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Canada took an incredible victory at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2018 this weekend in Ocala, Florida, snatching the win from Germany.
The two nations had been tied at the event’s halfway point, but Team Canada was able to pull clear to secure its seventh triumph at a Florida Nations Cup event, ahead of second-placed Brazil and the USA and Ireland in joint third.
The victory saw Team Canada edge out the USA with historically six first-place finishes.
Six nations were represented in the Sunshine State, which lived up to its moniker by offering up a beautifully clear day, albeit a hot and humid one. In addition to Ireland, Germany, and Brazil in the mix, the USA, Canada, and Mexico were looking for qualifying points to advance to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup 2018 Finals in Barcelona, Spain, in September.
Designed by Maria Azevedo of Brazil, the course was a tough one and while the time allowed of 75 seconds was achievable, there were a couple of tricky features. These included a water element and a triple combination, which required constant management of the horses by the riders and split-second reorganisation to handle all 12 obstacles and 15 efforts.
Only five competitors turned in clear rides in the second round, including double clears by 10-time Olympian Ian Millar on Dixson and Olympic medal winner Eric Lamaze on Coco Bongo. Millar and Lamaze, both of Canada, also had immaculate rides in Round 1.
Team Germany, which had been tied with Canada for the lead midway through the event, dropped significantly in the standings when Christian Heineking encountered trouble at the water and wound up being eliminated for two disobediences.
In the end, no jump off was needed, as the final group of jumpers in Round 2 of the competition determined the podium positions.
Heading into the last six rides, Canada was in the lead with only eight cumulative faults from the day, with Brazil close behind with 12 faults. The USA was sitting on 20 faults, with Ireland at 24, Germany 28, and Mexico 36.
Mexico then picked up another four faults, as did the USA, Germany, and Brazil. Ireland’s Cian O’Connor, aboard Clenur, rattled the last rail but ultimately rode clear, which landed Ireland in a tie with the USA for third place. A double clear by Lamaze clinched victory for Canada.
There are two legs remaining for the North and Central American and Caribbean League before the finals in Barcelona, and with slots up for grabs, competition is sure to be stiff at Xalapa in Mexico, and Langley in British Columbia, Canada.
Words by Patricia Salem
Images by FEI