World of Showjumping
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USA wins roller coaster FEI Aga Khan Nations Cup presented by Longines in Dublin

Friday, 11 August 2017
CSIO5* Dublin 2017

Photo (c) FEI/Tony Parkes The winning US team: Laura Kraut, Lillie Keenan, Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland, Lauren Hough and Beezie Madden. Photo (c) FEI/Tony Parkes.

It was an American girl-power demonstration in Friday’s FEI Aga Khan Nations Cup presented by Longines in Dublin as Lauren Hough, Lillie Keenan, Beezie Madden and Laura Kraut could climb to the top of the podium after a roller coaster of a competition.

However, the first round in Dublin – host to the last leg of the FEI Nations Cup in Europe Division 1 – did not hold too many surprises in store. As it would turn out, those would be saved for the second round. And with three of the first riders in the ring going clear on the fences, the course set by Tom Holden and his team did fool many into believing that it would not end up too difficult.

For the hosts, the first round was a real triumph with Bertram Allen on Molly Malone V (Kannan x Cavalier), Denis Lynch on RFM Echo (Virus de Laubry x Feo) and Cian O’Connor on Good Luck (Canturo x Furioso II) all jumping clears to discharge Mark McAuley’s four faults.

The pole position was one the Irish lads shared with the American girls as Lauren Hough on Ohlala (Orlando x Cardento), Lillie Keenan on Super Sox (Salito x Silvio I) as well as Laura Kraut on Confu  (Contact Me x Cambridge) all produced clears to be able to discharge Beezie Madden’s score of four.

Close behind trailed France on a single time penalty after clears from Kevin Staut on For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC (For Pleasure x Heartbreaker), one time fault from Marie Hecart on Cenwood Delle Lame (Emilion x Riverman) and another clear from Olivier Robert on Eros (Querlybet Hero x Forever). An uncharacteristic five poles down from Marc Dilasser on Cliffton Belesbat (Clinton x Halando II vd Watering) could be scratched, and the French were still in the game.

That was also the case for the Dutch boys, that recorded only two penalties in round one after Michael Greeve jumped clear, with Doron Kuipers as well as Michel Hendrix recording a time fault each to discharge Frank Schuttert’s eight faults. Switzerland followed on six penalties, Spain on seven, Italy on 15 and Great Britain on a score of 22.

Although the twelve-fence course seemed pretty straight forward in round one, things would turn out very different as the riders gave it a second attempt – making it extremely exciting to the last fence had been jumped.

The Dutch boys Michael Greeve on Whitney Bb (Nabab de Reve x Calido I) as well as Doron Kuipers on Charley (Calido I x Askari) kept their team breathing the others down the neck when both going clear in round two, putting pressure on those ahead.

After four faults from Kevin Staut, Marc Dilasser made the comeback nobody expected when jumping clear after his twenty-fault first round – keeping the French on track for the podium.

The Irish on the other hand had little luck, with Bertram Allen and Marc McAuley picking up four and twelve faults respectively as the first two in the host line-up. It was starting to look dark for the home team, especially when Lauren Hough produced a beautiful double clear for USA followed by Lille Keenan with only one fence down.

Photo (c) FEI/Christophe Tanière. Laura Kraut and Confu secured the victory for the US. Photo (c) FEI/Christophe Tanière.

It was suspense all the way in round two, as faults mostly appeared at the end of each rider’s round. Again, and again, the line from fence seven to eight following the water would see faults and also the triple bar at nine started to fall frequently as did the penultimate combination while some also saw a pole on the last oxer drop to the ground.  

For Netherland’s Michel Hendrix however, it was the triple combination at 4abc that would get him in trouble and it could have turned out even worse had he not kept his balance as well as he did to end on an eight-penalty score to put some real excitement in the competition.

After a lovely first round, things turned out completely wrong for France’s Marie Hecart in the second round as she was eliminated after two stops in the penultimate combination. Suddenly there was no room for error anywhere for her team.

Denis Lynch had no luck either, and like McAuley the Irish rider had three fences down towards the end of the course – and it was game over for Ireland. It did not help much that Cian O’Connor did another beautiful round on Good Luck with only a time penalty as the anchor rider, with the hosts ending 5th.

As the third lady rider in the American line-up, Beezie Madden rode a picture-perfect round on the lovely 9-year-old Darry Lou (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Nabab de Reve) to keep the dream of a victory alive.

The Dutch, French and American anchor-riders would now have to deal with some serious pressure. A clear from Schuttert would keep the Dutch on a score of two, a faultless performance from Robert would fix the French on five and a clear from Kraut would keep the Americans on a clean sheet. All options were open, and with the time allowed a factor during the whole competition the riders had to keep their pace up.

However, Schuttert’s Chianti’s Champion by Champion du Lys hit the plank at three and adding a time penalty – as many others – the Dutch had to see five more penalties on top of the two already present to put them on a total of seven. This meant there was no room for error on the French team’s side, but there was no need to worry as Olivier Robert and Eros put up a fabulous performance to go clear again – making sure that the French finished on no more than a score of five overall.

For the Americans, this meant Kraut could afford a pole down but nothing more. The packed stadium in Dublin fell silent as Laura set off on her grey gelding, holding their breath as the stylish American rider cleared fence by fence around the huge grass ring. Crossing the finish line, Kraut had managed to remain on a clean sheet – securing the victory for her team in the prestigious and historic Aga Khan Nations Cup. 

"We said at the beginning of the year this was one of the shows we are bringing our “A” team to…it’s our view that the Aga Khan is the greatest trophy in our sport. And more than that there are many ways to win a Nations Cup, sometimes you get lucky, but today in my view there was no luck. These four riders did an unbelievable job!" said US Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland after the victory. 


Text © World of Showjumping // Pictures © FEI / Tony Parkes / Christophe Tanière

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