The Irish defied the Friday 13 curse, when a team of first-time horses, that also included a first time rider showed their strength over USA and Canada in the first leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series at HITS, Ocala, USA sponsored by Edge Brewing of Barcelona. The Irish showed their authority in the early stages with four fantastic clear rounds. In a tougher second round by course designer, Germany’s Martin Otto, Ireland held the lead, thanks to double clear rounds from Kevin Babington and the 10-year-old Hannoverian mare Shorapur (by Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang II), and Conor Swail and Susan and Ariel Grange's Selles Francaise, Grafton (x Calvaro x Vondeen).
"We have a lot of Irish riders based over here in the US, with great owners," acknowledged Robert Splaine, Irish Chef d’Equipe. "I am always looking to broaden our base of riders so I come here quite often. It’s been a great competition today in a fantastic venue. These horses are unknown at this level, so if I can get 1 or 2 of them to come to Europe and jump in Division 1 that would be great. I would like to mention Lorcan (Gallagher) who did an absolutely fantastic job, he was the man of the match! We have already agreed that we would love to come back here to Ocala next year to compete!”
New to the Furusiyya circuit, the HITS showground at Ocala drew great praise with packed stands on a brisk but brilliantly sunny day. "The footing was great and the course designer did a great job. The second round was significantly harder, there is no doubt about that," commended Robert Splaine, Irish Chef d’Equipe. John Madden, Chair FEI Jumping Committee extended his congratulations to Team Irealnd and praised course designer Martin Otto. "Thank you to Ocala for being such a wonderful city and host – they were extremely welcoming and professional. A special thank you and well done to Tom Struzzieri and the rest of his staff; they were really great to work with." He con continued by acknowledging the USEF "A great FEI partner and an important stakeholder to HITS"
Ocala in Florida presented the first competition of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series Friday 13, 2015.The event was the first of three qualifiers to be staged in the North America, Central America and Caribbean League. Six countries lined out in the competition, with just three - Canada, Mexico and USA - eligible for qualifying points towards the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2015 which will be staged in Barcelona, Spain from 24 to 27 September 2015.
While the USA had to settle for runner-up spot with Canada and Columbia shared third place, they continue to hold the lead in points. "It wasn’t the easiest of days for the home team," US Chef d’Equipe, Robert Ridland, pointed out. "Georgina (Bloomberg) and Beezie (Madden) got us out of some deep trouble" he said. "At this early stage in the season it is difficult to really hit the ground running, and some interesting things can happen. We would have liked to have won, but we got maximum points which is all that matters." Both Bloomberg and Madden had double clears, with Georgina Bloomberg and her amazing Austrian Warmblood mare Juvina (by Cassini I x Grannus) producing the best overall result over Team Ireland's leading Rider Kevin Bobington.
In the field of six nations, it was the Venezuelans who finished fifth ahead of Mexico in sixth place. However only Canada, USA and Mexico were chasing points in the class which was the first of three North America, Central America and Caribbean qualifiers for the Furusiyya Final at Barcelona in September. After today’s result, the Americans hold the lead going into the next round which will be held at Coapexpan, Mexico on 24 April.
There was a three-way tie at the top of the order as round two began with Canada, Columbia and Ireland on a zero score followed by Venezuela and USA carrying four each while Mexico already trailed with 12 on the board. And with 16 more to add, the Mexicans would make no progress.
Only six horse-and-rider combinations kept a clean sheet at their second attempt, and as round two got underway, USA's were not improved when Lauren Hough lowered the vertical at fence two. Georgina Bloomberg had a great day, producing two fabulous clears from her mare, Juvina. "We have been saving her for this competition," said Bloomberg. "She is a very reliable horse, she loves the Nations Cup. I thought she did great today!" Laura Kraut found herself in trouble again at the triple combination. First time out, Cedric couldn’t find his stride to the opening triple bar, but this time he seemed to panic after clearing the following planks and attempted to go on a single stride, instead of two, to the third element where it all went seriously wrong, leaving them with a second-round tally of 15 faults.
The Venezuelans slipped off the radar with 12 to add despite a great double-clear from anchors Pablo Barrios and Antares, but the Columbians and Canadians also began to lose their grip. Columbia’s fourth-line partnership of Roberto Teran Tafur with Woklahoma were again foot-perfect, but one of the double-errors from Juan Pablo Betancourt (Troya Retiro) and Ilan Bluman (Exacto LS) had to be counted along with the mistake made by pathfinder Daniel Bluman (Conconcreto Apardi) at the water. Not one horse faulted at the water in the first round, but there were several second time out.
For the Canadians it was here that Yann Candele and Showgirl got into a muddle, the mare scrambling for a stride that wasn’t there, and never getting airborne. When that was followed by a 12-fault score from Tiffany Foster and Verdi lll, and the legendary Ian Miller’s gelding, Dixon, also got his feet wet, then Eric Lamaze’s single mistake with Zigali PS in the middle of the triple combination would leave the Columbians and Canadians on 12 faults apiece.
Meanwhile a great double-clear from the last-line US duo of Beezie Madden and Simon put the pressure on Ireland’s Swail. The Irish second-round effort began with eight faults for Darragh Kenny and Picolo, and when Lorcan Gallagher followed with an unlucky foot on the tape at the water with Diktator v/d Boslandhoeve then Babington’s second clear with the busy mare, Shorapur, was badly needed.
