Saturday at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters' is always full of national pride, and this year was no different. Eight top teams from around the world went head to head, and the winning nation for the second year in a row was Germany with teammates Hans Dieter Dreher/Colore, Christian Ahlmann/Asca Z, Daniel Deusser/Evita van de Veldballe, and Lars Nieberg/Leonie.
The action was exciting in the BMO Nations' Cup as eight teams competed in the first round. The top six returned for the second round; the United States and Switzerland finished with 12 faults in the first round to tie for seventh place. Following the second round, three teams stood on eight faults – Belgium, Germany, and France – and they would proceed to a jump-off. One rider was designated from each team, and it came down to their performances.
First in for the jump-off was Francois Mathy (BEL) on Polinska des Isles, one of only two double clear rounds. They put in a solid ride, but a slip in front of the penultimate oxer caused four faults. Their time of 39.54 seconds would slot them into second place at the end.
Hans Dieter Dreher (GER) and Colore went in next and had speed from the start, with Dreher pushing Colore's huge stride into overdrive. They finished clear in 40.36 seconds for victory.
As the last in the ring, Penelope Leprevost (FRA) and Dame Blanche van Arenberg had to be quick and clear. But it was not to be, as they pulled a rail at the second jump for four faults. Their slightly slower time of 39.70 seconds left France in third.
Germany stood in the winner's circle for the ninth time in the history of the Nations Cup at the Spruce Meadows 'Masters', going back to 1977 when West Germany was the first champion. This is their second win in a row, and led by Chef d'Equipe Heinrich Engemann, they notched an impressive four clear trips in the first two rounds over a challenging course set by Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela. Weather also played a factor as rain came down during a majority of the competition.
With a clean sheet from Germany's first three riders in the second round, anchor Lars Nieberg and Leonie, a 10-year-old Westphalian mare by Larenco x Grandeur owned by Josef Waning, did not have to return for the second round. Nieberg was also clear in the first round. Ahlmann, Dreher, and Deusser each had four faults in the first round.
Engemann spoke about his decision to choose Dreher for the jump-off, "Hansi's horse jumped really well in the first and second round. The horses had not so much experience in this level. We know Hansi is a fighter and he'll try when he goes in the jump-off. That's why we put him in the jump-off for us. He did a really good job and we are happy."
Dreher has been riding Colore, an 11-year-old Holsteiner stallion by Contender x Lord owned by Paul Buecheler, for just 10 months and this was the horse's first Nations Cup. "Today I'm very, very proud of him," Dreher expressed. "He jumped amazing today, and I hope it will stay like this. I tried to be clear and as fast as possible. I think it was okay!"
Ahlmann was very happy with Asca Z, a 10-year-old Holsteiner stallion by Ascari x Carthago Z owned by Stoeterij Zangersheide. "My horse, he jumped really good in the first round," Ahlmann said. "I was lucky with one down. He has not so many experiences in this kind of level. The second round he felt a lot better and he jumped it much more easy and felt really, really good. He made a really big step forward in these kinds of classes."
Daniel Deusser and Evita van de Veldballe, a nine-year-old Belgian Warmblood mare by Wandor vd Mispelaere x Clinton owned by Stephex Stables, showed strongly as well. It was also Evita's first Nations Cup. "She's just nine years old this year and has not the most experience in classes like that. I thought she did a good job today," Deusser noted.
Deusser was complimentary of the course design by Palacios, knowing the conditions that affected the grounds. "The ground was okay, but the circumstances were that it rained a lot. It feels different to ride in the sun or rain. It was not crazy big. But the good horses and the non-experienced horses, they all had nearly the same result," he explained. "The teams were really, really close together in the first round, and we didn't have any really bad pictures in this class. I think he did a super job today."
Ahlmann said that the team was pleasantly surprised at their result. "It feels really good, especially since we didn't expect it," he affirmed. "We were really motivated, but some of us had our second horses today. We were really happy in the second round. Lars made it possible with his clear at the end (of the first round). Everything worked 100%. We are 100% super happy, especially with Hansi. He did a great job in the jump-off."
Engemann added, "Spruce Meadows has some of the biggest shows in the world and a really important Nations Cup. When we have an invitation to come here, we want to have a really strong team and try to win. For us it was really important to show, and in the end, we really had to win the class."
Second place finishers Belgium were led by Mathy and Polinska des Isles, who were double clear. Pieter Devos and Candy had four and zero, Olivier Philippaerts and Cabrio van de Heffinck scored four and one, and Nicola Philippaerts had eight in the first round with Vadetta VH Mettenhof, but returned for an all-important clear in the second round to put them into the jump-off.
Penelope Leprevost and her handy mare Dame Blanche van Arenberg had an impressive double clear performance for France. She was joined by teammates Kevin Staut on Estoy Aqui de Muze HDC (0,4), Eugenie Angot with Old Chap Tame (4,0), and Marc Dilasser on Obiwan de Piliore (4,13) in the third place finish.
Great Britain placed fourth on 13 faults, Canada was fifth with 20, and Ireland scored 21 for sixth place.
Source: Press release from Jennifer Wood Media Inc.
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