Ireland Dominates Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at HITS Ocala CSIO4*
Ocala, Florida (February 13, 2015): Darragh Kenny, Lorcan Gallagher, Kevin Babington and Conor Swail led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Splaine, had the luck of the Irish on their side as they took home top honors in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™, presented by Edge Brewing Barcelona at HITS Ocala CSIO4* on Friday, February 13. Coming to Ocala with a strong squad, Team Ireland will leave the Sunshine State with another FEI Nations Cup™ title under their belts and their share of the $200,000 purse.
A packed grandstand, sold out VIP, and two live webcasts looked on as six nations - Canada, Colombia, the United States, Mexico, Venezuela and Ireland - took their turns over a two-round competition course of 15 efforts set at 1.50m, designed by Martin Otto of Muenster, Germany. First of the 24 to show was Darragh Kenny (IRL) riding Oakland Ventures LLC’s Picolo. They were quick to set the tone for the afternoon with a clean round right out of the gate.
As each team’s first rider showed, Luis Alejandro Plascancia (MEX) and Caressini L, Lauren Hough (USA) and Ohlala, Andres Rodriguez (VEN) and Verdi, as well as Daniel Bluman(COL) aboard Conconcerto Apardi, chased Kenny’s success but all fell victim to penalties along the way. That was, until Yann Candele (CAN) and Showgirl owned by Watermark Group, made the Canadian Team’s debut attempt at the course and a strong one at that. The pair owned the second clear trip of the day putting Canada in the game.
On deck, 23-year-old Lorcan Gallagher (IRL) with Diktator van de Boslandhoeve, owned by Spy Coast Farm LLC and Shane Sweetnam, impressed in his first-ever FEI Nations Cup™ to give Ireland their second clear round. Georgina Bloomberg (USA) and Gotham Enterprizes LLC’s Juvina entered the ring 9th and sailed through the obstacles free of faults to kick off the US Team’s round one success.
“When I knew I was coming here, we made this a priority. I wanted to have her peak here,” said Bloomberg of Juvina.
Clean trips continued for many, including Juan Pablo Betancourt (COL), Ilan Bluman(COL), Ian Millar (CAN), Pablo Barrios (VEN), Eric Lamaze (CAN), in addition to Kevin Babington (IRL) and Conor Swail (IRL), placing Ireland with zero total penalties as the first round came to a close. After the FEI Nations Cup™ scoring format was applied, dropping the highest penalty from each team, the standings going into the second round had Ireland, Colombia and Canada tied for first with zero faults, the USA and Venezuela tied for fourth with four faults and Mexico in sixth with 12 faults.
The energy was high as the first seven competitors took a second turn on Otto’s course. It appeared that many of the horses lost respect for the water jump, clearing all the fences but touching the tape in the water resulting in four faults.
“The course designer did a fantastic job. The footing felt great. He was sympathetic in the first round and significantly tougher in the second round,” said Ireland’s Chef d’EquipeRobert Splaine.
Of the three leading teams, Ireland was first to take the ring in round two with Kenny facing eight penalties along the way to drop his team down the leaderboard. Next in, Bluman (COL) improved from his first round trip of eight penalties with just four in the second round. Candele (CAN) followed and faced the same, keeping Colombia and Canada tied for the top spot.
Eight to go and hoping to comeback from teammate Lauren Hough’s round two, four penalty attempt, Bloomberg and her 14-year-old grey were confident in their craft. The pair secured the first clean go of round two and was the only second team rider to go clear which moved U.S.A. up in the ranks and kept Ireland, Colombia and Canada at bay.
Riding third for the U.S., Laura Kraut and Cherry Knoll Farm LLC’s Cedric saw a score of 15 penalties after Cedric tried to leave out a stride in the triple combination resulting in downed rails on the third element and pushing the U.S. out of first. Babington and his mount, Shorapur, owned by Shorapur LLC, followed, clearing the course again igniting a match for first between the U.S. and Ireland, with Canada and Columbia hot on their heels.
“She’s a fighter. It’s her first Nations Cup and I’m very proud of her for two clean rounds. She doesn’t give up,” said Babington.
The race was on for third as Ilan Bluman (COL) and Blue Star Investments & Mauricio Ga’s Exacto LS saw nine faults and international champion Ian Millar (CAN) riding Dixson, owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, had four. Anchor for the U.S.A., Beezie Madden, aboard Abigal Wexner’s Simon, entered the ring 20th and defined American style with her second picturesque clear. Both Madden and Bloomberg provided double clean rounds leveraging the U.S. Team to second place overall.
