In the 18-year history of the Nations Cup at the Winter Equestrian Festival, there had only been one jump-off to determine the gold medal. On Saturday, March 2, another jump-off took place and garnered the United States its seventh victory in the history of the class. The team, consisting of Wilton Porter, Beezie Madden, Adrienne Sternlicht, McLain Ward and Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland, took the gold medal in the $150,000 Nations Cup CSIO4*.
Last Saturday’s Nations Cup consisted of two rounds over a course set by Steve Stephens. Teams represented the nations of Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Israel, Ireland, Mexico, the United States and Venezuela. After the first round, each team dropped their highest score. In the second round, the top six teams returned in order of highest to lowest total faults. The winner was determined by the lowest total of each team’s top three riders from each round.
The winning nation was represented by Porter on Caletto Cabana, owned by Sleepy P Ranch LLC, Madden on Abigail Wexner’s Chic Hin D Hyrencourt, Sternlicht riding Toulago for Starlight Farms 1 LLC and Ward on Beechwood Stables LLC’s Contagious.
The U.S. team led in the first round with a four-fault total, but they were tied with Canada and Ireland. Ward and Contagious were the pathfinders, putting in a clear in the first round but dropping the back rail at the final oxer in the second round.
“My horse was a little nervous and needed a little bit of hand-holding,” Ward said. “I thought he jumped a much better round in the second round, and I think I thought it was done and just took it a bit for granted. He’s not really gone two rounds like that before in one evening.”
Porter, riding in his first senior Nations Cup competition, piloted Caletto Cabana to double clear rounds.
“I’m honored to have been able to ride with three riders who have gold medals in senior championships,” he said. “That’s a pretty big honor for me, so I definitely felt like the rookie coming into it, but I have a great horse and he gave me a lot of confidence to get the job done tonight.”
Sternlicht and Toulago had nine faults in the opening round and contributed four faults in the second. “I heavily relied on my teammates tonight for our win, so I’m very grateful to them,” she said.
As the anchor, Madden and her mount had four faults in the first round and clinched the all-important clear in the second round to take the U.S. into a jump-off with take the U.S. into a jump-off with Ireland as both teams ended the two rounds with eight total faults.
“I was hoping for a double clear,” Madden said. “He was a little wound up with the atmosphere tonight for the first round and didn’t have the best warm-up. I felt like he was intense the first round, and I just tried to keep it more relaxed the second round.”
In the jump-off, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle and Ariel Grange’s Farona showed fatigue and ended up with 12 faults in 41.80 seconds. Ward and Contagious were able to cruise around clear in 43.69 seconds to secure victory.
“When Robert said there was a jump-off, I actually jumped at the opportunity because I felt he was jumping better each round,” Ward said. “[The jump-off] was not such a hard job. But I thought it was nice the horse jumped his best round in the third round.”