Conor Swail IRL, talking about his horse Grafton a Selles Francaise stallion by Calvaro x Vondeen, “He’s just turned nine. I was off last year for a bit (injury) but when I came back I jumped him in Calgary and then to Dublin where he did some speed classes. He started his nine-year-old year coming second in the Grand Prix at week 1 of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, it was a 1.45m class, and he has impressed me a lot so far this year. He’s a lovely horse and when his time comes he’s going to feature on a lot of teams. His owners, Susan and Ariel Grange, have played in big part in my success.”
With the American score now standing at eight faults, Swail knew a single mistake would lead to a jump-off as he arrived in the ring, but he showed incredible cool despite the inexperience of his horse, skillfully steering the young stallion home to clinch it with a four-fault final total.
“On paper the US were very strong and the Canadians had their WEG team here, so this was a great result!”, the Irishman said afterwards. “It was my horse’s first Nations Cup and it was same for Kevin’s, and it was Lorcan’s first time to ride a Nations Cup while Darragh Kenny was on his speed horse!” he added.
Gallagher is relatively unknown in his native Ireland, but the 23-year-old from County Down, who had never before competed in a team at any level of the sport, has been based with Shane Sweetnam at Spy Coast Farm in Florida for the last few years. Sweetnam loaned him the horse for today’s competition, and he more than justified the faith placed in him by both the horse’s usual rider and Irish Chef d’Equipe, Robert Splaine. “I grew up watching Robert ride, and it’s a dream being here!” Gallagher said today.
Kevin Babington talked about his feisty mare, Shorapur a 10-year-old Hannoverian by Stakkato Gold x Drosselklang. “She is such a fighter, I’m so proud of her to jump clear twice in her first FEI Nations Cup. She always comes right back and fights for the next jump every single time” he said.
Connor Swail pointed out that although he and his team-mates were not favorites to win today, he said “we came here to try and do a good job. Our horses jumped well and we handled everything that came at us”. He continued, “I knew a good first round would help us win in the second round. When you ride a good horse and jump a nice first round, it’s all about carrying the momentum and keeping your cool”.
The Columbians had plenty to be proud of. Holding their own alongside a star-filled Canadian side, Daniel Bluman, his cousin Ilan Bluman, Juan Pablo Betancourt and Roberto Teran Tafur demonstrated the essence of the Furusiyya series which has opened up the sport of Nations Cup Jumping as never before, encouraging the development of athletes and horses from so many diverse nations across the globe.
“We were excited to get this opportunity at HITS," added Tom Struzzieri, event director. Longines and Furusiyya make it so much easier to put this all together with all their support. We are happy with the results, although there are always things to improve, naturally.”
1. Ireland 4 faults: Picolo (Darragh Kenny) 0/8, Diktator v/d Boslandhoeve (Lorcan Gallagher) 0/4, Shorapur (Kevin Babington) 0/0, Grafton (Conor Swail) 0/0.
2. USA 8 faults: Ohlala (Lauren Hough) 4/4, Juvina (Georgina Bloomberg) 0/0, Cedric (Laura Kraut) 6/15, Simon (Beezie Madden) 0/0.
3. Columbia 12 faults: Conconcreto Apardi (Daniel Bluman) 8/4, Troya Retiro (Juan Pablo Betancourt) 0/8, Exacto LS (Ilan Bluman) 0/9, Woklahoma (Roberto Teran Tafur) 0/0.
3. Canada 12 faults: Showgirl (Yann Candele) 0/4, Verdi lll (Tiffany Foster) 4/12, Dixon (Ian Miller) 0/4, Zigali PS (Eric Lamaze) 0/4.
5. Venezuela 16 faults: Verdi (Andres Rodriguez) 4/4, Wilco (Emanuel Andrade) 4/16, Atlodetto FZ (Luis Fernando Larrazabal) 0/8, Antares (Pablo Barrios) 0/0.
6. Mexico 28 faults: Caressini L (Luis Alejandro Plascancia) 13/DNS, Jumex Sport Archimdes (Sofia Larrea B) 4/8, Bariano (Eugenio Garza Perez) 0/4, Barbaro (Nicolas Pizarro) 8/4.
Full result here
The second leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series will take place in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates next Thursday, 19 February 2015.
Standings in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 North America, Central America and Caribbean League after Round 1 at Ocala, Florida (USA):
1. USA - 100
2. Canada - 90
3. Mexico - 80
"Furusiyya" (Arabic: فروسيه) this single Arabic word conveys so much, embracing the idea of horsemanship, chivalry, and equestrian knowledge in general. The term is a derivation of faris, or horseman and faras, a horse. "I also want to extend my thanks to Furusiyya for their vision and commitment towards continuously building something special, added John Madden. "The FEI Nations Cup™ is the most important event to the FEI. For Furusiyya to come in and revamp the format whilst always focusing on the horse in everything they do is absolutely key."
Longines has been based at Saint-Imier (SUI) since 1832. Its watchmaking expertise reflects a strong devotion to Elegance, Tradition and Performance. It has generations of experience as the official timekeeper at world championships and as a partner of international sports federations. Longines’ passion for equestrian sports began in 1878, when a timepiece was made with a horse and jockey engraved on the watch face. Over the years, the brand has built strong and long-lasting links with equestrian sports. In 1912, for the first time, the brand was involved as timekeeper for a show jumping event in Portugal.
Today, Longines’ involvement in equestrian sports includes jumping, endurance and flat racing. Longines is a member of The Swatch Group S.A., the world’s leading manufacturer of horological products. With an excellent reputation for creating refined timepieces, the brand, whose emblem is the winged hourglass, has outlets in over 140 countries.