By US Equestrian Communications Department
The NetJets U.S. Jumping Team made the most of their first team outing of the 2023 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup Series with a strong start, finishing atop the podium and earning crucial points for qualification towards the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain, in September. The team earned the victory after a competitive jump-off with Mexico after both teams battled it out for first place to break a tie on eight combined faults after two rounds. The team was led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland, with their focus now shifting to the next leg of the series set to take place in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., in two weeks’ time.
“It was amazing. We almost went rider for rider with Mexico the entire time, which made for an incredible competition. By the time Laura [Kraut] went, we knew that we would probably be in a jump-off,” said Ridland. “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. 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.”
Kent Farrington (Wellington, Fla.) and Landon were the trailblazers for the team as the first combination to contest the 1.60m track designed by Benjamin Fernandez (MEX). The pair finished with just four faults and a time of 76.49 seconds. Landon, a 2013 Zangershiede gelding owned by Haity McNerney, made his debut for the NetJets U.S. Jumping Team last year and has become a promising young talent for Farrington.
Bliss Heers (Las Vegas, Nev.) and Antidote de Mars, a 2010 Selle Français stallion owned by Bridgeside Farms, LLC, were the second pair out on the beautiful grass field at Centro Ecuestre Otomi. The pair were efficient with the time allowed but added a rail in their first-round trip to finish with four faults, putting pressure on the final two team combinations to produce clear rounds.
In their first appearance for the team since 2021, Jessica Springsteen (Colts Neck, N.J.) and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve were tasked with keeping the team on four faults moving into the second round to stay at the top of the standings. The pair were careful and calculated in their trip, notching the first clear round for the team on the afternoon.
As the anchor combination and veteran pair of the team, Laura Kraut (Royal Palm Beach, Fla.) guided Baloutinue, a 2010 Hanoverian gelding owned by St. Bride’s Farm, to a spectacular clear-round to ensure the team moved forward on just four total faults ahead of both Mexico and Canada at the conclusion of round one. The pair crossed through the timers in 76.85 seconds, keeping the team in strong contention for the second round.
With the pressure mounting, Farrington and Landon returned to deliver a clear-round in their second tour of the course, stopping the timers in 78.29 seconds, keeping the team neck-and-neck with Canada and Mexico. Heers and Antitode de Mars added two unfortunate rails to their round, finishing on a total of eight faults.
Springsteen and Don Juan van de Donkhoeve, a 2010 Belgian Warmblood stallion owned by Stone Hill Farm, jumped a beautiful round, with an unlucky and late-falling rail at the plank vertical keeping them from producing a second clear round on the day. Kraut and Baloutinue gave it their all for the team and were the only combination to produce two clear rounds in the competition, adding nothing to their second-round score and finishing in 77.91 seconds.
In an exhilarating finish, a tie with Mexico on a two-round score of eight faults forced a head-to-head jump-off between Eugenio Garza Perez of Mexico and Laura Kraut. Garza Perez went first in the jump-off aboard Contago, finishing in 42.13 seconds and putting the team’s final placing in Kraut’s capable hands. Kraut executed a precise and efficient jump-off round with Baloutinue, crossing through the finish in 39.43 seconds to secure the team’s win.