Germany earned victory in Friday night's 10th annual $75,000 FEI Nations Cup, presented by G&C Farm, at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, FL. Teams representing ten different countries participated in the evening's competition and this was Germany's first time winning the class. Ireland finished second and Canada was third. Tonight's competition consisted of two rounds shown over a challenging course set by Anthony D'Ambrosio of Red Hook, NY. Teams of four represented the countries of Colombia, Australia, Canada, Ireland, Great Britain, Mexico, Germany, USA, Venezuela, and France.
After the first round, each team dropped their highest score. In the second round, six teams returned in order of highest to lowest total faults. The winner was determined by the lowest total of each team's top three riders from each round. The top six teams were Germany, Ireland, Canada, Great Britain, USA and France.
The German team was made up of Jorg Oppermann and Heinz Eufinger's Che Guevara 17, David Will and Dietmar Gugler Reitsport's Don Cesar, Johannes Ehning and Nybor Pferde GMBH & Co. KG's Salvador V, and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Octavia Farms LLC's Checkmate 4. A four fault score from Ehning and Salvador V was dropped from round one and the team returned for the second round with a faultless score.
Opperman and Che Guevara 17 incurred four faults in round two, followed by clear rounds from Will and Don Cesar and Ehning and Salvador V. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Checkmate 4 jumped clear in round one and were not needed to return for the second round when it was determined that the team could not be surpassed in the end. They finished with four faults total to take the win.
Commenting on the win tonight, Michaels-Beerbaum smiled, "This for me was a really exciting night. It was really fun to ride with this team of young, handsome German boys. They were outstanding. I've gone fourth (as the anchor) with the team a couple of times now and I've never not had to ride, so this was a first."
"I was delighted with my horse Checkmate, who is 17 years old," she continued. "I thought the first round was absolutely phenomenal and it made me very proud of him. I was really thrilled to ride with this team. It was my first time with them and they pulled it through to the end and fought really hard; it was a fun night."
David Will, who jumped double clear with his horse Don Cesar, was pleasantly surprised with the team's victory. "No one expected us to win, not even ourselves," he said with a laugh. "My horse jumped amazing. He's my teacher. He has made my career so far and I'm glad to have him." Johannes Ehning returned for tonight's class after showing here a few years ago and was thrilled to be in the winner's circle. "I'm really excited to be here," he stated. "Three years ago I was also here and it wasn't so good for me. I'm really proud to be a part of this team. We had really good team spirit and everyone was looking out for each other."
Jorg Opperman is showing in Wellington for his first time and was pleased with the night. "It's my first time here and I think it is a fantastic show; everything around here is amazing," Oppermann said. "My horse jumped really good."
Will, Ehning and Oppermann are all young riders in their twenties, and they were thrilled to share the podium with a veteran competitor such as Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Ehning noted, "The Canadians, Irish, English, and Americans all had really good teams. We were a really young team with Meredith with the most experience. It was good to have her on our team. She gave us confidence as the last rider."
German Chef d'Equipe Dietmar Gugler commented on the class as well, stating, "This team is encouraging. It's important to get young people involved and give them experience. This was why we came here. I always believe a German team should be here in a USA Nations Cup."
Ireland completed the class with an eight fault total for second place, finishing with four faults in each round. The team included Shane Sweetnam and Spy Coast Farm's Amaretto D'Arco, Richie Moloney and Equinimity LLC's Slieveanorra, Darragh Kerins and Kevin Babington's Lisona, and Cian O'Connor and Ashkirk Ltd. and O'Connor's Blue Loyd 12. Moloney and Kerins each had a single rail in the first round, and one score was dropped. In round two, Sweetnam and Kerins each had single rails, and O'Connor and Moloney jumped clear. A single score was dropped to leave the team with eight faults overall.
Irish Chef d'Equipe Robert Splaine congratulated the Germans on their victory and spoke about his team. "I'm always trying to develop new combinations and give them a chance. This was a fantastic opportunity to do that," he said. "I was pleased with the performance with all the combinations here. We have a new combination with Richie and his horse at this level. Cian has a new horse and going double clear is always worth a mention. Darragh is a new combination as well. Shane has been around for a couple of years and has been a fantastic servant to the Irish flag. We didn't struggle, which I was pleased with. If we had lost, it would have been because of the first round, but the Germans were very strong. Thank you to all the owners. They have been fantastic to our lads. Without them we wouldn't have a team here."
The Canadian team consisted of Ian Millar and Team Works' Star Power, Tiffany Foster and Torrey Pines and Artisan Farm LLC's Victor, Yann Candele and Ariel and Susan Grange's Lansdowne, and Eric Lamaze and Ashland Stables and Torrey Pines' Derly Chin De Muze. Canada came into round two with zero faults after dropping Yann Candele and Lansdowne's score of eight from round one. Lamaze and Derly Chin De Muze were the only Canadian pair to jump both rounds without fault. Ian Milllar and Star Power had one time fault in round two.
Canada's Chef d'Equipe Terrance Millar also praised the top finishers. "Congratulations to the Germans and the Irish. Our friends from Ireland are always competitive at this show. The Germans had youth on their side. We have lots of experience on ours, but youth prevailed." "We are trying out new combinations," he added. "Eric has some new horses. Ian with a horse he's had for a couple of years. We are trying to build a team for London and feeling our way. We had some good performances tonight. Germany was obviously the dominant team tonight and Ireland was very close. It was a great class."
By far the most experienced rider on Canada's team was Ian Millar. Millar praised Anthony D'Ambrosio on his course tonight. "Anthony giving us his WEF course on Thursday and then tonight's course, to me ranks him as one of the elite course designers of the world. It was a fantastic piece of work," he stated. Millar also commented on his unfortunate time fault in round two. "My horse is in great shape for what he's doing. He needs a faster rider! The way the timers were set after the last fence, on an angle, had I been a little to my right I would have been under the time allowed. With this being my 117th Nations Cup, you would think I'd know more," he laughed.
Great Britain and USA tied for fourth place with 22 faults each. USA completed round one with eight faults and incurred 14 faults in round two for a 22 fault total. Great Britain entered the second round with 17 faults carried over from round one. A five fault total in round two gave them 22 faults as well. Nick Skelton and Beverley Widdowson's Big Star were the only British pair to jump double clear for their country.
France just made the cut for round two, returning with a 28 fault total. The team then earned 16 faults in round two for a total of 44 faults overall to finish sixth. Mexico placed seventh with 29 fault total in round one. Colombia incurred 31 faults to finish in eighth place. Venezuela placed ninth with 35 faults in the first round, and Australia finished tenth with a 37 point total.
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media, Inc.
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