Friday, May. 24, 2024

Watch Why They Won: Kraut’s Perfect Performance Lifts U.S. In Nail-Biting Nations Cup

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As Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Mexico developed into a neck-and-neck competition between the U.S. and Mexico, the pressure on Laura Kraut increased. 

As the anchor for the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team, Kraut knew going into the ring for her second trip that a clear round would put her team in a jump-off against defending champion Mexico.

With her Tokyo Olympics partner Baloutinue, Kraut not only did that—becoming the only pair in the competition to produce two clear rounds—she also went up against Mexico’s Eugenio Garza Perez in a two-horse jump-off to determine the winner, and she beat him handily. 

Kraut shared victory with teammates Kent Farrington (Landon), Jessica Springsteen (Don Juan van de Donkhoeve) and Bliss Heers (Antidote de Mars).

Laura Kraut and Baloutinue sealed the win for the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team on April 28 at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of Mexico CSIO5* in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. FEI/Mackenzie Clark Photo
 

Both Mexico and the U.S. were tied on 8 faults at the end the second round, with Canada third on 20 faults. In the jump-off, Garza Perez went first on Contago, stopping the clock in 42.13 seconds. With the win or loss down to Kraut, she and Baloutinue, a 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by St. Bride’s Farm, produced their third clear in a winning time of 39.43 seconds. 

“We watched Eugenio go, and as I was walking in the ring, Kent said, ‘Your normal speed will be quick enough,'” Kraut said. “So when I started, I went maybe a touch quicker than my normal speed.

“I couldn’t be happier with him. He’s probably a horse of a lifetime,” she added. “That’s a big statement, because I’ve had some incredible horses.”

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The win was a product of an aggressive strategy pursued by U.S. Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland after the U.S. failed to qualify for the 2022 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Finals last year. Ridland brought forward four of the country’s best combinations to Mexico with an eye toward getting the better of the home nation, which had won four of the last five editions of the event on home soil. 

“This planning really happened at the beginning of the year,” he said. “We knew what was ahead of us, long-range, to qualify for the [2024] Olympics in Paris, and this was a huge step to get there. We needed to bring experience. We have some young riders in the mix as well, but we had to bring our ‘A’ team.”

Three of the U.S.’s four team members are Olympic medalists, and each of those athletes—Kraut, Farrington, and Springsteen—delivered at least one clear round on the day. After the first round, the Americans led on a score of 4 faults, but rails from Springsteen and Heers in Round 2—and clear efforts from Garza Perez and his teammates—leveled the playing field.

“We almost went rider for rider with Mexico the entire time, which made for an incredible competition,” Ridland said. “By the time Laura went, we knew that we would probably be in a jump-off. The course was excellent. It was going to be a major test but also doable, but they didn’t lower the standards at all, and it was a real course. 

“By the results, any Nations Cup that only has one double-clear combination means it was tough,” he added. “It was an amazing Nations Cup. It was a fantastic venue, and they’re wonderful hosts. There’s a lot on the line this year, and it was so gratifying that when we had our call to arms at the beginning of the year, everyone, including our athletes, owners, and staff, came forward to make this happen. We have a great support team behind us.” 

The U.S. now takes an early lead in the North and Central America and Caribbean division of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup with 100 points. Mexico sits second with 90 points, and Canada is third with 80 points. The series moves next to San Juan Capistrano, California, on May 14. 

Watch Kraut’s winning jump-off round, courtesy of FEI.tv: 

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