Ocala, Florida – Coapexpan, Mexico – The Canadian Show Jumping Team comprised of Jonathon Millar of Perth, ON, Jenn Serek of Calgary, AB, Laura Jane Tidball of Langley, BC, and Keean White of Rockwood, ON, won the $5,690,000 MXN Longines Nations’ Cup held Sunday, April 22, at CSIO5* Coapexpan, Mexico.
The Nations’ Cup in Coapexpan acted as the second of three qualifying events in the North and Central America and Caribbean League for the Longines Nations’ Cup Final to be held in Barcelona, Spain, from October 4 to 7, 2018. Having also won the $450,000 USD Longines Nations’ Cup at CSIO5* Ocala, FL, in February, Canada is now two for two in qualifying competition. Canada sits at the top of the leaderboard with a total of 200 points followed by the United States with 165 points. Mexico trails with 135 points heading into the third and final qualifying event at CSIO5* Langley, BC, at Thunderbird Show Park on June 3. The top two teams in the League at the end of qualifying competition will be invited to Barcelona.
Making her Nations’ Cup debut, Tidball had one rail down at fence six, a red and white vertical, for four faults as Canada’s lead-off rider. Serek, 35, was the next Canadian into the grass arena, incurring eight faults with Wicked, a 10-year-old selle francais gelding (Eurocommerce Berlin x Diamant de Semilly) owned by The Wicked Horse Group Inc. Millar riding Daveau then made easy work of Brazilian course designer Guilherme Jorge’s track, leaving all the jumps in place to put a perfect score of zero on Canada’s score sheet. As the anchor rider, White, 35, riding For Freedom Z, a 13-year-old Zangersheide gelding (For Pleasure x Baloubet du Rouet) owned by Angelstone Partners, had a late rail at the ‘a’ element of the double combination for four faults.
After dropping Serek’s score, Canada was leading with a total of eight faults following the opening round. The United States was carrying nine faults while Mexico was further adrift in third place with 21 faults.
Returning in reverse order of standing, Mexico staged a comeback in round two, posting three clear performances to keep its team total to 21 faults. The United States was buoyed by a double clear effort from its lead-off rider, Alex Granato aboard Carlchen W, but collected a further eight faults to bring its final tally to 17 faults.
Tidball once again incurred four faults, this time at the oxer at fence two with Concetto Son, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Concetto Famos x Drosselklang II) owned by her family’s Thunderbird Show Park Ltd. In the third Nations’ Cup appearance of her career, Serek kept her score to four faults the second time out, dropping a rail at the triple bar at fence 10. Millar and Daveau then posted another textbook clear, meaning that Canada could do no worse than 16 faults. With a Canadian victory already sewn up, White did not have to return for the second round.
“Even with only three teams, it was dramatic competition that played out in our favour,” said Millar, 44, who was riding Daveau, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Zento x Glennridge) owned by Millar Brooke Farm of Perth, ON. “A time fault ended up being the difference between first and second. The jumps were big, and our horses all jumped great. Everyone stepped up and did a great job.”
Millar, who purchased Daveau as a six-year-old from Stal Hendrix in The Netherlands, noted, “He’s a fun horse to ride because he goes in the ring and knows his job, and he’s jumped a lot of clear rounds. I have only done one other Nations’ Cup with him, which was last month in Wellington, FL, where he jumped with one time fault. He’s jumped four out of four clear rounds here in Mexico; we were second in the 1.45m on Thursday, finished 12th in the 1.50m on Friday, and then were double clear today. He looks easy-going, but he has a little fire to him. He is very smart and wants to jump clean. He is always fighting to accomplish his job and that gives you a lot of confidence going in the ring. It’s a wonderful feeling.
“Horses are so important to us as riders as they make up half the partnership,” continued Millar, who was competing against his wife, Kelly Soleau-Millar, as she made her Nations’ Cup debut as a member of the United States Equestrian Team. “He’s just starting his international career, this is the first show he’s gone to on a plane, and he handled it like an old pro. I couldn’t be prouder of his results and how well he is stepping up and doing his job.”
As the only two riders in the competition to jump double clear, Millar and Granato split a €50,000 bonus on offer at each Longines Nations’ Cup event. Interestingly, Millar’s father, ten-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar, also jumped double clear riding Dixson out of the third position for Team Canada in the Nations’ Cup of Ocala. There, the senior Millar split the bonus money with his own teammate, Eric Lamaze, who posted the only other double clear riding Coco Bongo to seal Canada’s victory.
“What Longines does for show jumping, and with regards to bringing it all together in Barcelona at the end of the season, is great for the global aspect of the sport,” acknowledged Jonathon Millar. “To also recognize individuals for their accomplishments by offering the bonus is great; Longines rewards all aspects of the competition. I would also like to give special thanks to Antonio Chedraui and the competition organizers here in Mexico; they really go the extra mile to make you feel welcome, the facilities are fantastic, and they do a top-notch job.”
For chef d’equipe Mark Laskin of Langley, BC, there is no better feeling than leading his team to victory for the second time in a row in the North and Central America and Caribbean League.
“I’m thrilled with our result,” said Laskin, who was supported at CSIO5* Coapexpan by Equestrian Canada’s Manager of Jumping, Karen Hendry-Ouellette. “Our philosophy coming to Xalapa is always to balance development with results. I think we got the mix just right this week. It was a great group with great synergy. I don’t want to get ahead of myself but with the back-to-back wins in Ocala and Mexico, I think we’ve punched our ticket to the Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona.”
The Canadian Show Jumping Team will have home soil advantage in the third and final qualifying event at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC. The $400,000 Nations’ Cup will be the highlight of the CSIO5* Odlum Brown BC Open tournament on Sunday afternoon, June 3.
image: Jonathon Millar of Perth, ON, delivered double clear rounds for Canada riding Daveau for owner Millar Brooke Farm. Photo by Anwar Esquivel