Ireland has won the five-star Spruce Meadows Nations’ Cup competition for the second year running at the famous Canadian venue.
Though not a point-scoring outing for Ireland in the Furusiyya series, the team of Shane Sweetnam (Eregast vant Klezelhof), Richie Moloney (Slieveanorra), Darragh Kenny (San Souci Z) and Conor Swail (Lansdowne) nevertheless trounced six other competing teams from the US, Canada and Mexico by coming home at the end of two rounds with just three faults on the board.
Ireland’s penalties were made up entirely of time faults, with Swail and Lansdowne incurring an uncharacteristic eight faults in the first round as the discard score.
Clear rounds came from the other three riders.
“This is very special for us,” said Irish show jumping manager Robert Splaine. “This is a great team of riders. I think it was tougher than last year. I think if you jump good here, you can jump wherever you want.”
Swail was also a member of last year’s winning Irish side, and he said “it’s a slightly different team this year, we have a few new guys in and I have to say the three guys on my left were outstanding. The Americans were pressing us very hard, but you know we just kept pulling out the clear rounds so it was a fantastic achievement for all of us”.
They were chased all the way by the USA Stars who eventually lined up second ahead of their American colleagues from the USA Stripes team in third. It was a disappointing night from a Canadian perspective as their crack side, reduced to just three team members when anchorman Eric Lamaze withdrew Zigali PS, had to settle for fourth place ahead of the only other finishers, the Canada Two selection.
“I am disappointed, frankly,” said Canadian show jumping team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin. “Every time we come out, I believe we can win. When we don’t get the results, I am disappointed.”
The silver lining for Team Canada is the opportunity for redemption in the €2,000,000 Furusiyya Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain.
“Ultimately, that’s the whole purpose of this exercise,” Laskin said. “It was a great feeling to come into this knowing that we were already guaranteed a spot in Barcelona. I’m looking forward to going back. Last year was a tremendous experience; it was a real championship atmosphere. I think all of us are excited to have the chance to improve on the sixth place performance that we achieved there last year.”
After mounting up in the warm-up ring, anchor rider Lamaze, 45, felt that Zigali P S, was not sound and required further assessment.
Laskin spoke to losing his anchor rider, noting, “Zigali took a few bad steps in the schooling area, and it’s too good of a horse to risk. Our scores were not so competitive early on, and it just seemed like we were out of the game before we could even get started.”
Charlie Jayne, for the USA Stars side, posted the only double-clear of the entire competition on Chill RZ. He said he was “a little surprised” at that, but noted that time did play a factor in the class. “Riders took more chances than they would,” he said. “I rode it more like a speed round (in) the first round.”
A total of seven teams competed, with the Mexico Mayas sidelined when lying last after the first round and the points-seeking Mexico Aztecas making the cut into the second round but not posting a team score this time out when Santiago Lambre decided not to jump following the elimination of Sofia Larrea.
Friday night’s competition was the last round of the three-leg Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2014 North America, Central America and Caribbean League, and while the Irish were justifiably buoyant in the aftermath, the USA and Canada also had every reason to be pleased when sealing their places among the 18 nations that will line up at the final in Barcelona, Spain in October.
The iconic fences at the Canadian fixture include the Mount Rushmore Wall which was first seen at the Atlanta Olympic Games in 1996 and which, this year, was the third on the 12-fence track.
• Darragh Kenny continued his winning streak in taking out the $40,000 AltaGas Cup 1.45m, which had 91 starters. Only 11 combinations made it through to the jump-off, with Kenny and Prof de la Roque (Kannan x Damiro), an 11-year-old Selle Francais gelding blistering through the final three jumps to win in 34.42 seconds.
In second was Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 on 35.30, with Columbia’s Daniel Bluman third on Believe, in 36.72.
Nations Cup result:
1. Ireland 3 faults: Eregast vant Klezelhof (Shane Sweetnam)1/0, Slieveanorra (Richie Moloney) 1/0, San Souci Z (Darragh Kenny) 0/1, Lansdowne (Conor Swail) 8/DNS.
2. USA Stars 8 faults: Chill RZ (Charlie Jayne) 0/0, Ambler Gambler (Kent Farrington) 5/0, HH Cannavaro (McLain Ward) 0/4, Flexible (R Fellers) 4/DNS.
3. USA Stripes 17 faults: Tic Tac (Leslie Howard) 1/8, Flaming Star (Charlie Jacobs) 4/4, Baronez (Kirsten Coe) 4/4, Special Lux (Jonathan McCrea) 4/0.
4. Canada One, 22 faults: Verdi lll (Tiffany Foster) 4/5, Showgirl (Yann Candele) 5/0, Dixson (Ian Millar) 8/0, Zigali PS (Eric Lamaze) DNS/DNS.
5. Canada Two, 29 faults: Bobby (Christian Sorensen) 4/4, Pironella (Keean White) 13/DNS, Alberto ll (Kara Chad) 5/5, Calvin Klein (Jonathon Millar) 9/2.
6. Mexico Aztecas Elim in second round: Colasko (Nicolas Pizarro Suaez) 9/6, Jumex Sport Archimedes (Sofia Larrea) 9/Elim, Pekin St Denis (Claudia Lorenza O’Farrill) 9/5, Skovlundegaards Cassius (Santiago Lambre) 5/DNS.
7. Mexico Mayas 28 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Quin Chin (Juan Carlos Franco) 9, Cartier (Salvador Onate) 10, Caressini (Luis Alejandro Placensia) 10, Aristotelis (Antonia Chedraui) 9.
Reporting: Louise Parkes, Colin McLelland, Spruce Meadows