“Canada’s been on a bit of a roll! First it was curling, and then women’s bobsled… Then it was hockey—two games! And now it’s show jumping!” Mark Laskin, the Canadian chef d’equipe quipped after his team’s winning efforts in the $75,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup.
Nations cup show jumping in Florida might not be a “winter sport” per se, but just as the Canadians did in the Winter Olympics a few weeks ago, they came and conquered at the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival. The British team came in second, with the U.S. team picking up third.
The Canadian team started strong, finishing Round 1 with 0 faults after Yann Candele, Ian Millar and Eric Lamaze jumped clean and they were able to drop Tiffany Foster’s 4 faults. Then in Round 2, Candele jumped clean again. When the other teams couldn’t put clean rounds on the board, Foster and Millar’s scores of 4 faults each would be good enough to cement the win, so Lamaze didn’t jump again.
“We have four fantastic riders with four fantastic horses, and they did an incredible job tonight. Somehow they always come together to get the job done,” Laskin said. This was the sixth time in the 13-year history of the Nations Cup in Wellington that the Maple Leaf riders have earned the gold.
The U.S. team was in the hunt for a win after Round 1. They went into Round 2 in second place to Canada on 4 faults after McLain Ward on Rothchild and Laura Kraut on Cedric jumped clean and Brianne Goutal on Nice de Prissey and Beezie Madden on Simon had just a rail each. But Round 2 wasn’t as kind.
Ward led off the U.S. effort in the second round with 8 faults on Rothchild, then Goutal duplicated her 4-fault score with a rail at a vertical. Cedric jumped enthusiastically for Kraut, but dipped a toe in the water jump for 4 faults. By the time Madden guided Simon to a clean round as the anchor, the win was already out of their reach.
“We felt that we were in it until the very end!” said U.S. chef d’equipe Robert Ridland. “It was just a rail here and a rub there. Brianne of course was our young rider; she got a tremendous amount of experience tonight under big pressure. This to me is now maturing into a real Nations Cup. You’re seeing real pressure out here—this is a Nations Cup we can be very proud of in the country, and it’s only going to get better. But that was a tough competition, 12 countries.”
The U.S. and Canada both fielded teams full of veteran talent—both equine and human. But the British team took the chance to get some younger horses mileage and it paid off with second place. Ben Maher left Urico and Cella in the barn and chose Diva to jump in the Nations Cup; they had 4 faults in each round. Scott Brash chose to ride Hello Annie, 10, instead of Hello Sanctos or Ursula XII, and had 9 faults in Round 1 but a clean go in Round 2. Tim Gredley led the way for Great Britain with his veteran Unex Chamberlain Z, turning in one of the three double-clear performances of the night. Gemma Paternoster rounded out the British effort with scores of 1 and 9 faults on the 18-year-old Osiris.
Candele turned in one of only three double-clear performance on the night aboard Showgirl. Candele is a native of France, but came to Canada in 1999 to work for Eric Lamaze. In 2007 he went out on his own with a training business and in 2008, he became a Canadian citizen. He helped Canada win WEF Nations Cups in 2009 and 2010 and also jumped for them at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. Last year, he lost his top mounts when owner Sue Grange sent her horses to Irish rider Conor Swail. After the Canadian team finished sixth in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, the horse Jonathan Asselin had ridden on that team came up for sale—Showgirl. Lamaze hatched a plan.
“Eric was thinking already about WEG,” Candele said. “He looked at that mare and approached the owner to be able to acquire it for me, because Eric is not selfish and he’s all about the team. He put a group together of Canadian and American owners to be able to have that mare compete for Canada under me."
Showgirl and Candele showed together for the first time in November at the Royal Winter Fair (Toronto) and have been getting to know each other during the first few weeks of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival.
“I think all the success of today is all about Eric and his team spirit, and well as Captain [Ian Millar] and Tiffany, we are solid as it can be. We’re going to try to keep going for bigger and bigger events!” Candele continued.
Laskin definitely has the Alltech FEI WEG in Normandy, France in August and September in his sights, and he’ll use this Nations Cup performance in his choices, but he acknowledged that there’s a lot of jumping yet to be done. “These four would be our front runners for the present moment,” Laskin said. “We have to get through a very difficult summer series at Spruce Meadows, and we’ll make our final selections through those final competitions.”
Check back tomorrow for coverage of the Hollow Creek Farm Children’s/Junior/Young Rider Nations Cups and the $150,000 CSIO Grand Prix.
Read more in-depth coverage of the $75,000 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup in the March 17 issue of The Chronicle of the Horse.