Impactful Nations Cup Season Set for Mexico Opener
Photo by Hector Vivas/Getty Images for FEI
There are just two opportunities for countries from North America to qualify for the 2024 Olympic Games: The Pan American Games (Santiago, CHI) and the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals (Barcelona, ESP), both in October.
To get to Nations Cup Finals, one must qualify through the Nations Cup's North and Central America and Caribbean division. With just three legs—one apiece in Canada, Mexico and the U.S.—starting off on the right foot—or hoof—is critical.
The Nations Cup series begins this week in Mexico, at a brand new—and beautiful—location in San Miguel de Allende. The importance of this event is palpable: The big three (Insert American, Canadian and Mexican flag emojis here) are sending their best.
Where do they stand? Prixview dived through data from the last five qualifying seasons to find out.
NATIONS CUP AVERAGES - NORTH & CENTRAL AMERICA AND CARIBBEAN DIVISION
*There were no Nations Cup qualifying seasons in 2020 and 2021 due to the global pandemic.
It's remarkable how even-matched these three nations have been in Nations Cup competition over the course of the last five seasons (7 years): Their average placing is separated by just a third of a position. The United States has performed best in this timeframe, but last season, the powerhouse nation was left out of Nations Cup Finals for the first time in history.
If Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland has a say, that's not happening again. He's sending a vastly different-looking team to Mexico this year to kick off the season. Last year, three of the four riders on Team USA were under the age of 30, and none had senior championship experience. This year, three of the athletes are Olympic medalists: Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut and silver medalists Kent Farrington and Jessica Springsteen.
According to Prixview data, Farrington is impressively jumping clear 40% of the time and finishing in the top 3 25% of the time when jumping 1.60m at the five-star level, with an average round score of just 2.40 faults. Kraut, similarly, is finishing on the podium at this level and height 20% of the time.
NATIONS CUP AVERAGES - LONGINES FEI JUMPING NATIONS CUP™ MEXICO
Does home field advantage exist? In this case, the numbers say, emphatically, Yes! Mexico has dominated its Nations Cup leg over the course of the last five seasons, winning four of the last five editions.
Mexico takes the Nations Cup and team competition very seriously. Federico Fernandez, Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane and Nicolas Pizarro were also all on last year's winning team in Xalapa, with Dufrane and Fernandez jumping a clear round apiece. This week marks only the third five-star event in Mexico this year, so the YTD data is not directly compatible with the numbers from U.S.-based riders. But there's no denying that Mexico's athletes prepare themselves and their mounts to peak for this event.
Canada is the only other nation to have recorded a victory in Mexico's Nations Cup leg since 2016, doing so in 2018, though their averages are slightly weaker than that of Team USA. Canada will send forward Erynn Ballard, Mario Deslauriers, Tiffany Foster and Sara Tindale to San Miguel de Allende; none of these riders were in Mexico for the Nations Cup last year. This event will also mark the legendary Ian Millar's first qualifying event as Team Canada's chef d'equipe.
Argentina, Chile and Colombia will also send forward teams in San Miguel, but only the U.S., Canada and Mexico can early qualifying points in this division for Nations Cup Finals. Who will take the early lead?
WHO: Teams USA, Mexico, Canada, Argentina, Chile and Colombia
WHAT: Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Mexico CSIO5*
WHEN: Friday, April 28 at 3pm CT
WHERE: San Miguel de Allende, MEX
WHY: The U.S., Canada and Mexico begin their quests for qualification for the 2023 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals
HOW: Make your selections at Prixview.com/fantasy and take your own deep dive into the data at Prixview.com/search/riders