By Catie Staszak for FEI
Manuel Gonzalez Dufrane (MEX) has been a part of winning Nations Cup teams for his home nation of Mexico. He’s been to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Finals, and last summer he competed in his first Olympic Games. Saturday in front of a home crowd at Quintas Ecuestres in east-central Mexico, the 27-year-old notched another first in topping the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Puebla with his longtime partner, Hortensia van de Leeuwerk.
Marina Azevedo (BRA) set a stiff track for a compact yet accomplished field. Halfway through the class, only Miguel Angel Torres Hernandez (MEX) aboard Chacendra had produced a clear effort. Just two would replicate their feat: Jose Alberto Martinez Vazquez (MEX) and Gonzalez Dufrane.
First to return for the shortened course, Torres Hernandez put the pressure on his competitors with another clear effort, but Martinez Vazquez quickly upped the ante, shaving nearly four seconds off of his time with Quinley, a horse he has produced for nine years. That left Gonzalez Dufrane no option but to take some risks in order to take home a victory. A tight left turn back to the double set him apart as he continued to gallop across the venue’s breathtaking grass field.
“First, I saw Miguel enter the ring, and he was really fast,” Gonzalez Dufrane said. “I didn’t see [Martinez Vazquez], but he was even faster, so I thought I had to do everything I could to win.”
Gonzalez Dufrane and the 15-year-old Hortensia van de Leeuwerk have been partnered for nearly seven years, breaking onto the scene when clinching a win for Mexico as team anchors in the 2019 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ USA. In the years since, they have repeatedly performed for their country, which earned them a place in the Tokyo Olympic Games (JPN). Saturday’s win, however, marked their biggest career individual victory.
“We have achieved a lot of things like going to the Olympic Games. That was my mission, my main goal and a dream come true,” Gonzalez Dufrane said. “[My horse] is so clever and brave, and she doesn’t look that fast, but she is. She’s just everything.”
One leg remains in the 2021-2022 North American League season as the NAL heads to Ocala (USA). Two riders from Mexico will qualify for the Final in Leipzig (GER). Nicolas Pizarro (MEX), who finished fifth in both Puebla and Fort Worth (USA), is the highest-ranked Mexican rider, with Gonzalez Dufrane the second-highest.
Conor Swail (IRL) leads the standings with 63 points. Tiffany Foster (CAN) sits second with 59 points, and Natalie Dean (USA) is third with 41 points.