For the second year in a row, the USA team took victory in the FEI Nations Cup eventing competition on home soil.
Only two of the original named USA team were able to compete at the Great Meadow International CICO3* with both alternates – Boyd Martin and Lynn Symansky – being called up in the final hours.
Following the dressage, the home nation only had a 1.1 point lead over Canada with Great Britain in third.
Canada’s Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti took the early lead in the dressage on a score of 44.0. “It was his first test since Rolex,” she said, “so really you never know if they’re going to go in and be a little bit fresh and lit up because of the atmosphere at Rolex, but he was such a workman and went in there and was so professional, it’s always just a pleasure to ride him.”
However, Phillip Dutton and Kristine Norton’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding I’m Sew Ready knocked the Canadian off top spot with a 42.0 with the last ride to slide into the lead individually. “He’s a good moving horse,” commented Dutton of I’m Sew Ready. “I’m fortunate to get him at this stage in his career. Kristin Bond put in a lot of the work, and so it’s kind of fun for me now to be out taking him and seeing what he can do at this level, and the four-star level. I’m really pleased.”
Nicky Roncoroni and Watts Burn were the highest placed British pair after the dressage in seventh (48.6), with Emily Llewellyn and Emirati Night Sky in ninth (49.3), Matthew Heath and One of a Kind II in 16th (53.7) and Justine Dutton and Jak My Style in 21st (56.4).
The show jumping provided trouble and saw the USA extend their lead to 12.5 points, with the British and Canadian teams swapping places in the standings. Jessica Phoenix and Pavarotti jumped on of very few clear rounds early in the order and retook the lead when Phillip Dutton and I’m Sew Ready pulled a single rail to drop down to second.
“I’m just really happy with him,” Phoenix commented. “He came into the ring and he was relaxed in the atmosphere, which there was quite a lot of today. I thought it was a super technical course, it asked a lot of questions from the riders and the horses and I was just so thrilled with the way he handled himself today.”
Nicky Roncoroni jumped and Emily Llewellyn both jumped two placings in the standings with clear rounds to lie fifth and seventh respectively. Matthew Heath rolled one poll to go into the cross country in 13th but Justine Dutton rolled three poles to drop to 24th.
Cross-country proved to be an influential finale with only two of the British riders finishing the course and dropping the team out of contention, with Canada slotting back into second, and USA taking the easy win on a final score of 151.1.
Overnight leader Jessica Phoenix dropped down the order after picking up 12.4 time penalties allowing American riders to take all three spaces on the podium. Jennifer Brannigan and Cambalda rose from sixth after the dressage to take the win with a final score of 49.8. Lynn Symansky and Donner took second with a final score of 50.1 with Phillip Dutton taking third with I’m Sew Reading finishing on a score of 51.6.
“It was an unusual team, actually,” said USA team member Boyd Martin who finished in tenth with Steady Eddie. “It’s the first time the team hasn’t had a coach. I think Joanie Morris did a fantastic job. She’s done that job a number of times, and Phillip unofficially was the team leader, captain, cross-country guy, and we followed his lead. I’ve gone first for a team a number of times and it was a bit weird because the first horse fell and it was hard to gauge how Jessica Phoenix went because she was held up so much. I zipped around and everything rode really well, and I came back and told Phillip the details of the course and met up with Jennie and Lynn out in the warm-up and told them what I felt from the course. All three of them ripped around, thanks to my advice.”
Following the trend from last year’s debut Nations Cup event, Canada took second place with a strong showing in both the dressage and cross-country phases.
“It was a really exciting weekend for Canada. We all almost got personal bests this weekend, which is a great weekend for us,” said Jessica Phoenix. “Just to be in the barn with these people is fun. Every day you show up for work and get to do this is awesome.”
Great Britain has traditionally been big supporters of the FEI Nations Cup™ series and they sent a team across the pond for the second year in the row. Unfortunately, they haven’t had the best luck at the event, finishing in third both years.
Nicky Roncoroni with Lorna McWilliam and Janey Roncoroni’s Watts Burn was the highest-placed British rider finishing in fourth individually. Emily Llewellyn rode Camilla Harries’ Emirati Night Sky to a good finish as well – adding just 8.8 time penalties for an individual ninth finish.
The remaining two riders didn’t complete the competition, which caused Great Britain to be assessed 1,000 penalty points. Matthew Heath with his own and Hazel Livesey’s One of a Kind II was eliminated for three refusals at 9B, the Beverly Equestrian Brush Corner in the main arena. American-based Justine Dutton fell from her own and Kathleen Cuca’s Jak My Style at the Adequan water.
Despite the British team result, they are still heading home with a positive outlook. “We’re coming back again! For sure, we’re all desperate to come back again, I’m certainly putting in for it again for next year.” Llewellyn said. “We’ve had the most incredible experience here, not only the facilities, but the people. What an incredible event you guys have created here.”
“Great Britain has used the [FEI Nations Cup™] series to get exposure for the more up-and-coming riders rather than fielding their A-squads, so to have this opportunity with the team here through the National Lottery and also through the huge sponsorship from the committee here is just absolutely phenomenal,” said top-placed British rider Nicky Roncoroni. “It’s a chance in a lifetime for us because it’s not a cheap thing to fly horses and all of us could not be more grateful for the opportunity of being here.”
After five events in the series, having contested all of the competitions, Great Britain leads the standings with 410 points ahead of the German team on 300 points. USA has jumped into third in the standings with 180 points. The next Nations Cup takes place at Aachen in Germany (July 19 – 23) where many European nations are fielding strong teams as they seek to finalise their teams for the FEI European Championships later this year.