Led by Chef d’Equipe Stanny van Paesschen, the Mexican team featured four riders under the age of 30 – Fernando Martinez Sommer on Cor Bakker, Eugenio Garza Perez on Victer Finn DH Z, Juan Jose Zendejas Salgado riding Tino La Chapelle and Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane with Hortensia Van De Leeuwerk.
“Coming up from our team’s win in Dublin, we knew that we had a good team—a great team—great riders and great horses,” said Garza Perez, the most experienced of the four. “These three riders are amazing. They ride much more than their age, and we really pulled together and pulled out the win.”
Six teams were entered, and although Mexico led from start to finish, it still came down to the final rider to determine who would finish with the lowest two-round fault total for the win.
At the conclusion of the first round, Mexico led with a score of zero. The United States and Ireland were tied for second with eight faults, and Israel stood fourth with nine.
For the second round, the teams returned in reverse order of standing, with the top contenders riding last. Two-time Olympic veteran Daniel Bluman (ISR) and Ladriano Z were first to ride for the top four teams and had the only clear round in the first rotation. The top four’s other three trailblazers – Beezie Madden (USA) and Breitling LS, Shane Sweetnam (IRL) on Indra van de Oude Heihoef and Martinez Sommer – each had a rail down for four faults.
The second rotation saw Israel’s Ilan Ferder and J’adore Van Het Klinkhof score eight faults for their team’s drop score. The U.S.’s 19-year-old Lucy Deslauriers, a last-minute substitute for Olympic veteran Margie Engle, who arrived ill Sunday morning, improved the U.S. chances, going clear on Hester. Cormac Hanley (IRL) and VDL Cartello gave Ireland a second four-fault score, and Garza Perez gave Mexico a huge advantage with a second clear round.
The third rotation was crucial, as a rail down could end the trail to the podium for the three teams hoping to catch Mexico. Ashlee Bond (ISR) did her part, going clear on Chela LS to keep Israel at nine faults. Laura Kraut kept the U.S. in the hunt, going clear on Confu to keep her team with a three-rotation score of eight. Ireland’s Paul O’Shea had one time fault with Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu, leaving his team on a score of 17. Mexico’s Zendejas Salgado had the weight of his country on his shoulders, as a clear round would secure the gold. Instead, he became the drop score with two rails down, keeping Mexico in the lead with a score of four faults but with the result still in doubt.
With the battle for gold still on, Danielle Goldstein kept Israel in the hunt with a final team score of nine by going clear on Lizziemary.
Four-time Olympic veteran and 2017 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final Champion McLain Ward, well accustomed to needing a clear to save his team, rode well on HH Azur but had a rail down to leave the U.S. with a score of 12. That meant gold would be out of reach, but a spot on the podium was secured. Gonzalez Dufrane, meanwhile, could have one rail down and still win the gold for Mexico. Two rails would give the win to Israel and tie the U.S. for second. The huge, enthusiastic crowd on hand held its breath as Gonzalez Dufrane negotiated the Alan Wade-designed course. He became the hero, going clearand giving Mexico the gold with a score of four faults.
“It feels amazing. This is my first Nations Cup, so it is just unbelievable for me,” said Gonzalez Dufrane. “I tried to focus and keep calm, and everything went well. I know my mare quite well, but today [my team] gave me advice that made me jump even better and become more connected.”
All of the riders and chefs praised Deeridge Farms. Mexican Chef van Paesschen summed it up best. “It’s a beautiful venue, [and] the ring is absolutely fantastic. It’s like a home garden, as it’s really well kept. It’s beautiful. We are not used to places like this in Europe. In Mexico, they also have great places, but this is a great venue and among the best in the world.”