Wellington, Florida, USA – March 04, 2023 – Despite being on U.S. soil, Wellington International was brimming with Canadian pride on Saturday evening as the Canadian Show Jumping Team gave a dominating performance in the $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO 4*, presented by IDA Development. Team members Erynn Ballard (CAN), Mario Deslauriers (CAN), Tiffany Foster (CAN) and Beth Underhill (CAN) were led by 10-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar in his debut as chef d’équipe.
In the 22-year history of the Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival (WEF), Canada has stood atop the podium six times, making Saturday evening’s performance lucky number seven.
Eleven teams, including Argentina, Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Great Britain, Ireland, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela competed in the opening round earlier in the day, and the top eight returned for round two during ‘Saturday Night Lights.’ At the start of the second round, Brazil, Canada and Ireland were tied on eight faults apiece over a course designed by Anthony D’Ambrosio (USA).
With the pressure on, Canada rose and produced three clears from Erynn Ballard (CAN), Mario Deslauriers (CAN) and Tiffany Foster (CAN), giving Beth Underhill (CAN) the opportunity to sit out the round. Deslauriers finished the night fault-free aboard Emerson, the 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding (Eldorado vd Zeshoek x Berlin) owned by Wishing Well Farm.
“My plan was to try and jump another clear and lock it up,” said Deslauriers, who guided Emerson through the mount’s first Nations Cup experience. “He’s jumped some bigger tracks at Spruce [Meadows] on the field so he was very capable. I had high expectations so it’s a huge relief. I must thank my teammates and our chef d’équipe for a great night. Everybody rode well and it was a great win for us.”
Brazil’s Luiz Francisco de Azevedo (BRA), Fabio Leivas de Costa (BRA), Luciana Lossio (BRA) and Eduardo Menezes (BRA) settled for runner-up, while Ireland took third after winning the 2022 edition of the Nations Cup in Wellington.
The Irish squad included David Blake (IRL), Cian O’Connor (IRL), Shane Sweetnam (IRL) and Max Wachman (IRL). Both teams finished on an -fault tally.
Leading off with winning momentum, Tiffany Foster (CAN) and seasoned mount Hamilton produced the first clear of the second round in front of a considerable Canadian cheering section.
“I think the Canadian audience are some of the best in the world. This nations cup almost feels like a home nations cup for us because it’s on North American soil and we have so many Canadians here in the winter,” said Foster, who rode Hamilton, a 12-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Quadros 3 and owned by the Hamilton Group. “Hamilton was a little green when we got him as an eight-year-old, so it’s been a process to get to know him. He’s mature now and he’s a reliable partner and teammate that I’m grateful to have for events like this.”
Beth Underhill (CAN) sat the second round out to preserve her team’s zero count, but noted their faith was high from the start. “I think we had great confidence and we really wanted to give it a good shot for a win, especially with our new leader, Ian Millar. I think all of us together are friends and have been for many years, so there’s been this great synergy and strength among us.”
Underhill rode in the irons of Nikka vd Bisschop, a 10-year-old Belgian-bred mare (Emerol NOP x Nabab de Reve) for the Rein Family.
Ballard (CAN) and Gakhir, a 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Spartacus TN, owned by Esperanza Imports and Ilan Ferder, echoed Foster’s second-round clear to further her team’s lead. “This is my third year jumping in this class, but this was the first year I felt we had a great shot,” admitted Ballard. “Gakhir has proved that he keeps getting better and better. I think it’s his blood and ability to keep going round after round that has helped us be so consistent.”
Millar was named leader of the Canadian Show Jumping Team in early February and spoke about his first stab at team selections, saying, “I work with a committee, and we looked at the declared athletes together. Within a couple of minutes, it was unanimous. It’s a great group of riders; I’ve ridden with all of them, and I know how good they are. It was a great pleasure to be the chef d’équipe tonight. This is the biggest and most prestigious circuit in the world in the winter, so this nations cup was a very important win for our Canadian team.”
Final Results – $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO 4*, presented by IDA Development
1) Team Canada – 8
3) Team Brazil – 16
3) Team Ireland – 16
Source: Press Release from ESP – Equestrian Sports Productions
Photos: © Sportfot / Hannah Stephens & Maddy Lima