USA takes out Florida Nations Cup leg at at CSIO4* Wellington’s Nations Cup

28 February -  The USA scored a home-side victory in the $100,000 Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida, on Friday night, with Canada and Ireland joining them on the podium.

Nine teams started the two round competition at the Palm Beach Equestrian Centre, with the top six returning for the second round in order of highest to lowest total faults. The winner was determined by the lowest total of each team’s top three riders from each round.

The US team of Todd Minikus (Babalou 41), Candice King (Kismet 50), Margie Engle (Royce) and McLain Ward (HH Carlos Z), led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland, had a perfect score of zero in round one and finished on eight faults in round two.

Ridland said afterwards that winning in Florida was one of the team’s biggest priorities.

At the end of the first round, Canada was sitting third with a total of eight faults, but moved up to second, finishing on 12 faults. Tiffany Foster and Tripple X III led off with a clear round and dropped one rail in round two. Jonathon Millar and Calvin Klein had four faults in each round. Eric Lamaze and Coco Bongo had a rail in round one, but came back clear in the second round. Ian Millar and Dixson dropped two rails in their first trip around the course, but returned with a clear in round two. They were led by Chef d’Equipe Mark Laskin.

It was Coco Bongo’s Nations’ Cup debut with Eric Lamaze, and while the pair surprisingly faulted at the open water in the first round, they would make no such mistake in round two, posting a perfect score of zero.  A 10-year-old Rheinlander stallion (Caretino x Calido), Coco Bongo is now the 10th horse owned by Andy and Carlene Ziegler’s Artisan Farms LLC to represent Canada in Nations’ Cup competition.

Making his 127th Nations’ Cup appearance, Ian Millar was riding in the anchor position for Team Canada. Dixson and Millar posted the drop score of eight faults in the first round.  In the second round, Millar needed to jump clear to keep Canada ahead of the Irish.  Thriving off the pressure, the 10-time Olympian delivered a perfect performance, reminding the audience why he is considered a legend in the sport.

While Canada was able to post a two-round final score of 12 faults, the United States simply could not be caught.  With only eight faults picked up in the second round, it was enough for a US win without Ward having to jump.

With six wins apiece, Canada and the United States are now tied for the most wins in the Wellington Nations’ Cup since its inception in 2002.

The Irish team of Darragh Kenny, Shane Sweetnam, Cian O’Connor and Kevin Babington pulled up from equal fifth at the end of the first round to finish third overall.

Fifth to jump of nine nations competing, an uncharacteristic four faults from opener Darragh Kenny and Imothep failed to match first round clears from the home team’s Todd Minikus and Canada’s Tiffany Foster, and when Irish number two Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z collected eight faults, Irish confidence started to waver.

Cian O’Connor then posted four faults with Quidam’s Cherie, while anchorman Kevin Babington and Shorapur also collected four penalties.

However, though lying equal fifth at the break on 12 faults, the Irish fought back with two classic clear rounds from Sweetnam and O’Connor, leaving a final total of 16 penalty points after Kenny had the drop score of eight faults and Babington again collected four. This was enough to slot into third place.

Ireland has had one Nations Cup win and one Nations Cup third place in the USA in February, having taken victory earlier in February at Ocala, also in Florida. Neither competition, however, was part of the 2015 top Furusiyya League, so Ireland did not collect league points. Team manager Robert Splaine, however, was at both shows to assess the capabilities of US-based riders and horses that may form part of Ireland’s European squads for the important Furusiyya contests later this year.

The remaining teams were Venezuela in fourth place with 20 faults total, Mexico in fifth with 28 faults overall, and France in sixth with a 30-point total. Brazil, Argentina and Colombia failed to be among the top six countries that qualified for the second round.

Along with Minikus, only two other riders were able to clear the course without fault in both rounds.

Sofia Larrea was faultless for Mexico riding Monica Burillo’s Jumex Sport Archimides. Venezuela’s Pablo Barrios was the only other rider to clear both rounds with ZL Group, Inc.’s Zara Leandra.

image : Eric Lamaze (Canada) and Nations Cup debutante Coco Bongo.