Saturday at the Masters tournament is one of the most anticipated days in show jumping because of its feature event, the $350,000 BMO Nations’ Cup. Nations’ Cup competitions are special in show jumping because it is one of those rare times that it becomes a team sport, rather than an individual affair (of course, there is always the horse/rider team, but you know what I mean). For the fans, it is a time to be very patriotic and jump behind your home country, cheering all of the team members on.
Before we consider the excitement of the Nations’ Cup, there was an excellent class in the morning that is certainly worth spending a little time on. Beginning during the worse of the rain, the $125,000 1.50m Suncor Energy Cup drew a very competitive field of 30. In winning round format, the top 8 pairs after the first round were brought back to contest the top placings. Now, this format can be extremely helpful if the course rides very tough and you are in still in the top 8 with a 4 fault round, but that was not the case today. Since the class had such high calibre riders, 9 pairs managed to go clear. Therefore, the slowest clear, in this case being Shane Breen with Touch of Chilli, were left out of the second round (essentially a jump-off). Ouch!
Like I said, after the first round there were 9 clears, but the 8 that moved forward were: Martin Fuchs, Kent Farrington, Ian Millar, Eric Lamaze, Gerco Schroder, Guy Williams, Romain Duguet, and Ben Maher. Quite the lineup!!!
Second to return, Eric Lamaze put down a seriously impressive round with Quelmec De Gery. He immediately opened up his stride, and let that little guy fly. The only gasp worthy moment was when they took very tight turn into the one stride, and after the first element, Quelmec landed in quite the heap. Luckily, he is very athletic, so with a lot of urging for Eric, he rocked back, took an awkward stride, and then launched off the ground and over the oxer. Phew! They crossed the finish in 44.41 seconds, setting the bar very high for the others to chase.
The other Canadian in the group, Ian, was on his Olympic mount, Star Power. Since Star Power is not the quickest horse out there, Ian really had to make the most of the turns and striding. Of course, being Captain Canada, he did. Easily achieving a clear, they stopped the clock at 44.56 seconds – just a hair slower than Eric!
At this point I was getting really exciting thinking that Canada had first and second, but then Kent Farrington rode in on Blue Angel. If Star Power is known to be a slower horse, Blue Angel is known to be a faster one. Okay, who I am kidding, one of the absolute fastest. Both to my delight (I really do love Kent) and horror (come on Canada!), Kent and Blue Angel jumped an incredible clear, stopping the clock at 44.26 seconds.
So Kent first, Eric second, Ian third – that’s a results list that I really like!
I’m really anxious to move onto the excitement of the Nations Cup, so let’s just get started with it. Thankfully, the weather cooperated a little more – it was misty and it rained a bit, but it was not the monsoon that we had in the morning.
Talking about the Nations Cup as we drove to Spruce, Patricia and I decided on our favourites – she went with France, and I went with Germany… would either of us be right? Well, it would be a while before we knew because the class turned into a marathon, but I’ll get to that in a minute.
Opening things up, François Mathy jumped a lovely clear for Team Belgium, proving that the course was very jumpable. Next in, bringing massive cheers from the crowd, was Eric Lamaze with Power Play. Overall, Power Play looked very comfortable with the task at hand, and jumped very well, even in the splashy and somewhat slippery conditions. Unfortunately they would incur 4 faults, but not a bad start for Canada at all. Lauren Hough would also post a nice opening round for the USA, incurring just 4 faults with Quick Study.
One of the real stories of the day was Canada’s Tiffany Foster. If you remember back to last year, she had a very tough Nations Cup. That’s why, along with the fact that she is one of the nicest riders on the circuit, I really really really wanted her to have an awesome day. As Canada’s second rider, she was tenth on the order. How did she do? CLEAR!!!!!! Woohoo, go Tiffany! You made your home crowd very proud of you!
Focusing on the North American riders for a minute, both Mac Cone, Ian Millar, Kirsten Coe, and Beezie Madden would also score a 4, and Lauren Tisbo had an unfortunate 14, but after a little bobble, finished the course very well.
At the end of the first round of competition, this is what the standings looked like:
- France in the lead with 4
- Germany, Canada, Belgium, and Ireland on 8
- Great Britain on 5
- USA and Switzerland on 12
Sadly, since only the top 6 teams advance into the second round, we had to say goodbye to both the USA and Switzerland – they are both incredibly strong nations that just fielded more inexperienced teams/ had a bit of an off day. They both will certainly come back strong another day.
Round two is where things really got interesting.
