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Team Canada Wins for Second Straight Year in $75,000 Nations’ Cup

Team Canada Wins for Second Straight Year in $75,000 Nations’ Cup CSIO 5*, presented by CN

Irish Eyes Were Smiling with Silver Medal, USA Finishes with Bronze

Wellington, FL – March 9, 2007 – For the second year in a row and the third time in five years, the team from Canada brought home the gold medal in the $75,000 Nations’ Cup CSIO 5*, presented by CN. Anchored by Ian Millar and led by Mario Deslauriers, Eric Lamaze and Erynn Ballard, the Canadian team romped to the win with only one total fault over two rounds. The Irish team, consisting of Conor Swail, Jonathan McCrea, Cian O’Connor and Darragh Kerins, were thrilled with their second place finish. With a tough night, the American team of Margie Engle, Lauren Hough, McLain Ward and Beezie Madden had to settle for the bronze.

Six teams attempted the first round course set by Jose Gamarra of Bolivia. It featured an open water, a triple combination and a line with striding options. There were 12 numbered obstacles and 15 jumping efforts.

Argentina, Belgium and Great Britain could only field three man teams for the event. Deslauriers and Paradigm were the first to attempt the course and scored four faults for the Canadians. Conor Swail and Mr. President had a rail in the middle of the triple combination to tie that score. Margie Engle and Hidden Creek’s Quervo Gold had a fantastic trip going until they pulled a rail behind at the final jump on course.

Erynn Ballard and the imposing 17.2 hand, 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood, Robin van Roosendael, jumped brilliantly for the first clear round of the night. Disaster struck next when rookie Jackson Reed Stephenson and Goldex had two refusals at the water jump and were eliminated. His elimination left Great Britain (who only had three riders) with no choice but to withdraw from the competition.

Max Amaya (ARG) and Church Road had the final element of the triple combination down to score four faults, while Cian O’Connor and Irish Independent Echo Beach had a fabulous clear round, which set off the gigantic Irish cheering section with screaming, flag-waving and air horns.

For the American team, their chance at the gold medal looked grim when Lauren Hough and Casadora had trouble into the first element of the triple combination. Casadora refused fence b. When Hough circled to attempt it again, Casadora stopped again at the a fence. Hough was eliminated and became the drop score. After the competition, it was determined that Hough had a broken hand. She could not return for the second round, so the Americans had to count all three riders’ scores in their second attempt at the course.

Eric Flameng and Roxanne lifted the Belgians’ spirits when the mighty mare jumped for a clear round under the lights. He was followed by Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Hickstead, who racked up the second clear round of the night for his team. A third clear round in a row was notched by Ramiro Quintana (ARG) and Kaiser de la Cour. Riding in his first Nations’ Cup competition for Ireland, Jonathan McCrea and Costa had a slow, careful round, but it led to eight faults plus one time fault, which would become the drop score.

McLain Ward and Sapphire gave the Americans something to cheer about when they went clear in the first round. Gilbert de Roock (BEL) and Kira III had trouble in the dark and totaled 17 faults for the night. Ian Millar and In Style would seal the Canadians’ first round lead with a clear round, which dropped Deslauriers’ four fault score.

Pato Muente (ARG) and As Di Villagana had a foot in the water and one time fault for a total of five, which brought their team total to nine faults. Darragh Kerins tallied yet another clear round, which brought the Irish first round total to four faults.

Beezie Madden and Integrity kept the Americans’ hopes alive when she went clear, but gave some people palpitations when she finished with a time of 81.98 seconds in a time allowed of 82. The Americans’ first round total of four faults tied them with the Irish. Francois Mathy (BEL) and Ivoire du Rouet were the last combination on course. They had a clear round, but one time fault. Their total of 18 faults would keep them out of the running for a medal, and they chose not to return for the second round.

Total Faults After Round One:

Canada – 0

U.S.A. – 4

Ireland – 4

Argentina – 9

Max Amaya was the first to return for the second round, where the riders would ride the same course a second time. Church Road had eight faults in the second round. Swail and Mr. President, a new ride for him after Niall Grimes was injured, had a fantastic clear round. Deslauriers and Paradigm improved on their first course and brought another clean score to the Canadian total.

Engle and Hidden Creek’s Quervo Gold were jumping brilliantly until a slip before fence five. Quervo Gold could not quite make it over the jump and took the top rail down for four faults. "It wasn’t our night," Engle acknowledged. "It kind of fell apart a little bit. I was pleased with mine in the first round except the last jump he got a little strong. The second round, he felt like he did slip at the one vertical. Lauren had an unlucky ride to the triple. It’s kind of hard to come back with a three man team."

Quintana added another four faults to Argentina’s score, while 26-year-old Erynn Ballard, riding in only her second Nations’ Cup, would donate another clear round to the Canadian effort. Ballard produced a clear round in her first Nations’ Cup win this past summer at Spruce Meadows. "It was easier in Calgary to have eight faults and then have to go back, than it was to go clean and have to go back here," she laughed and added, "I’ve geared his whole winter around this. Tonight was what we were aiming for, and I think he proved to us that every time we get him ready, he always steps up to the plate."

