Riders Europe claimed their fourth consecutive Riders Masters Cup title on Saturday at the Longines Masters of New York, held at NYCB LIVE, Home of the Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum.
No one was less pleased than Riders USA captain Robert Ridland: “It’s not fun losing.”
The concept class, unique to the Longines Masters, pits five-member teams from Europe and the United States in a head-to-head battle. Double points are awarded to the winner of each match-up. Fail to complete a round and no points are awarded. Strategy looms large as each team captain has the ability to not only pick which riders go head-to-head but to change the match-ups and even horses for the second round.
In two years and four editions of the Riders Masters Cup—the class alternates between Paris in December and New York in April—Europe has come out the winner. Every time.
Ridland aimed to reverse American fortunes on home soil on Saturday. He tasked McLain Ward, Devin Ryan, Laura Chapot, Kristen Vanderveen and Lillie Keenan with the job of facing off on against Pius Schwizer, Olivier Philippaerts, Harrie Smolders, Darragh Kenny and Edward Levy for Riders Europe. Philippe Guerdat served as their team captain.
And it started out an even match.
Riders Europe took the first match (Keenan vs Schwizer). Riders USA, the second (Smolders vs Vanderveen). Then a disastrous no score round for the Americans in the third when Chapot’s mount took exception to the wall and was eliminated. Riders USA bounced back with a win in the fourth (Philippaerts vs Ward) only to be defeated in the fifth (Ryan vs Levy).
Round one went to the Europeans: 40 to 30.
But with double points awarded in the second round , the Americans were still in the hunt
In Round Two the fortunes of Riders USA took a turn for the worse, with the Riders Europe taking the first two rounds, despite tactical changes that saw Ridland lead with his two strongest pairs in Ward and Ryan.
Keenan and Chaccolette kept hope alive for Riders USA in the third match-up with a blistering clear in a time of 56.90 seconds. Her opponent, Philippaerts and Insolente des Dix Bonniers, squeaked in under her time (59.86 seconds) but incurred a three-second time penalty along the way. At 70 to 90, Riders USA still had a fighting chance!
That glimmer of hope was extinguished in the next round when Chapot fell to Kenny and with her, all hopes of an American win. At 80 points 110, Riders Europe victory was secured.
The final match up went ahead, which also went to the Europeans with Smolders coming out ahead of Vanderveen. The final score: 130 for Riders Europe, 90 for Riders USA.
Which is to say, Europe didn’t just win the fourth edition of the Riders Masters Cup. They dominated.
“It seems like it was a pretty big margin and, in some ways, it was, but with just a couple things going differently we could have won it,” said Ridland.
“It’s not fun losing. I don’t enjoy losing and none of us were particularly happy about that but the format, I think, is tremendous. It’s unique and we will be back again in Paris and we hope for a different result.”
Guerdat’s retort: “For the sake of the competition, it would be nice if Riders USA manage to win in the Riders Masters Cup. But for that to happen, Riders Europe will have to change the team leader—I like to win too much!”
Better luck next time?