Samantha McIntosh (42) clinched victory for New Zealand in the nail-biting Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of United Arab Emirates staged in Abu Dhabi. This first leg of the new 13-round worldwide series went right down to the wire, the Kiwi rider settling the result in a jump-off against Ireland’s Shane Breen when the two countries were tied on 12 faults after the first two rounds. Italy lined up third, and when the host nation and Saudi Arabia shared fourth spot along with Switzerland, the two Middle East countries earned qualifying spots for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2018 Final in Barcelona (ESP) next October.
McIntosh said afterwards that the victory was totally unexpected. And along with her team-mates she wondered if they had just made history as the first-ever winning Jumping Nations Cup side for their country. “It’s ridiculous, it was like watching a movie, honestly I never thought we could do it,” she said.
Team pathfinder Daniel Meech (44) is a double-Olympian, but second-line rider Richard Gardner (47) is relatively unknown. “He doesn’t have a lot of experience and nor does his horse but they have been together since Calisto was young and they know each other inside out. He believed in his horse and he was very grateful to get the chance to show what they could do”, McIntosh explained. “And as for Bruce Goodin (48), he’s the rock of our team. He borrowed this horse (Backatorps Danny V) and was riding it for the very first time at this show. He’s just amazing!” said the French-based rider.
New Zealand, Saudi Arabia, Ireland and Italy all shared the lead at the halfway stage with just four faults on the board, but although the Saudi team lost their grip it seemed Italy would also go into the jump-off if anchorman, Natale Chiaudani, could leave the poles all in place in the second round. However two mistakes from the 19-year-old Almero put paid to that and it was McIntosh who was selected to take on Breen in the third-round race against the clock.
She had already been fault-free with her 15-year-old stallion Check In, so was guaranteed a half-share of the €50,000 bonus on offer for double-clear rounds along with Ireland’s David Simpson (Keoki). She threw down a jump-off target in 40.16 seconds and when Breen’s horse, Laith, hit the third fence this time out, eventually collecting 17 faults in total, it was all over.
The second leg of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2018 series will take place in Ocala (USA) tomorrow (18 February) where teams from the North/Central America and Caribbean League will battle it out in the first of three qualifiers in their region.
Full results here.