by Louise Parkes
Youth had its day when an exciting young Mexican team pinned some of the world’s most successful nations into the minor placings to win the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of the United States of America at Deeridge Farm in Wellington (USA) today. This first leg of the 2019 series, which will visit 12 venues around the globe before the Final in Barcelona (ESP) in October, was also the first leg of the three-round North/Central America and Caribbean League which will continue at Coapexpan (MEX) and Langley (CAN) in May. And Team Mexico really flexed their muscles when pinning an impressive new-look Israeli side into runner-up spot, and the reigning world champions from the USA into third.
You could hear them celebrating from a mile away this evening, and in the animated post-competition press conference their supporters didn’t hold back, celebrating just as enthusiastically as they did when their country reigned supreme at the final leg of the Europe Division 1 series in Dublin (IRL) last summer.
Victory today was sealed by double-clear performances from the two youngest members of Stany van Paesschen’s side, second-line rider Eugenio Garza Perez (23) riding Victer Finn DHZ and anchorman Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane (24) partnering the lovely grey mare Hortensia van de Leeuwerk. But all four played their part, with pathfinder Fernando Martinez Sommer (29) dropping just a single rail both times out with Cor Bakker, and Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado (25) foot-perfect at his first attempt with Tino la Chapelle before double-faulting in round two.
FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 course designer, Ireland’s Alan Wade, set a track that tested rideability, and the final line of a one-stride triple combination to big oxer proved the undoing of many. However with three first-round clears the Mexicans were already in command at the halfway stage on a zero score, trailed by Ireland and USA on eight, Israel close behind with nine, last year’s Wellington winners from Canada on 12 and the three-member Colombian side already trailing the field with 16 on the board.
In the end the Mexicans held on tight, but Zendejas Salgado’s second-round errors at the open water and the following vertical meant that Dufrane was under a lot of pressure when last to enter the arena. If those eight faults had to be added to Martinez Sommer’s single mistake at the final element of the triple combination then it would be a completely different story.
“I tried to keep calm and stay really focused - we have a psychologist to help us relax so I knew how to deal with it today” Dufrane said after bringing his trustworthy 12-year-old mare home fault-free to clinch it.
Team Israel also had plenty to be pleased about, Daniel Bluman’s double-clear with Ladriano Z bolstering an impressive all-round performance that saw them add nothing to their first-round nine-fault tally for second spot. Team USA looked strongest at the outset, with super-stars Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Laura Kraut joined by young star Lucy Deslauriers. But single errors proved costly, so they will be hoping to turn the tables when their regional League moves to Mexico next time around. Only Mexico, USA and Canada were entitled to qualifying points in today’s competition, so they claimed 100, 80 and 60 points respectively.
Garza Perez, who trains with legendary Irish rider Eddie Macken and is the only member of the Mexican side to reside in the USA, said:
“Today’s result is testament to the quality of the next generation of young Mexican riders.”
He was a member of the historic side that posted that spectacular win in Dublin last August. “That day was an inspiration to us all!” he pointed out. And now the main Mexican goal is a place at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2019. “There’s an Olympic place on offer in Barcelona, and we intend to take it!” he said.
Meanwhile Gonzalez Dufrane hopes to be selected for the next leg of the North/Central America and Caribbean series “because it’s taking place in my home town”. After today’s double-clear he’s likely to be a contender….
The Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2019 series continues next weekend with the single qualifier for the Middle East which will take place in Abu Dhabi (UAE) on Saturday 23 February.
Result: 1, Mexico 4 faults: Cor Bakker (Fernando Martinez Sommer) 4/4, Victer Finn DHZ (Eugenio Garza Perez) 0/0, Tino la Chapelle (Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado) 0/8, Hortensia van de Leeuwerk (Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane) 0/0; 2, Israel 9 faults - Ladriano Z (Daniel Bluman) 0/0, J’adore van het Klinkhof (Ilan Ferder) 5/8, Chela LS (Ashlee Bond) 4/0, Lizziemary (Danielle Goldstein) 8/0; 3, USA 12 faults - Breitling LS (Beezie Madden) 0/4, Hester (Lucy Deslauriers) 8/0, Confu (Laura Kraut) 4/0, HH Azur (McLain Ward) 4/4.
Full result here
Standings after Round 1 of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2019 North America, Central America & Caribbean League:
1. Mexico - 100
2. USA - 80
3. Canada - 60
Full Standings here
Watch highlights here