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U.S. Set to Defend Samsung Super League Title in France.....Kenneth Braddick reports from La Baule
LA BAULE, France, May 3--A team of the top United States show jumpers prepared Wednesday to launch the defense of their Samsung Super League championship at this French coastal resort city.
The U.S. won it's first ever elite Nations Cup victory at this same show a year ago, which also marked the first major team event under the leadership of George Morris as Chef dí Equipe. The Americans followed the win at La Baule with victory in Aachen, Germany, and high enough placings at the other six two-round events, to clinch the title of the elite circuit of the eight top show jumping nations. The other seven Super League teams this year are Germany, Britain, France, Ireland, Netherlands, Sweden and Switzerland.
The United States squad, from which four riders will be selected for Friday's Super League competition, are: Beezie Madden of Cazenovia, N.Y. with Authentic and Desilvio, McLain Ward of Brewster, N.Y. with Sapphire and Goldika, Margie Engle of Wellington, Fla. With Hidden Creek's Wapino, Hidden Creek's Perin and Calippo, Lauren Hough of Wellington, Fla. with Casadora, Clasiko and Rodos, and Jeffery Welles of Ridgefield, Conn. with Armani and Sampras.
Wednesday, all American horses that were presented for the veterinary jog were passed as fit to compete. The Super League is scheduled for Friday, the Derby on Saturday and the Grand Prix Sunday.
The Americans will not be able duplicate the celebrated "all girls" team that scored the 2005 win, as there are two male riders on this yearís team. Publicity material distributed throughout this resort region highlights the 2005 American success, and Georgina Bloomberg's crowning as the Leading Lady Rider.
However, four of the five riders on this squad are Olympic veterans, including Gold Medal team members Madden and Ward from Athens in 2004. All have extensive international competition experience, the most recent being, participation by Madden and Engle in the World Cup Finals in Kuala Lumpur last week.
Ward will be competing his horses under his own name after what he described as an "amicable separation" from sponsor Double H Farm. Ward acquired Sapphire and Goldika from Double H as part of the arrangement to go their separate ways.
Morris made no predictions as to the outcome of this week's competition.
However, this event and the next Super League in Aachen, Germany in two weeks, by the same squad, and three other events by the so-called "B" team in May and June, will provide the U.S. team that will compete at the quadrennial World Equestrian Games in Germany at the end of August.
This city will also be host for the first official visit by Princess Haya Bint Al Hussein of Jordan, the newly elected president of the International Equestrian Federation. As a rider, she competed at La Baule when seeking to qualify for the 2000 Sydney Olympics.