Round One of the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, Spain is on the books and Team Canada has taken the lead.
It’s a promising start for the country that failed to qualify for the prestigious event for the past two years running. (Canada finished sixth in 2013 and second in 2014 in Barcelona, but were bumped by Mexico in 2015 and 2016.)
Represented by three fourths of their Rio Olympic team—Yann Candele, Tiffany Foster, Eric Lamaze—and California-based rider Chris Pratt, Team Canada posted the only zero score in today’s first qualifier to claim pole position going into Saturday night’s title-decider.
And they’re doing it with a few wild cards in the mix.
“We had a couple of question marks, a couple of unknowns, some of our horses and riders were not available to come,” said chef d’equipe Mark Laskin.
The last of the 15 countries to contest the arena today, the Canadian’s had the best of the draw. Candele (46) started them off with a clear round riding Theodore Manciais, a horse he’s only ridden three times before. (It was their first course together!)
“With Yann I always said I wouldn’t be surprised if he had a couple of rails down, so to come through like that as first rider, it really gave us a spark!” said Laskin.
“He’s been traditionally our lead-off rider because he doesn’t count strides, he just adjusts, he improvises. Even after he went into the ring he did some numbers (of strides) that we weren’t planning, and Eric Lamaze said to me, ‘Why do we even walk the course with him? He might as well just go in and wing it!'”
Foster (33) followed suit posting a fault-free round with her Olympic mount, Tripple X, while Chris Pratt (48) and Concorde picked up eight faults. With the best three scores to count, it was 2008 Olympic champion Lamaze (49) who brought it home with a clear effort from Coco Bongo.
Just one rail behind the Canadian’s are The Netherlands, USA, France and Germany, which all finished with four faults. The last three qualifying places for Saturday’s Final go to Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland with eight faults apiece.
Team Ireland, which claimed team gold at the Longines FEI European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE) four weeks ago, also finished with eight faults. But their slower combined times saw the country that claimed line up ninth, and just outside the qualification zone.
The French met a similarly disappointing day. They were on track to tie the Canadians on a zero score when anchor rider Roger Yves Bost was disqualified for using hind boots on his horse that weren’t in accordance FEI regulations.
Could Saturday see the Canadians claim the Nations Cup title for the first time in the Series?
Said their ever-optimistic chef:
“Anything can happen once you get to the dance! We don’t get ahead of ourselves, there are clichés for a reason because it’s a good way to think—one step at a time, one round at a time, we’ll see what happens….”
Tune into FEI TV tomorrow for the Longines Challenge Cup. The Final Round of the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Final will take place on Saturday 3:00pm EDT.