Wellington, Fla. – Feb. 17, 2019 – Riding for their countries, the greatest share of the prize money and valuable points towards the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, Spain, later this year, patriots from USA, Mexico, Canada, Colombia, Israel and Ireland showcased their talents on Sunday in the $290,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America CSIO5*, the final event during the second week of the 2019 CP Palm Beach Masters Series. The NetJets® U.S. Show Jumping Team, comprised of Beezie Madden, Lucy Deslauriers, Laura Kraut and McLain Ward, concluded the day with a podium finish in third place on a total score of 12 faults.
Following the initial 24 trips of round one, Madden and Abigail Wexner’s Breitling LS led the way for the American squad with the first clear ride for the team, which was followed by two lowered fences in the next rotation by Deslauriers and Lisa Deslauriers’ Hester. Kraut and St. Bride’s Farm’s Confu tackled Alan Wade’s (IRL) expansive 15-fence track with precision but unfortunately accrued 4 faults, and their counterparts, Ward and HH Azur, co-owned by Ward and Double H Farm, followed suit with another unlucky rail.
Margie Engle and Gladewinds Partners, LLC’s Royce were originally selected for the team in early February. However, after feeling a little under the weather on Sunday, Engle elected not to compete, opening the spot up to alternates 19-year-old Deslauriers and Hester.
“We knew Margie was feeling a little under the weather yesterday, but luckily Lucy was ready to step in and I think she did a great job,” said Madden. “We all had confidence in Lucy. We felt that she was a very strong substitute for us.”
Headed into the second phase of competition, Mexico held the lead on a cumulative tally of zero, while the United States and Ireland sat tied for second place with 8 faults apiece followed by Israel close behind with an additional time fault to their name for 9 faults. Riding in reverse order of the team standings, the returning challengers once again faced the same pattern of formidable nationalistic obstacles. Colombia, Canada and Israel began the rotation, with the United States and Ireland going next and Mexico tackling the track last.
First back for the USA, Madden and Breitling LS turned in a valiant effort as the trailblazers for the Americans, but clipped a rail to add 4 faults to the team total. As the competition continued, Deslauriers and Hester rallied to turn in a penalty-free effort to advance the team’s position, which was matched by Kraut and Confu’s equally impressive trip that left all of the fences intact. Last to ride as the team anchors, Ward and HH Azur, the 2017 World Cup Final champions, unfortunately dropped a rail to confirm the team’s final score of 12 faults over the two rounds of competition.
“We all made a really big effort to bring our A team here,” said Madden. “There’s a fine line between how much you do with your best horses early in the year when you’re trying to keep them good for later — for instance, for mine, for the World Cup Final and other big things in the summer. None of our best horses have done a lot yet this season, so with this coming early in the season, I think that caught us a little bit. They all jumped well, we just didn’t put enough clear rounds together. Personally, I like to give all of my horses a big break in the winter. [Breitling LS] felt so good in the first round. I was probably a little too casual in the second round. I needed to be a little more on top of it.
“As always, [Alan Wade] did a great job,” said Madden. “It’s a fine line for the course designer too — what’s difficult enough for an intense competition like this and what’s too difficult. I think Alan is always pretty spot on. It was difficult to jump but it didn’t feel like your horse was busting a gut in the first round and maybe didn’t have enough coming back in the second round. I thought it was excellent.”
In the end, the four-member team from Mexico led the class from start to finish on a score of 4 faults accrued over two rounds of riding to capture the gold medal and precious points towards the year-end finale in Barcelona in October. Out of the field of 24 horse-and-athlete combinations, only three were able to finish the competition double-clear, with the American contingents navigating three clear rides out of the 16 for the day across the board.
Maintaining their round one score of 9 faults with three clear rides throughout the second phase, Daniel Bluman, Danielle Goldstein, Ilan Ferder and Ashlee Bond of Israel were awarded the silver medal, followed by the United States in the bronze medal position with a composite score of 12 faults. Madden and Kraut performed the best of the home nation team, each dropping only one rail with their respective mounts.
With all teams beginning with no points, Sunday’s event served as the kick-off to the series and the only qualifier in the United States for the year-end finale, the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final that will take place in Barcelona in October. North American challengers will be offered two more chances to earn a spot at Nations Cup competitions in Coapexpan, Mexico, and Langley, Canada, later this spring. With Mexico’s victory, they head into the next jewel of the series on their home turf boasting 100 points towards the flagship competition, trailed by the United States’ 80 points and Canada’s 60 points in the North and Central America and Caribbean League.
“I think we had a good day, we just didn’t have a great day,” said U.S. Chef d’Équipe Robert Ridland. “We are playing catch-up with Mexico going into their home territory. They are always tough at home and we have our work cut out for us. Canada is right behind us, they aren’t that far back, and they have their home Nations Cup coming up as well. I think it all looks pretty equal.”
For full results from the $290,000 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America CSIO5*, click here.
The USET Foundation is a nonprofit organization that supports the competition, training, coaching, travel and educational needs of America’s elite and developing international and high performance horses and athletes in partnership with US Equestrian.