Barcelona, Spain - The first ever Final of the new look Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup series got started in at CSIO5* Barcelona Friday and, with the backdrop of a beautiful day, a strong set of horses and riders from 18 countries looked to qualify for Sunday's eight-team final round. Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland's U.S. team was looking to finish a strong season with a top result, but suffered a heartbreaker and finished in ninth place, one position short of a spot in that final. They will return for Saturday's consolation round.
Spanish course designer Santiago Varela built a challenging course with some familiar Nations Cup obstacles and some, like a La Sagrada Familia vertical, that gave it a local feel. It was not very hospitable though. There were not a lot of clear rounds, but the course's sharpest tooth was its time allowed. While not an outright challenge, the time faults surrendered would prove pivotal in determining the teams for Sunday, and lead to a thrilling finish on Friday.
The day began for the U.S. with veteran lead-off rider McLain Ward (Brewster, New York) and Sagamore Farms' Rothchild. They had a rail down at fence nine, the Freixenet vertical, but the four fault effort put the team in good position. Following them were Reed Kessler (Lexington, Kentucky) and her own Cylana. They struggled on the oxers at fences five and eight and finished up with eight faults.
Lucy Davis (Los Angeles, California) and Old Oak Farm's Barron were third for the team and needed to ride well. They did, having just one rail down for four faults on the course, but they picked up one time fault as well.
Going into the anchor ride the team needed Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, New York) and Simon to jump clear for a chance at qualifying for Sunday's final round. Madden guided Abigail Wexner's Dutch Warmblood masterfully, shaving seconds when she needed and letting the powerful gelding soar over the challenging course. They came in just under the time allowed and, for a little while it seemed, saved the day. But the team would need some help from the rest of the field, help that they did not receive.
Tied with Ukraine in seventh place, the U.S. needed a fault on the last ride of the day from Canada's 2008 Olympic Champion Eric Lamaze. Lamaze, riding 9 year-old Holsteiner gelding Powerplay, was through the course clear and fast though, leaving Canada, the U.S., and Ukraine all tied in seventh place with a score of nine. The tie-breaker was total time, and the U.S. team was slowest of the three.
Canada - 237.90s
Ukraine - 239.26s
U.S.A - 243.07s
The U.S. will return for Saturday's consolation round and look to end the competition on a good note.
Brazil was the best on Friday, finishing with 1 fault, followed by The Netherlands with 5 and Belgium as the fastest of the four eight fault teams. Scores do not carry over to the consolation or final round.
For complete scores click here.
Watch Saturday's consolations round and Sunday's final at www.feitv.org.
Follow the U.S. Jumping Team at www.usefnetwork.com/featured/2013Jumping.