For the second time in a row, Team USA rode away with a Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ victory, this time on Mother’s Day, Sunday, May 14, in a thrilling performance on their U.S. home turf at the San Juan Capistrano International in California.
Led by Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland, the team of Lillie Keenan on Argan de Beliard, Karl Cook riding Kalinka van’t Zorgvliet, Laura Kraut on Dorado 212 and McLain Ward aboard Contagious, finished on 12 faults. Taking second place with 17 faults was Team Ireland while Team Mexico rounded out the top three with 33 faults.
“At the end of the year last year, we said we were going to have to come out firing,” said Ridland. “Qualifying for the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona had to be a major priority because that's one of the two ways left to qualify for the [2024 Paris Olympics]. So, we basically took our A-team at the beginning of the year and split it in half.”
With the first “A-team” of riders, the U.S. claimed victory in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico, on April 28, and with the second group of top-ranked riders, they got it done again, this time in front of the large hometown crowd at the Rancho Mission Viejo Riding Park in San Juan Capistrano.
“Basically, all four riders that were on our silver medal team in Tokyo [at the 2020 Olympics] were represented in these two teams,” continued Ridland. “So that was our plan, and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t – but this time it did!”
At the conclusion of the first round of Sunday’s Nations Cup, the win was still very much anybody’s game, with the U.S. on 8 faults, Mexico on 13, Ireland on 16 and Canada on 26. However, as the rails fell for Canada and Mexico, the U.S. and Ireland pulled further ahead. Then, as Kraut and Dorado 212 came home clear as the third rider to return for Team USA, the victory was cemented for the U.S.
While the win was already guaranteed, Ward and Contagious returned to put the final icing on the cake and to challenge the only other rider with a chance at a double clear, Mexico’s Jose Antonio Chedraui Eguia, for the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ leading rider bonus.