Kiwi quartet pip Ireland in dramatic finish to four-day competition at Al Forsan International Sports Resort
New Zealand thrilled to clinch Longines FEI Nations Cup showjumping competition on debut
New Zealand made their first bow at the Longines FEI Nations Cup showjumping competition one to remember.
The Kiwi quartet left their best for the last to clinch the title after beating Ireland in a dramatic finish to the four-day competition at the Al Forsan International Sports Resort on Saturday.
With New Zealand and Ireland tied at the end of the two rounds, it was left for Samantha McIntosh and Shane Breen to battle it out for the title in the 13-fence jump-off.
Going in first, McIntosh on board the 15-year-old stallion Check In completed a flawless round in a time of 40.16 seconds, leaving Breen atop Laith to better that performance.
Breen’s hopes of matching the Kiwi rider ended in the third fence, which spurred wild celebrations in the New Zealand camp. McIntosh described their winning performance – which earned them prize money worth €64,000 (Dh291,700) – as a “shock for everyone” in the team.
“I’m not sure where it came from,” she said. “It’s been a long journey for us to get here and we all supported each other as a team.
“In terms of the jump off, I didn’t really have time to be nervous, I just thought ‘Let’s do it’! My horse has also been on great form which probably helped.”
The New Zealand quartet was made up of McIntosh, Kiwi double Olympian Daniel Meech on Fine, Richard Gardener on Calisto, Bruce Goodin on Backatorps Danny V.
McIntosh and Ireland’s David Simpson on Keoki also shared the bonus prize of €50,000 to any riders who completed two clear rounds during the Nations Cup.
Italy were third while the UAE shared fourth spot with Switzerland and Saudi Arabia.
With a clear round on Celtion, Sheikh Majid bin Abdullah Al Qassimi helped the host team to move ahead of Egypt and Syria to earn an automatic qualification for the finals in Barcelona later in the year.
Sheikh Majid was last out for his team and did a clear round in 69.70 for the UAE to book their passage to Barcelona where they won a historic Challenge Cup at the FEI Nations Cup Finals last year.
“I think the UAE team proved that they won’t be settling for just being part of events anymore,” said Abdullah Al Marri, a member of the UAE team who was atop Sama Dubai.
“The sport is growing a lot in the region and we would like to be competitors on a global stage. It is truly a goal for all of us to raise the bar in the sport and be a global power in the sport in the near future.”
The UAE went with the same successful team that won the historic Challenge Cup at the FEI Nations Cup Finals last year.
“Nation Cups are definitely different because riding for your country is always different and you know that the whole country unites to support the team and it’s not an individual sport anymore,” Al Marri said. “It was a gradual thing for all of us. We started getting ready for the February 2017 when we tried to develop a team that could perform in the President of the UAE Cup.
“It went well and the whole country got behind us. Then we had a plan to do a few Nations Cups in Europe to build up for the finals.
“Our best performance was in Luxembourg, when we came third, and we managed to beat the British team which gave us a lot of confidence.”Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi, on Cha, and Mohammed Al Hajri, atop Pour le Poussage, completed the UAE quartet.