Another double clean ride came from O’Connor for the Irish side, as did Ward and Sapphire, who effortlessly made it around the course. McCrea and Costa had some trouble with the bending line and finished with 13 faults. At the press conference afterwards, O’Connor explained the significance of their silver medal, "I was very happy to support the team. We’ve always worked on trying to perform in the Nations’ Cup because it gets a lot of coverage in Ireland. It’s very important for us to do well. The Americans are the team to beat, so for us to be second, it will mean a lot back home."

The water jump would prove to be another problem for Muente when his only faults came at the obstacle for a second time. Argentina’s second round total was 16 faults, and when added to their first score of nine, they finished with 25 faults and just off the podium.

Eric Lamaze took his time with Hickstead, knowing that if he could produce a clear round, the remaining two teams could not beat Canada. Hickstead had no trouble with the jumping and crossed the timers just past the time allowed. Even with Lamaze’s one fault, Canada could not be pushed out of the gold medal spot. The anchor rider Ian Millar elected not to return. Canada would finish the competition with just one fault.

"In this company, I did not expect it to go as smoothly as it did," Ian Millar admitted. "The course designer was a little conservative with his track. There were more cleans than normal in a Nations’ Cup. Once we got a hold of that lead, we weren’t going to let it go, for sure. There was a very fine team here that saved me that second ride."

It was now a fight for the silver medal. Ireland’s last hope was Darragh Kerins with Orlando. If they were clear, the Americans would receive the bronze medal. Kerins did just that, as the big bay stallion leaped over the fences and the crowd went wild. Ireland had a clear score in round two and a total of four faults for the competition. "It’s a new partnership with my horse, and he’s been knocking on the door here all winter. It’s my first Nations’ Cup with him, and it was great. I’d just like to thank Double H Farm for giving me the opportunity to ride the horse," Kerins said.

Madden and Integrity had to finish the course in order to receive the bronze medal, but had four rails in hand. They had four faults at fence six, which gave the United States an eight fault score and a 12 fault total for the night. After the class, Madden, like the rest of the U.S. team, was visibly disappointed but was still pleased with how Integrity performed. "I was happy with my horse. It’s his first Nations’ Cup and first time under the lights as far as I know. As Margie said, we had a rail down and only three riders, which is a tough road to go." Ward added, "It’s a little bit of a sick feeling right now, but we’ll be back for the weekend. That’s all we can do."

Canadian Chef d’Equipe Torchy Millar was thrilled with his team after a disappointing World Equestrian Games finish this past summer. Their win tonight is important for morale. Canada must finish in the top three teams excluding the United States at this summer’s Pan American Games in order to qualify for the 2008 Olympics. "Certainly, it’s a big confidence booster to win here against the United States, which is the gold standard for us. Whenever we do beat them, it’s extremely significant for us because they’re such a strong team," he said. "You never know on any given day how things will go."

Robert Splaine, the Chef d’Equipe for Ireland, noted that it was a big deal for Ireland to place well in tonight’s event. "To do well means an awful lot to us in Ireland. It’s a great honor for us to be here and to do well here is just very, very important to us," he expressed. "Our team ambition is going to the Olympics, but we also have an ambition to re-qualify for the Samsung Super League. Wellington is on that list of shows, being a five star, where you get points toward that. Being second is very good for us. I want to congratulate the Canadians and thank the U.S. for hosting such a wonderful event."

Final Results: $75,000 Nations’ Cup CSIO 5*, presented by CN

1. Canada: 0/1=1

Mario Deslauriers/Paradigm: 4/0

Erynn Ballard/Robin van Roosendael: 0/0

Eric Lamaze/Hickstead: 0/1

Ian Millar/In Style: 0/drop score

2. Ireland: 4/0=4

Conor Swail/Mr. President: 4/0

Cian O’Connor/Irish Independent Echo Beach: 0/0

Jonathan McCrea/Costa: 9/13

Darragh Kerins/Orlando: 0/0

3. U.S.A.: 4/8=12

Margie Engle/Hidden Creek’s Quervo Gold: 4/4

Lauren Hough/Casadora: elim/did not return

McLain Ward/Sapphire: 0/0

Beezie Madden/Integrity: 0/4

4. Argentina: 9/16=25

Max Amaya/Church Road: 4/8

Ramiro Quintana/Kaiser de la Cour: 0/4

Pato Muente/As Di Villagana: 5/4

5. Belgium: 18

Eric Flameng/Roxanne: 0

Gilbert de Roock/Kira III: 17

Francois Mathy Jr./Ivoire du Rouet: 1

6. Great Britain: elim

Jackson Reed Stephenson/Goldex: elim

Robert Smith/Marius Claudius: did not show

Nick Skelton/Russel: did not show

Photo Credit: CN President and CEO Hunter Harrison (blue jacket) awards Canada with first place and gold medal in the $75,000 Nations’ Cup CSIO 5*, presented by CN. Photo © 2007 Peter Llewellyn/PMG Pictures.


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