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Friday, September 29, 2023

Young U.S. team eliminated in Spruce Meadows Nations Cup won by Ireland

CALGARY, Canada--In a Nations Cup competition at Spruce Meadows that included a top rider suffering a fall in the water jump, two riders slipping badly on a turn with one falling and the other just missing a fall and a huge discrepancy of scores from a two round total of 5 faults to an eliminated U.S. team.

Natalie Dean on Acota M Mckenzie ClarkNatalie Dean on Acota M (Photo by Mckenzie Clark)"I think anyone would agree, it was a strange Nations' Cup," said U.S. Team Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland.

 The U.S. Jumping Team finished sixth of seven teams as the team didn't finish the second round in Nations Cup after Mimi Gochman had a fall and was eliminated in the first round and Brian Cournane retired after hitting a fence hard early in the second round.

Leopoldo Palacios of Venezuela set a course that included a very tight time allowed that might have been the cause of some of the problems vexing the riders in the competition that started with seven teams and was reduced to six for the jump-off.

"It was a brilliant course," said Ridland. "It fit both short strided horses and long strided horses, but you had to ride it correctly. Leopoldo is known for setting tight time alloweds. A tight time increases the degree of difficulty. It was the tight time that caused the two horses to slip as the riders tried to turn tight to save time."

Ten riders from the 27 riders had time faults in the first round.


IRELAND was reduced to a three man team after Conor Swail''s mount, Calciet EB Z, fell heavily in the water, appearing to hit Swail as he got up, but despite that won on a final score of five, with Germany second on a total of six faults, and Canada third on 12.

Swail got up and walked out of the ring and was able to compete the next day.

“Today was disappointing for us as a team," said Ridland. "We came into this competition wanting to give some of our younger and newer combinations more experience in an environment like this, and while we did that in many respects, it wasn’t close to the result we were aiming for.“It was a rough fall for Mimi, and thankfully both her and Celina are okay. We’ll come back to fight another day and now need to look ahead to the upcoming FEI Jumping Nations Cup Final and the Pan American Games."

As the U.S. drew last in the team order, Natalie Dean of Palo Alto, Calif., on Acota M, the horse that went so beautifully in the Nations Cup in Aache, went  seventh of the seven teams, but she had an uncharacteristic three rails down for 12 faults.

Brian Cournane of Wellington, Fla., on Armik made his international debut for the U.S. Team after changing nationalities from his native Ireland in the last few years.

Armik slipped on a turn and almost fell, but somehow Cournane was able to get back in the saddle and continue, although he had a rail down for 4 faults and 5 time faults accumulated recovering from the fall for a total of nine..

Alessandra Volpi of Woodside, Calif., riding Berlinda, has had a consistent season, representing the U.S. in numerous Nations Cups around Europe throughout the summer season, but she had faults in the latter third of the course, finishing on a total of 12 faults.

Mimi Gochman, 19 of New York, N.Y., on Celina BH, had a miscommunication at fence three when Celina left out a stride at the triple bar and fell.

Gochman appeared to try to get up but first fell back before getting to her feet, but then she walked out of the ring with Ridland after medics took a quick look at her.

Celina BH also walked out of the ring.

"I had to keep Mimi from jogging out of the ring, but once we went through the out gate she ran down to see if her horse was okay," said Ridland. She's one tough cookie. Celina was fine the day after the fall."

"Ironically, Mimi had just been awarded Rider of the Year by Spruce Meadows the day before the Nations Cup," said Ridland.

With only six of the seven team going forward into the second round, with the U.S. team having a total of 33 faults, it seemed unlikely that the U.S. would make the second round.

But incredibly, Sweden's fourth rider slipped and fell on the same turn as Cournane to be eliminated, so Sweden had a total of 34 faults tp be the team that missed the second round.

"Sweden, the Olympic champions and recently the European champions, and the U.S.,, Tokyo silver medalists were the two teams that did worst in Spruce Meadows," said Ridland. "Amazing."

Returning with only three riders in the second round, Dean had 8 jumping faults, but then Cournane misread the distance at the one-stride, hitting the rails hard, so as Cournane opted to retire, the team was eliminated.

"Brian said he just didn't feel right, and as the well being of the horse always comes first he decided to retire," said Ridland on Sunday. "He may have just stung himself, but he's fine today."

Following the first round, Ireland had 1 fault, Canada had 4, German had 6, Great Britain had 25, Belgium had 31 and the U.S. had 33.

With only three riders in the second round, Daniel Coyle on Legacy had a clear round, Denis Lynch on Brooklyn Heights had 4 faults and Bertram Allen on Pacino Amiro delivered a crucial clear round to finish on 5 faults for the win.

Germany came back with three clear rounds to stay on 6 faults for second, and Canada had two 4 fault rounds and a clean round to finish third on 12 faults.

Great Britain was fourth with 41 faults, and Belgium was fifth with 57 faults.

On Sunday, the Grand Prix had 37 starters, while the top 12,, five with clean rounds, and seven with 4 faults, went on to the second round.

Canada's Tiffany Foster on Fidor and Switzerland's Martin Fuchs on Leone Jei, both clean in the first round, went clean again in the second round to force a jump-off.

Fuchs had survived the first round clean despite having lost his stirrup a little over halfway through the round.

Amazingly, Fuchs was unable to get his stirrup back yet still managed to jump the huge course clean.

Foster went first in the jump-off but had 4 faults in 44.45, and then Fuchs went clean, while also going fast, to win the $3 Million Grand Prix.


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