especially after the torrential rains from yesterday, this is really a top class ground and most of the shows in Europe would probably have had to cancel their show after yesterday’s conditions. But thanks to a very dedicated organising team and to a great terrain, it was all made possible” he said.
The North America, Central America and Caribbean League series now moves on to one final clash in Calgary in five weeks time and that promises to be another thriller as just 20 points separate the leading Canadians from the USA in second place while Mexico lies just 20 points further adrift.
1. Canada 5/0 0/41.96 in third-round jump-off : Bobby (Chris Sorensen) 5/4, Calvin Klein (Jonathon Millar) 5/4, Alberto ll (Kara Chad) 0/0, Star Power (Ian Millar) 0/0/ 0/41.96.
2. USA 5/0/ 4/33.40 in third-round jump-off : Special Lux (Jonathan McCrea) 4/0, Ramses (Sarah Segal) 0/0, Zerly (Christine Tribble McCrea) 1/8, coral Reef Via Volo (Beezie Madden) 4/0 4/33.40.
3. Mexico 1 : Pekin St Denis (Lorenza O’Farrill) 4/5, Jumex Sport Archimdes (Sofia Larrea) 1/4, Wick (Manuel Rodriguez) 1/9, Anton (Jaime Axcarraga) 19/1.
4. Mexico 2 : Candela (Patricio Pasquel) 9/25, Quin Chin (Juan Carlos Franco Hernandez) 0/4, Caressini L (Luis Alejandro Plascencia) 8/4, Siterma (Hector Caro) 8/0.
Full result here