WELLINGTON, Fla.--Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland's program of putting two or three young, up-and-coming riders on a Nations Cup team with one or more experienced riders has resulted in many, many top finishes, but, for almost the first time, it didn't work in the $150,000 Nations Cup at CSIO4* Wellington on March 3.
The U.S. team finished on eight faults in the first round of the Nations Cup, which was contested by nine nations, but only six moved forward to compete in the second round, and six teams had less than eight faults, so the U.S., was eliminated from round two as were Canada, with nine faults, and Argentina, with 18 faults.
After the second round, Great Britain won with zero faults, Ireland was second with five faults and Mexico was third with 10.
The U.S. team consisted of Lillie Keenan on Fibonacci 17, Catherine Tyree on Bokai, Adrienne Sternlicht on Cristalline and Beezie Madden on Breitling LS.
Keenan of New York, N.Y., was first to go for the U.S., and she had three fences down for 12 faults plus one time fault for a total of 13, which ended up being the drop score.
TYREE OF Chicago, Ill., was next, and she had eight faults, so despite clean rounds from both Sternlicht of Greenwich, Conn., and Madden of Cazenovia, N.Y., the eight faults already accumulated eliminated the team.
“It’s pretty unusual that you come out of the first round on eight faults and don’t make the second round," said Ridland. "It’s certainly a first in a long time. It’s a very competitive Nations Cup. We’ve now had two Nations Cups in a row (the first was in Ocala) that have been extremely competitive, and the courses have been right on.”
“One of the reasons Lillie Keenan was on the team with Fibonacci was to really give her a chance to get to know that horse,” said Ridland. “You have to do a lot of that in the ring, in the field of play. I guess one of the shocks is not even being in the second round because we had a totally different game plan that we were going to do for the second round. It would have been nice to see how that worked out for Lillie.
“What tonight shows though is that this is a strong sport,” Ridland said. “The teams that are coming to play are real. It doesn’t afford you much of a margin for error, and we certainly saw that tonight.”
The U.S. team had been hoping for a win on home turf, so it was a disappointing effort, but the one good thing is that it was not a Nations Cup that counts towards the U.S. qualifying for the Finals in Barcelona this fall.
The next qualifying Nations Cup is in Coapexpan, Mexico on April 22, followed by the final qualifying Nations Cup in Langley, Canada on June 3.
Canada leads now with 100 points, the U.S. got 75 points for being tied for third, and Mexico has 55 points from the first qualifying class in Ocala in February,
THE SIX teams that returned for the second round in order from most faults to least were Chile with seven faults, Venezuela, 6 faults, Ireland, five faults, Brazil and Mexico with four faults each and Great Britain, clean.
The winning nation was represented by Amanda Derbyshire on Luibanta BH, clean and 8 faults, Ben Maher on Jane Forbes Clark’s Tic Tac, double clean, Emily Mason riding Explosion W, double clean, and Emily Moffitt on Hilfiger van de Olmenhoeve, 13 and clean.
“We had a long talk before the weekend that we needed Great Britain to get off to a good start,” said Maher. “We’ve been losing for too long, and I think that for any rider or any team, you can’t just go on a run of bad luck or bad results and all of a sudden come out and win a championship, so I think this year we have to start strong as a country, as a team, within the riders that we have and get off to a positive start. Now we can take this result back to Europe with us for the Super League division and look forward to Tryon for the Olympic qualification.
“We have a younger generation now,” said Maher, 35 “Everyone’s ridden one or two Nations’ Cups, and last week I was told this is my 50th, so I feel really old now. I think we need to make Di’s (Chef d’Equipe Di Lampard) job a little easier. Everyone always complains back home that we need to produce more results and Di should do this and Di should do that, but in the end the riders are accountable and we need to start producing in the ring like we did tonight.”