But, just freeze this train of thought for two seconds for an important technical note:
Because of the ground conditions, the technical delegate did decide to remove the open water from round two and replace it with an oxer immediately to its right. This was cleared with the Chef’s, and was done in the interest of safety. Although the ground was holding up okay, the open water was taking a beating, and it is always better safe than sorry.
For Canada and Ireland, things didn’t quite come together as planned. Both teams did well, but no one was able to produce a clear. Tiffany was having an amazing round until the crowd went wild a little early, causing a slip in concentration that saw that final fence come down. But really, she can still be super proud of her performance, a 0 and a 4 in a tough Nations’ Cup is nothing to be upset about, and she was the best Canadian rider – well done! In the end, Ireland would finish on 21 for 6th place, and Canada would finish on 20 for 5th.
Team Great Britain would fare only slightly better, with just their anchor rider, Michael Whitaker, able to produce a clear in round two. They would finish with 14 faults over the two rounds, putting them in 4th.
At this point you are probably wondering why I said that things got interesting… well, here’s why.
Entering round two in the lead, all France had to do was maintain it, and the title would be theirs. Before I tell you what happened with them, I should mention what they were up against. Germany was perfect– the first three riders went clear so the anchor didn’t even have to jump, leaving them with a two round total of 8. Wow.
So, with France, things were looking good for a while – Kevin Staut had just a rail, Eugenie Angot went clear…. and then disaster struck. After having just a single rail in round one, Marc Dilasser ran into a bunch of trouble with Obiwan de Piliore. I’m not certain if it was the footing or if they just really missed, but they had a crash refusal into the British vertical. Having to stop for the rebuild, this automatically added six seconds to their time + the 4 faults for the refusal. Trying to make up a little time farther into the course, they would have another rail down, finishing with 13 faults. Oh no! With Germany hot on their tail, France’s anchor rider, Penelope Leprevost, had to jump a clear just to force a jump-off.
Having jumped a clear first round, she knew her way around the track, but sometimes things just don’t go as planned…. or they do! Under all that pressure, Penelope created another perfect round with her beautiful mare, Dame Blanche van Arenberg. There was going to be a jump-off! But wait, what happened to Belgium?
Also entering the second round on 8, Belgium needed a perfect score in order to join France and Germany in the jump-off. Having an amazing day, François Mathy did his part and went clear once again. Second in for Belgium, Pieter Devos also answered the call of duty, improving from his 4 in the first round, producing a second clear for his team. Third in was Olivier and Cabrio. Thankfully, Cabrio seems to be settling, but still wastes some time bouncing around. The good news is that they left all the fences up, but the bad news is that the bouncing caused a time fault. Shoot! Therefore, all of the pressure was placed squarely on the shoulders of their anchor rider, Nicola Philippaerts and Vadette VJ Mettenhof. Now, Nicola was not even supposed to be on the Nations’ Cup team, he just took the place of Judy Ann Melchior when she couldn’t compete, so this is a lot to be put on him. All of sudden he went from not being on the team, to having to jump a clear in order to get his team to the jump-off.
Well, with a name like Philippaerts I guess we can expect great things, because he delivered and Belgium was off to the jump-off with France and Germany. Exciting stuff!!!!!
For the jump-off, each Chef d’Equipe had to chose a rider to jump for their team. This would normally be the rider who has had the best day and/or is on the most experienced speed horse. For Belgium, the chosen one was Mr. Double Clear, François Mathy. In the unfortunate lead-off position, François really just had to give it all he had. He rode a truly great round, but Polinska just dropped his toes onto one of the rails, sending it to the ground. Four faults in 39.54 seconds.
Second in, Hans Dieter Dreher more than “made-up” for his 4 faults in round one, going clear in the time of 40.36 seconds.
So then, in the driver’s seat, it was all up to Penelope, who was selected by her Chef d’Equipe to jump-off for France. Each time that Dame Blanche van Arenberg entered the ring, she looked better. Calmer, more focused, and ready to go hard for the win. In the end, although she had the time to beat Germany, a 39.70 seconds, a rail decided that it didn’t want to stay in its cups anymore. Darn!
That means….. although it was a marathon to get there, but Germany is your repeat winner of the BMO Nations’ Cup!!!!!!!
Every single time I watch the German team jump, I can’t get over how good they are, and the depth of horses that they have. They are a true force in show jumping and are a group of riders that can always be looked upon for an example of true classical style. A very well deserved win, although France and Belgium really made them work for it.
Well, that’s it from Nations Cup day at Spruce Meadows! Although it was wet and soggy, we saw an awesome 1.50m class, followed up by a super exciting Nations Cup.
Now we can all look forward to the $1,000,000 CN International Grand Prix, where all of the very best horses and riders will battle it out for the second leg of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping. It is going to be great!
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