Barcelona, September 28, 2017 - Team Canada posted the only zero score in today’s first qualifier to claim pole position going into Saturday night’s title-decider at the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona (ESP). On a day of high drama, The Netherlands, USA, France and Germany were next in line when they all finished with four faults, while Belgium, Sweden and Switzerland claimed the last three qualifying places with eight faults apiece.
Team Ireland also finished with eight, but their slower combined times saw the country that claimed team gold at the Longines FEI European Championships in Gothenburg (SWE) four weeks ago line up ninth, and just outside the qualification zone.
As the last side of 15 into the arena today, the Canadians had the best of the draw and Yann Candele (46) got them off to a flying start with a clear round riding Theodore Manciais. Another from Tiffany Foster (33) with Tripple X was followed by eight faults for Chris Pratt (48) and Concorde. But with the best three scores to count, it was 2008 Olympic champion Eric Lamaze (49) who wrapped it up with a fault-free effort from Coco Bongo.
Canadian Chef d’Equipe, Mark Laskin, admitted however that he wasn’t entirely confident about how things might play out. And he was more than pleasantly surprised with Candele’s opening effort: "We had a couple of question marks, a couple of unknowns, some of our horses and riders were not available to come. And Yann Candele, that was only the third time he’s ever ridden that horse, that was the first course he jumped with it, and this is the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona! 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!".
Candele has his own way of going about things, as his team manager explained: "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!".
It seemed that the French would also share a zero score but last-line rider Roger Yves Bost was disqualified for using hind boots on his horse that weren’t in accordance FEI regulations. But the 2016 Olympic team gold medallist and 2013 European champion will still be part of the French side on Saturday night as that is a separate competition.
Tomorrow evening Brazil, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, New Zealand, Spain and the United Arab Emirates will line out for the honours in the Longines Challenge Cup which is always guaranteed to be a thriller. But for the Canadians, and the seven other qualified nations, it’s all about lifting that very special Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping trophy the following night.
Mark Laskin is hopeful for Canada in the Final, but he’s not prepared to anticipate too much. He said this evening... "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….".