The Spruce Meadows ‘Masters’ Tournament hosted its $300,000 BMO Nations’ Cup on Saturday afternoon, with eight countries represented, and an exciting gold medal win for Brazil in the team’s first time ever competing in the event. The team of Pedro Veniss, Felipe Amaral, Eduardo Menezes and Rodrigo Pessoa jumped to victory in front of a record crowd for Saturday at the ‘Masters’, with a grand total of 85,747 fans in attendance. France earned the silver medal, and Canada took home Bronze.
Earlier in the day, Scott Brash (GBR) earned top prize in the $126,000 Suncor Energy Cup Winning Round 1.50m riding Hello Forever. The ‘Masters’ Tournament concludes its fifth day of world-class competition on Sunday, September 13, featuring the $1.5 Million CP International, presented by Rolex.
One of the most prestigious grand prix events in the world, the CP International is part of the Rolex Grand Slam of Show Jumping, where Brash will attempt to become the first rider to ever take the Grand Slam title. Brash already made history by winning two consecutive legs of the challenge with victories at CHI Geneva in December followed by a second victory at CHIO Aachen a few months later. An unprecedented €1 million in bonus money is on offer to any rider who can win all three grand prix events in succession.
On Saturday, teams representing the countries of The Netherlands, Great Britain, France, Switzerland, Canada, Brazil, Belgium and the USA started in the first round of the BMO Nations’ Cup. The top six teams then returned for a second round over the same course, which was set by Venezuela’s Leopoldo Palacios.
The competition came right down to the wire, but it was Brazil who led in both rounds, with nine faults in round one and four faults in round two to finish on a score of 13. France finished with 16 faults overall, and Canada ended with a score of 24.
Only two riders were able to clear both rounds of competition without fault, and Pedro Veniss was one of them with his mount, Quabri De L Isle. Veniss started riding the 11-year-old Selle Francais stallion (Kannan x Socrate de Chivre) last year, and the pair jumped together for Brazil in both the 2014 World Equestrian Games and the 2015 Pan American Games. Commenting on the team’s big win, Veniss simply stated, “Today here at Spruce Meadows was a dream come true.”
The youngest rider on the team at 23 years of age, Felipe Amaral rode the 12-year-old Zangersheide stallion Premiere Carthoes BZ (Carthago Z x Voltner) to a clear first round, and the drop score of eight in round two.
“I started riding him in Brazil and he had some good results. Then I went to Europe and Rodrigo and Jean (Chef d’Equipe Jean-Maurice Bonneau) helped me a lot with the horse. Now we are here at the top level of the sport and it is all a dream to be here,” Amaral acknowledged.
Eduardo Menezes and Quintol were the drop score in round one with 24 faults, but returned for a four-fault score in round two. Menezes has also had great results with the ten-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Quintender x Cento) in past competitions at Spruce Meadows.
“This is a very special win because he was basically made here at Spruce Meadows. I come here almost every year,” Menezes stated. “I had a really bad first round where everything fell apart a little bit after the water jump. He is a very sensitive horse, but I remembered that I had some good teammates with me, so I tried to put things back together for the second round and fortunately it worked well.”
“This is the first time that Brazil has been here in the Nations’ Cup as a team,” Menezes added. “Rodrigo has been in the Masters many times as an individual and some other riders from Brazil, but never as a team. The course, as the results say, was tough enough. It always is, but the conditions were amazing and fortunately all of our horses jumped well because we came up here for the win.”
As the anchor rider, Rodrigo Pessoa had nine faults in round one, but jumped a clutch clear track in round two to secure the team victory. Pessoa was riding his 11-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Status (Satisfaction x Sao Paulo), who he has had for two years and also jumped in the 2014 World Equestrian Games.
“He has had some ups and downs, but today he performed really well for me,” Pessoa noted. “I rode better in the second round obviously. The first round was so-so, but I think he was up to the task in the second round.”
The most experienced rider on the team, Pessoa knew that he needed to come through for his teammates at the end, and ranks this win among his many big victories at Spruce Meadows.
“It is on the way up top in terms of things that I have won here,” the rider remarked. “To win individually is one thing, but when you ride for the team it is a different story. You have more pressure and more responsibility. You are able to share the win with your three colleagues and your Chef (d’Equipe) and everybody behind the team, so this ranks all the way up there with the good ones for me.”
“Obviously these are all really good riders with really good horses,” Pessoa added. “This was a tough task and we were really looking forward to today. We did not know how the class was going to unfold and we started really well in the first round. We had two bad rounds, but then started again with a good clear. We just had to keep it together and try to perform well, which we were able to do today. We had some mishaps, but just at the good times and we could pull the clears when we needed them. That was crucial.”
The riders from Brazil were led by Chef d’Equipe Jean-Maurice Bonneau, who was thrilled with the results and explained how he has worked to improve their strength as a team.
“When I took charge of that team five years ago, it was to aim to create the same condition in Brazil as the top nations like Germany, France and The Netherlands,” Bonneau stated. “In the beginning, we were not good enough to attend the 5* level, so we started with the 3* level. Last week, we won a 3* Nations Cup in Arezzo in Italy with another team. We are trying step by step to gather up the number of riders capable to join the team and I think this really represents what we are doing. Today we had youngest rider, Felipe at 23 years old, and Rodrigo the oldest at 43. We have youth coming up and also the experience.”
Brazil has the Olympic Games in their home country next summer and Bonneau is working to develop more riders to round out their options for the big event.
“I would like in nine months to have a choice among six or seven combinations,” he detailed. “It could be this squad, but it is too early to know. I want to continue to develop the team. Even though we won today, I think we need to have a debriefing because we had some bad courses. We need to be stronger. It is not enough for the Olympics in my opinion. We have to stay humble and continue to work.”
The team from France finished second with 16 faults in round one and a clean slate in round two. Jerome Hurel and Quartz Rouge were the only other combination to complete double clear rounds. Roger Yves Bost and Quod’Coeur de la Loge notched eight faults in round one plus eight from Cedric Angot and Saxo de la Cour. Kevin Staut and Qurack de Falasie HDC had the drop score of 20 in round one and did not need to return after all three of his teammates cleared the second track. They were led by Chef d’Equipe Philippe Guerdat.
Canada placed third overall with a 24-point total (12 in each round). Yann Candele and Showgirl, Tiffany Foster and Tripple X III, Eric Lamaze and Fine Lady 5 and Ian Millar aboard Dixson all had four faults in round one, with one drop score. They continued on to round two where Candele had the drop score of eight faults and the other three riders all had one more rail. They were led by Chef d’Equipe Mark Laskin.
Course designer Leopoldo Palacios commented on the day, stating, “I am very happy with the result of the course. I think the faults spread out well and having Rodrigo at the end and winning with a clean round was very good. Three or four days ago Rodrigo told me that they came here to win and they did it, so I am very happy for them. The French team was very good in the second round. I am very proud of them to recover well with three clean rounds. The course was tough enough, as it is every year at Spruce Meadows. It is one of the hardest Nations’ Cups in the world.”
Fourth place went to the USA with 28 faults total, fifth place was awarded to Switzerland with a 30-fault score, and Belgium finished sixth with a score of 32. The team from Great Britain finished seventh and The Netherlands placed eighth.