Gladstone, NJ—September 8, 2001—U.S. riders continued their red-hot showing at the Spruce Meadows Masters (CSIO Spruce Meadows), where two-time Olympic medalist Leslie Howard of Westport, CT became the latest American success story with a victory Saturday on Nick of Diamonds in the $70,000 BP Cup. In Saturday’s main event, the U.S. Equestrian Team (USET) squad finished a very close second among the seven top teams competing in the Bank of Montreal Nations' Cup.
At the end of the first round in the Nations’ Cup, Olympic champion Germany led the way with 8 penalties. Switzerland was second with 11 and the USET was tied for third with the European Champion Irish team with a score of 12. It came down to a three-way race in the second round, with the performance of the anchor riders determining each team's placing.
Todd Minikus of Loxahatchee, FL, the USET's lead-off rider, had 8 faults in both rounds with his Oh Star, the 2001 Rolex USET Show Jumping champion whom he had not competed earlier in the week at Spruce Meadows. Lauren Hough of Ocala, FL took a hard fall from Windy City, owned by Peppercorn, Ltd., in the first round, but bravely got back on for the second round and managed a 4-fault trip that drew cheers from the crowd packing the stands around the International Arena.
Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, NY, faultless in the first round with Iron Spring Farm’s Judgement, couldn't repeat in the second, where she dropped one rail for a four-fault score. So it came down to anchor Margie Engle of West Palm Beach, FL who needed a clean round with Hidden Creek Farm's Hidden Creek’s Perin. The pair had faulted at the water in the first round and the water was a problem again for the big bay, along with another fence later in the course. That 8-fault score opened the way for the European Champion Irish team to take the top prize, as Germany's anchor, Ludger Beerbaum, had 8 faults. Dermot Lennon, Ireland's final rider, came through with just one knockdown, putting the Irish at 24 faults, to 28 for the USET and 31 for Germany. Switzerland had problems earlier in the second round and wound up fourth with 35.
Considering the caliber of the competition at Spruce Meadows, the USET’s showing was quite impressive. "We've had a heck of a show," said USET Chef d'Equipe George Morris, who also referred to an American winning streak in other classes.
For the Nations’ Cup, he said, "On paper, we had the strongest team." He noted that Hough's fall was "a fluke," when her horse spooked at a jump shaped like a bicycle "but that didn't help you out. I'll hand it to her, she toughed it out and came back."