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Canada Wins FEI Nations Cup at Palm Beach

WELLINGTON, Fla., Feb. 27--Canada won the FEI Nations Cup before an unprecedented sellout crowd of more than 8,000 spectators at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Friday night. Great Britain and Ireland tied for second.

The only Nations Cup held in the Unites States was held under the lights of the FTI Winter Equestrian Festival as fans cheered the eight teams that started the event.

It was the fourth victory for Canada in the seven years of the event.

The Canadian team was made up entirely of Ontario residents: Keean White of Cambridge, on Celena Z, Yann Candele of Nobleton on Mustique, Eric Lamaze of Schomberg on Hickstead, and Ian Millar of Perth on In Style.

The event was marked by drama.

The Canadian team experienced drama when the nose band on the stallion Hickstead broke during the first round by Olympic gold medalist Eric Lamaze and the pair incurred an unusual six faults. But anchor rider Ian Millar, nicknamed 'Cap'n Canada' and a veteran of nine Olympics, rode In Style to two clear rounds to clinch victory for the 2008 Olympic silver medal team.

The USA finished fourth after a last-minute rider change agreed to by all the teams as a result of Todd Minikus of Wellington rushing to be with his mother who was injured in an accident hours before the start of the event. His place was taken by Kent Farrington of Wellington on Up Chiqui. The other U.S. riders were Lauren Hough also of Wellington on Quick Study, Christine McCrea of Suffield, Conn. on Vegas and Laura Kraut of Wellington on Cedric.

Hunter Harrison, CEO of CN National Railway Company that sponsored the FEI Nations Cup, said the event "was a milestone for Wellington, I have never seen a turnout like tonight, the sport is starting to move to another level. It was a great night for show jumping and a great night for the sport."

The first round of competition was neck and neck between Great Britain and Ireland with Hickstead's broken nose band helping to drop Canada to third place.

"His noseband broke over the water jump," Lamaze said of the incident. "He's a very sensitive horse and was quite unhappy with what was going on and he let me know it."

Canada's luck turned around thanks to a double clear round delivered by Millar.

Millar said he did not know he had to go double clean for the win if Ireland had a rail until he got to the ingate. He said of the pressure, "You know you really feel alive doing this work and I really enjoy doing it."

Terrance Millar, chef d'equipe of the Canadian team said of the win, "we had a hard time believing we were in contention, we backed into the win. Its good to be lucky sometimes."

Great Britain, on the other hand, was not so lucky.

Peter Charles reflected on the event, "It was a good competition tonight. I would like to thank Frank for a magnificent course and not killing anyone tonight. Nick Skelton's horse couldn't come back in the second round, so we had a bid of bad luck tonight, we could have won it."

Lauren Hough, who was double clear, said of the result for the U.S., "It's always an honor to ride for your country. We didn't have high scores just fours and eights. My horse jumped great, even better the second round. I'm very honored and proud I could deliver a double clear in front of my home country."

Photo: Ian Millar riding In Style to double clear rounds to lead Canada to victory in the FEI Nations Cup at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Friday night. 2009 Ken Braddick


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