Three days ago, Laura Kraut was so disastrously, ghastly ill that she couldn’t warm up her own horses in Dublin. Today, she and her marvelous gray Confu lead a strong USA contingent to win on a zero faults score in the Agha Khan Nations Cup in Dublin, one of the most coveted team events in the world.
It was a rainy event with a packed house and famed riders left and right there to win the day and glory for their nation, and several teams made a sporting crack at it in the first round, with 5 of the 8 teams have six faults or less after a full cycle through.
Lauren Hough and her little engine that could Ohlala led off for the Americans, and set a powerful precedent with a double clear. Lillie Keenan and Super Sox came in next and doubled down on the double clears to put the Americans on a good high for the last two rounds.
Beezie Madden and her nine-year-old up-and-comer Darry Lou had an absolute textbook round before brushing the final fence and having an unlucky rail down, the first fault for the Americans in the day.
With Ireland putting the pressure on with three clear rounds from Bertram Allen and Molly Malone, Denis Lynch and RMF Echo and Cian O’Connor and Good Luck, Laura Kraut came into the ring aboard Confu with a bit of pressure to keep Team USA on zero and stay in line with Ireland.
Confu had moments of hesitancy and tension, kicking out in back at a few fences and making an unbelievable airy effort over the open water, but veteran Laura coached him masterfully through to the final fence to keep Team USA tied for the top spot overall.
Big Shakeups in Round 2
France and the Netherlands were in striking distance of the Americans and Irish with just 1 and 2 time faults respectively from the first round, so much was at stake. The pressure, the rain, and the second round fatigue at the top height started to wear on the teams, and rails began to plummet.
Marie Hecart of France was eliminated for multiple refusals, Michel Hendrix had two rails for the Netherlands, and Ireland sadly fell apart in front of the home crowd, with Mark McAuley and Miebello losing steam at the end of the round and bringing down three rails, and Denis Lynch and RMF Echo having 3 more plus a time fault.
Cian O’Connor and Good Luck proved why they’re one of Ireland’s best today, nearly putting in the double clear with just hundredths of a second over time to end their day with a single time fault – a finish most appreciated by the soggy Irish crowd.
The American contingent jumped like no one was watching, with Lauren and Ohlala repeating perfection in round two, and Beezie Madden beating off the final fence demons of round one with a textbook finish to her day. Lillie Keenan and Super Sox brought down the first in the double combination, leaving the door open for the Dutch or French to take the lead or force a jump-off.
The Dutch sent in their final rider, Frank Schuttert on Chianti’s Champion and almost immediately had a rail to drop them out of winning contention.
France needed a clear round to keep the pressure on, and they got one from Robert Olivier and Eros, who were positively magic on course all day to produce a rare double clear over both rounds.
Team USA needed Laura Kraut and Confu to go clear in order to win outright, or have one rail and head to a jump-off. But no jump-off was needed. Laura looked her ever-focused self, and Confu looked significantly more confident in the second round to give America the glorious win on the green turfs of Ireland on a zero total over the two rounds.
France took the reserve position, ending their day on a total of five faults with a couple young names, which is a fantastic finish for them and much to look forward to in the future.
Netherlands managed to hang on the third podium slot with an equally unranked team, one of their best finishes in the Nations Cups seasons, in fact. they ended on a final score of 7. Spain was fourth, and Ireland settled for fifth. Last year’s winners, Italy, did not repeat their magical day, ending seventh, with GB taking their turn in the caboose in eighth. Most important, all horses and riders finished happy, healthy, and more experienced than before.
Congratulations to Team USA, and Go Jumping!!