Having come so close to victory when runner-up in the Samsung Super League Nations Cup at Hickstead, England, on July 29, the U.S. team traveled the short distance to Dublin, Ireland, with high expectations on Aug. 4-7.
Holding onto second position on the Samsung leaderboard, with 28.5 points, the U.S. team was in a position to overtake Germany, ahead by only 2.5 points. The Germans, winners at Hickstead, were prepared to give everyone another riding lesson, but the British recovered from their slump to jump to victory in Dublin over Germany, with the U.S. team tied for third with Belgium.
A victory at Hickstead had eluded them by only a single point, so the U.S. quartet of Jeffery Welles (Armani), Kimberly Prince (Marlou), Laura Kraut (Miss Independent) and Beezie Madden (Authentic) was deservedly in a positive mood. Even Chef d’Equipe George Morris was optimistic, admitting that the team was strong, despite the loss of McLain Ward, who’d suffered a broken collarbone while falling at Hickstead.
Dublin has always provided tough tracks, and this year would prove no different. But the opposition was relatively weak, and the Americans were hot favorites to take the sixth round of the series.
Course designer Frederic Cottier of France set plenty of questions to be answered in the Nations Cup, and many of those went unanswered.
With Ward out of action, Morris called on reserve rider Welles, 43, with the rest of the squad the same as at Hickstead. Welles, winner of the $17,300 power and speed class on the second day of Dublin, and the striking bay Armani, 10, had the unenviable task as the U.S. pathfinders in the Nations Cup, but they performed impressively, with only one error in the combination at fence 10.
Prince suffered elimination with Marlou after putting in stops at fences 3 and 9, and Kraut faulted twice with Miss Independent, at the 5’2″ vertical at fence 5 and again at the 5’2″ spread at fence 12.
Madden, pathfinder at Hickstead, was last to go at Dublin, and a confident, clear round from Authentic assured her team’s halftime placing of equal third with Belgium and Switzerland.
Zero For Britain
Germany was holding onto second place, with 9 faults, after a single error each from Thomas M?er (Asti Spumante) and Ulrich Kirchhoff (Carino 188) was added to the single time fault supplied by Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst (Diamonds Daylight). René ”ebbel’s 12 faults with Farina was the discard score.
From early in the first round, it had become apparent that the entire 12-fence track was proving difficult for all eight teams, and only Britain managed to outsmart Cottier by returning a zero score at halftime. Clear rounds from leadoff man Nick Skelton (Arko III), William Funnell (Cortaflex Mondriaan) and Michael Whitaker (Portofino 63) had assured the clean sheet, with John Whitaker’s 4 faults from Exploit Du Roulard being the discard.
The Irish team was desperately in need of a good result to move up from last on the Super League leaderboard, but they weren’t in a comfortable position at the halfway point, lying sixth with 16 penalties.
No one fence was to blame for the fact that the 32 riders could only manage seven clear rounds. The first of those clear rounds came from France’s Pierre Jarry (Haxelle Dampierre), whose performance would keep his team out of last place halfway through.
The Netherlands’ Gerco Schroder (Eurocommerce Milano) and Ireland’s Billy Twomey (Anastasia III) were also foot-perfect, but faults still came in abundance from the rest of their teams.
Welles couldn’t repeat his first-round performance with Armani and added 8 faults to the American score. But Prince was superb with the Dutch-bred mare Marlou, 11, and recorded a perfectly clear trip.
Germany began to creep back into contention with a second-round clear from Pollmann-Schweckhorst, but the British side looked tough when Skelton completed the only double-clear of the class with the stallion Arko, 11.
Kraut, the third U.S. rider, picked up 4 faults when Miss Independent couldn’t clear the water. She then added a further 4 faults at fence 12, leaving the pressure on Madden.
By now Britain was barely hanging on, with John Whitaker’s 16 faults used as the discard and Funnell’s 12 faults forced to count. Germany was right behind, with M?er adding 8 faults and Kirchhoff only picking up a single time fault.
With only the last group of riders left to jump, the pressure was tremendous.
Madden made only one mistake with Authentic to leave her team with a total of 24 faults, but Belgium’s Jos Lansink also faulted once with Cavalor Cumano to tie the two teams up.
