Ocala in Florida, USA joins the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping circuit when the 2015 season gets underway this Friday 13 February. The first leg of the series, which has revitalised and reinvigorated the sport of team Jumping since Furusiyya took up title sponsorship in 2012, has attracted six countries and a sparkling line-up of riders including a crack squad from the host nation.
And, just three years after the introduction of a new format for this much-loved competition which originated over a century ago, pre-season excitement is at an all-time high as horse-and-rider combinations from 45 nations prepare to participate in 20 thrilling qualifying legs all around the globe.
Staged a year ahead of the Rio 2016 Olympic Games, the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series will be a valuable testing ground for athletes and horses and, once again, competitors from six regions will battle it out ahead of the Final which will be held at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) in September.
Ocala presents the first competition in the three-leg North America, Central America and Caribbean League. Organised by the New York-based events management company HITS, Inc., the Florida fixture will feature teams from Canada, Colombia, Ireland, Mexico, USA and Venezuela, but only the Canadians, Mexicans and Americans will be eligible for qualifying points in their region.
And the home runners promise to be a tough act to beat, headed up by super-star Beezie Madden whose packed trophy cabinet includes multiple Olympic and World Championship medals. The 51-year-old rider, currently number 12 in the Longines Rankings, brings the horse with which she won the 2013 FEI World Cup™ Jumping title, Simon, and will be joined by Laura Kraut, Lauren Hough, Georgina Bloomberg and Todd Minikus.
It is always a big battle between the Americans and Canadians in this league, and with 2008 Olympic gold medallist Eric Lamaze, and the extraordinary 11-time Olympian Ian Millar in action, the Canadians are unlikely to be a push-over.
The competition gets underway at 13.00 local time, and promises to get the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series off to great start.
The second leg will take place in Abu Dhabi (UAE) a week later, and this single qualifier for the Middle East region is open to teams from Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Lebanon, Qatar and the UAE. The remaining two leagues, Europe Division 1 and Europe Division 2, get underway in April and May respectively.
Lummen in Belgium launches the premier Europe Division 1 league, and once again this will be contested by teams from 10 countries: Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland. And of course all eyes will be on the Dutch, who swept to victory at the 2014 Furusiyya Final just a few short weeks after claiming gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normandy (FRA). Dutch riders have been on a roll for some time now, and it will be fascinating to witness the strategy of their popular Chef d’Equipe, Rob Ehrens, who will be hoping to follow through with another strong result this year while also thinking ahead to the Olympic challenge of 2016.
Europe Division 2 is also an eight-round affair, but what makes this the most competitive league of all is the high-octane pressure of trying to finish as one of the top two nations from a start-list of 16 ambitious countries. Austria, Bulgaria, Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Greece, Hungary, Norway, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Russia, Slovenia, Slovakia, Turkey and Ukraine will all be battling it out through heated afternoons from the outset at Linz (AUT) until the final leg at Arezzo (ITA).
The leading country at the end of this series will be promoted to Europe Division 1 for the following year, but while the second-placed team will earn a place at the Furusiyya Final in Barcelona only a top-eight finishing spot there will allow them to also earn promotion.
Allocation of teams to Europe Division 1 and Europe Division 2 events has been finalised, and you can check out the detail at this link http://goo.gl/EUDnnX
Sweden, France, Belgium, Ireland and Italy will all be hunting down early points at the opening leg of Europe Division 1 in Lummen on 1 May, while The Netherlands will begin the defense of their title at the second round in La Baule (FRA) two weeks later.
This week, however, Ocala in Florida will set the stage for another much-anticipated season of top-quality and thrilling team sport.
For further information on the first leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series at Ocala, USA on Friday 13 February, please refer to the event website at www.hitsshows.com or contact Press Officer Emily Glass, firstname.lastname@example.org or +1 845 706 1233.
Facts and Figures:
The FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series celebrates 106 years of team competition in 2015.
The forthcoming season comprises 20 qualifiers in as many countries.
A total of 45 nations will compete in the qualifying rounds.
Qualifying events will take place in four regions - Europe Division 1 & Europe Division 2, North America, Central America & Caribbean and Middle East.
There will be eight qualifying legs in Europe Division 1 and 2, three in the North America, Central America & Caribbean region and a single event in the Middle East.
The Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final will once again take place at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP), venue for the Jumping events during the Barcelona Olympic Games in 1992.
A total of 18 teams, plus the home team if not qualified, will compete at the Final which will take place from 24 to 27 September 2015.
A total of six nations will compete at the season-opener in Ocala (USA) - Canada, Colombia, Ireland, Mexico, USA and Venezuela. Only Canada, Mexico and USA will be competing for qualifying points.
The 10 teams qualified for Europe Division 1 this season are Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
Watchmakers, Longines, are the official timekeepers for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series.
Furusiyya finalised a 16 million Euro four-year sponsorship package with the FEI in November 2012.
Watch LIVE on FEI TV! Broadcast coverage from Ocala begins at 13.00 local time.