Kara Chad of Calgary, AB, Jaclyn Duff of Edmonton, AB, Eric Lamaze of Wellington, FL, and François Lamontagne of Saint Eustache, QC, formed the Canadian Show Jumping Team to tie for a fourth place finish in the €200,000 Nations’ Cup held Friday, May 25, at CSIO 5* Rome, ITA.

A total of nine teams battled it out over a track set in the grass arena by renowned Italian course designer Uliano Vezzani. Switzerland, the United States, and the home side of Italy all had clear scorecards in the opening round of competition, tying them for the lead on a perfect score of zero at the half-way mark. Canada and Germany were hot on their heels with four faults apiece while the Netherlands had eight, France was on 12, and New Zealand trailed with 20 faults.

Tensions rose along with the sweltering temperature as the second round unfolded. Having dropped one rail at the double combination in the opening round, Duff, 31, and EH All Or None, a 12-year-old bay Hanoverian gelding (Abke x Grannus) owned by Windermere Stables Limited, were eliminated for two refusals at the double combination the second time out.

Without the luxury of a drop score, the Canadian team would have to count the next three scores. With four faults in the opening round, Chad, 22, again incurred four faults in the second round, this time at the ‘b’ element of the double combination, riding Carona, an 11-year old Dutch Warmblood mare (Untouchable x Silverstone) owned by Lamaze’s Torrey Pines Stable.

Lamontagne, 34, was looking to repeat his first-round faultless performance with Chanel du Calvaire, his 10-year-old chestnut Belgian Sport Horse mare (Luccianno x Kashmir van Schuttershof). It was not meant to be, however, as the pair rolled a rail out of the cups at fence eight, an oxer immediately following the triple combination.

Canadian hopes were riding on anchor rider Lamaze, 50, and Coco Bongo, a 13-year-old Rheinlander gelding (Caretino x Calido) owned by Carlene and Andy Ziegler’s Artisan Farms and Torrey Pines Stable. In their last team appearance in the $450,000 USD Longines Nations’ Cup at CSIO5* Ocala, FL, in February, the pair had jumped double clear to secure a Canadian victory. While a win wasn’t in the cards for Canada in Rome, another brilliant performance saw the Canadian Olympic gold, silver, and bronze medalist jump double clear, adding nothing to Canada’s scoresheet.

With four faults in the opening round and eight in the second, Canada finished on a total of 12 faults to tie for fourth place with Germany and Sweden. A clear round from Italy’s anchor rider, Bruno Chimirri riding the stallion Tower Mouche, secured a win for the home side with a total of four faults while Switzerland and the United States tied for second on eight faults apiece.

The Netherlands took seventh with a final score of 16 faults and New Zealand was eighth with 54 faults. France, who claimed the team gold medal at the 2016 Rio Olympics, was eliminated when anchor rider Roger-Yves Bost failed to return for the second round, having already suffered from the second-round elimination of lead-off rider Kevin Staut.

“All in all, it was pretty good for a young team,” said Lamaze, who coaches Chad and Duff, as well as Spencer Smith, 21, who made his debut on the U.S. Equestrian Team. “The course was hard, and there were a lot of options. In the second round after we lost Jaclyn, we needed to clean it up. Kara had a cheap rail, François had a cheap rail, and I was clear. It could have been a lot worse. No one could criticize our team, and everyone rode quite well. It was nice to anchor those three riders.

“It was good sport, and we are happy,” continued Lamaze. “It’s great to have a Canadian team in Rome and finish a respectable fourth without our more seasoned riders here. Kara showed a lot of maturity and looks strong, Jaclyn rides great but her horse was just difficult in the second round, and François fought his way through it to deliver for us. This was a very good team, and the members all gained valuable experience. That is why I believe everyone should come to Europe; this is a different sport than what we experience back home.”

Lamaze was one of six riders to jump double clear in the Nations’ Cup of Rome, resulting in a six-way split of a €50,000 bonus offered to the top-performing riders.

“Coco Bongo is a great Nations’ Cup horse; he’s a careful horse and you can prime him for these things,” said Lamaze of his 2015 Pan American Games team gold medal partner. “It’s hard to get speed out of him as the faster you go, the higher he jumps, so you just have to keep it smooth and steady and he’ll jump clear. He makes it easy.”

Canadian Show Jumping Team chef d’equipe Mark Laskin agreed, saying, “I was very happy with our team’s performance today in Rome at one of the most prestigious and difficult Nations’ Cups in the world. Any time you can compete in Europe against the best teams in show jumping and hold your own, it’s something worth acknowledging and celebrating.

“It’s unfortunate Jaclyn’s horse didn’t want to play in the second round, but Kara and François not only stepped up with solid results, they also gained valuable experience at this top international level,” continued Laskin. “And, of course, Eric was Eric, anchoring our team as usual with a stellar double clear. Coco Bongo has become a Nations’ Cup machine!”

The Canadian Show Jumping Team will next compete on home soil in the Longines FEI Nations’ Cup at Thunderbird Show Park in Langley, BC, on Sunday, June 3. Heading into the third and final qualifying event in the North and Central America and Caribbean League for the Longines FEI Nations’ Cup Final in Barcelona, Spain, from October 4 to 7, Canada currently sits at the top of the leaderboard following wins in the first two qualifying events. Canada dominated the $450,000 USD Longines FEI Nations’ Cup at CSIO 5* Ocala, FL, before also winning the $5,690,000 MXN Longines FEI Nations’ Cup in Coapexpan, Mexico, in April. With a current total of 200 points followed by the United States with 165 points and Mexico with 135 points, Canada’s starting spot in Barcelona is all but guaranteed. In addition to valuable qualifying points, CSIO 5* Langley will offer a total of $320,000 in Nations’ Cup prize money, along with a $80,000 bonus for the top-performer(s) individually.