Tebbel, having provided Germany’s discard score in the first round, was forced to do the same again, as Farina accrued 12 jumping faults and 1 time fault. That left the Hickstead winners with a final score of 18.
Still, another win seemed within Germany’s grasp when Michael Whitaker faulted once at fence 4 with Portofino. But when he only collected a further time fault before passing through the finish line, Britain’s win was sealed with a final penalty score of 17.
A smiling Chef d’Equipe Derek Ricketts stated that he “didn’t have a great depth of horses for team selection.” He did, however, voice his concerns over the close proximity of these two Super League rounds and requested that FEI and Samsung officials take a look at next year’s schedule to avoid the shows running too close together.
With an additional 4.5 points, the U.S. series total of 33 points kept them in third place heading into the second-last round at Aachen (Germany) on Aug. 23-28. But the Germans, with 38 points, will start on their home field with a substantial advantage.
Two For Madden
Madden kicked off the U.S. team’s good start at Dublin on the opening day of the five-day festival by winning the Irish Sports Council Classic, worth $24,700. Riding her ever-reliable Authentic, Madden only had .45 seconds to spare from runner-up Jean-Marc Nicolas of France on JPC Modesto Equifoam.
It was Welles’ turn to enter the winner’s enclosure on the second day with victory in the power and speed, but Madden collected her second winner’s rosette in 48 hours on the third day in The Irish Field Six-Bar.
Clearing a concluding fence measuring 6’6″ in the fourth and final round with the 14-year-old stallion Consul, Madden shared the $9,900 winner’s purse with Skelton on Russel, the same pair that impressively cleared the puissance wall measuring 6’10” to win again the following day.
The Samsung Grand Prix, worth $148,000, with $49,000 to the winner, saw only four clear rounds going forward to the jump-off.
Kraut added 8 faults from the first round on Anthem to finish 17th and best of the American quartet, with the win going to Belgian rider Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe with Osta Rugs Quintus.
Kraut And Welles Secure Big Hickstead Scores
England’s Hickstead CSIO will serve as a happy memory for Jeffery Welles and Laura Kraut, each riding at the venue for the first time and securing the biggest individual wins of the weekend (July 28-31)–the King George V Gold Cup and the Bunn Leisure Queen Elizabeth II Cup.
The U.S. riders had started the show on a roll, with McLain Ward winning the Brighton Speed Stakes aboard Goldika 559 on the second day. He then led an American sweep in the Osborne Refrigerators International Stakes, winning the class with Oasis and being followed in second and third by Kraut (Anthem) and Welles (Armani).
Welles was the reserve rider for the Samsung Super League Nations Cup, but the strong team of Ward (Sapphire), who was joined on the squad by Beezie Madden (Authen-tic), Kimberly Prince (Marlou) and Laura Kraut (Miss Independent) battled Germany to the wire, before falling just 1 fault short of victory. Madden turned in a faultless second round to partially overcome the loss of Ward, who broke his collarbone falling in the first round and didn’t return.
The Americans owned Sunday’s main classes, though, with Kraut making her debut at Hickstead a very successful adventure. Riding the 14-year-old gelding Anthem, the Wisconsin-based rider clinched the $11,000 first prize for the Queen Elizabeth II Cup with the only double-clear of the class.
“I knew the course would suit him,” Kraut said, adding that he was ideal for jump-off classes, while Miss Independent was more suited for Nations Cups. Kraut had been joined in the four-way jump-off by Prince on Couletto K James, who only faulted once with the 9-year-old gelding to gain the runner-up position.
Not since 2001 had the Americans won both major titles at Hickstead, the last victors being Candice King and Norman Dello Joio. But Welles soon completed that feat in the King George V Gold Cup, again with the only double-clear of the class.
Four of the six who made it through to the jump-off had completed first-round clears, but only Welles could continue that good form on Armani to net the $12,000 winner’s purse.
“It’s an honor to be here,” Welles said, “but such an honor to win.”
Hickstead was his biggest win to date with the 10-year-old Armani, whom he picked up three years ago in Belgium from an amateur rider.