“Thank god for Georgina and Beezie who pulled us out of the pretty deep hole we put ourselves in in the first round,” said US Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. “These Nations Cups early in the year, when you’re coming off a break, can have some unforeseen things happen and we certainly had a very interesting first round.”
“The footing was excellent, the weather was perfect but there’s a lot at stake. It’s the most money we’ve ever jumped for at a Nations Cup in the US and those [Furusiyya] points are at stake. So sometimes funny things can happen,” added Ridland.
“[Ocala] is s a fresh place for us and it’s nice to go to a new venue,” said Madden. “For classical jumping, for real sport, this is nice. For something that really counts, it’s nice to have this atmosphere.”
Feeling pressure as the last attempt for the Irish and 22nd in the order, Conor Swail (IRL) with Grafton, owned by Susan and Ariel Grange, delivered his next clear of the day, ultimately gaining a leg up on the competition for first place. Throughout his ride, Swail’s teammates were giddy with excitement at the thought of taking home the prize.
“It was my horse’s first Nations Cup and it was same for Kevin’s, and it was Lorcan’s first time to ride a Nations Cup while Darragh Kenny was on his speed horse,” said Swail.
“When you’re riding on a good horse, and having had a nice first round, I was trying to be smooth and do a similar job that she had already done,” Swail continued. “It felt very good, I didn’t have to work too hard and thankfully it all went really well today.”
Next to go, Roberto Teran Tafur (COL) and Ark Partners LLC’s Woklahoma delivered Colombia’s only clear trip of the round which was just what the team needed to finish with a competitive 12 total penalties and depending on Canada’s final go, third could go either way.
The final trip of the afternoon was Eric Lamaze (CAN) aboard Zigali P S, owned by Artisan Farm LLC, who gave the Canadian’s a solid finish with 4 faults for 12 total penalties resulting in a tie for third. According to FEI rules, if a tie for third occurs, the two Nations flip a coin to see who rides for the ribbons. Representing Fururisyya’s message of chivalry and good sportsmanship to the fullest, Canada opted to let their opponent ride, since it was Colombia’s first time in top three.
With four first round penalties and 12 in the second, Venezuela took fifth place overall and Mexico made sixth with 28 total penalties.
Dressed in signature Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ garb of sashes and coolers, Team Ireland galloped into the prize-giving ceremony beaming with pride welcomed by an applauding audience of equine enthusiasts, HITS exhibitors and Marion County residents alike. Many onlookers waved flags of the six nations represented while the Irish fan zone’s cheers carried into the wind.
“Thank you to Ocala for being such a wonderful city and host – they were extremely welcoming and professional. A special thank you and well done to Tom [Struzzieri] and the rest of his staff; they were really great to work with,” added FEI First Vice President John Madden.
“We were pretty excited here at HITS to get this opportunity. We only had a few months’ notice but obviously Furusiyya and Longines are great sponsors who offer so much support,” said HITS President and CEO Tom Struzzieri following the event. “I leaned on the U.S. Team and Robert as well. So we had a good support staff and are pretty happy with the results.”
“We’re four great lads, we always try to come prepared and we love jumping in the Nations Cups. We’re thankful it all went very well,” said Swail.
International competition continues in the Ocala Horse Properties Stadium on Sunday for the $150,000 FEI Ocala Grand Prix. Throughout the HITS Ocala CSIO4*, HITS will give away over $400,000 in prize money in FEI Jumper classes. Sunday’s $150,000 Grand Prix will be available by live webcast through USEF Network.
For more information on HITS Ocala CSIO4* and spectator opportunities, please visit www.HitsShows.com.
Kevin Babington and Shorapur give Ireland double clear rounds at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at HITS Ocala CSIO4*.
(C) ESI Photography
Conor Swail sails through the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup at HITS Ocala CSIO4*course with two clean rounds.
(C) ESI Photography
Darragh Kenny, Lorcan Gallagher, Kevin Babington and Conor Swail led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Splaine give the sold out Ocala Horse Properties Stadium at HITS Ocala CSIO4* a wave after winning the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup, presented by Edge Brewing Barcelona.
About HITS, Inc.
HITS, Inc. produces high quality, international-level hunter/jumper horse shows. Based in upstate New York in the Village of Saugerties, HITS has been producing shows since 1982 and is now a nationwide company with world-class circuits in California, Florida, Arizona, New York, and Virginia.
While hosting the richest weekend in show jumping at HITS-on-the-Hudson, HITS also formed the Triple Crown of Show Jumping. This includes the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Mortgage Call, in Thermal, California, the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix in Ocala, Florida, and Saugerties $1 Million Grand Prix, presented by Wells Fargo, in Saugerties, New York.
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