There were plenty of surprises in the first round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2016 Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona today when Belgium, Germany and USA shared top spot on a zero score and the newly-crowned Olympic champions from France disappeared from the reckoning.
Only eight of the 18 participating sides could qualify for Saturday night’s spectacular finale, and the French missed out when slotting into 11th place. However, Switzerland, Great Britain and Italy have made the cut after finishing with four faults each, and the last two places went to The Netherlands and Ireland. The remaining nations – Brazil, Qatar, Spain, Austria, Egypt, Colombia, Mexico, Sweden and Australia – will now join the French in tomorrow night’s Longines Challenge Cup.
It was quite a surprise when the Belgians produced such an impressive performance, as the defending Furusiyya champions have had a poor season in the 2016 series. “I’m very happy with the way the horses jumped and the riders rode, but maybe the result today was a bit unexpected,” admitted Belgian Chef d’Equipe Dirk Demeersman. “Last year we came with a team with a lot of experience, but this year we came with a team with not so much. However, we’ve been showing good results in the last few weeks,” he pointed out.
The 80 seconds allowed over the track set by Spain’s Santiago Varela proved fairly easy to get, but his course certainly tested the 72 combinations that took it on. The bogey of the day was the final line from the oxer at fence 11 to the triple combination at 12 on a right-hand bend, and then the final planks at fence 13. Time and again horses either stood off or got too close to the oxer and had that down, and many were off-balance for the triple combination. “I think I gave them enough to do today,” Varela said this evening. “I wanted to see how they would react to the arena because it has only been built since July and it takes time to be perfect, but the horses jumped very well on it and I think it was a great class!”
The French looked vulnerable from the start, Philippe Rozier and Rahotep de Toscane kicking off with a 21-fault scoreline, so when team mates Kevin Staut (Reveur de Hurtebise HDC), Roger Yves Bost (Sydney Une Prince) and Pénélope Leprevost (Flora de Mariposa) each had a fence down, their 12-fault total would be too much at the end of the day.
The Germans were the first to post three clear rounds, world no. 1 Christian Ahlmann steering Taloubet home with the greatest of ease before Marcus Ehning (Pret a Tout) and Daniel Deusser (First Class van Eeckelghem) followed suit. Ludger Beerbaum, lining up for his country in his very last Nations Cup, made it all the way to the final planks before having that down with Casello. The Americans and Belgians, however, had to wait for their fourth and last riders to finish before posting their zero scorelines, Laura Kraut (Zeremonie) anchoring the US total and Gregory Wathelet (Coree) doing likewise for Belgium.
Rio 2016 individual gold medallist Nick Skelton got the British off to a great start with a super clear from Big Star and when Michael Whitaker backed that up with a great round from Viking they were well in contention for one of those top-eight places. All that they had to add at the end of the day was the single error from Scott Brash and Ursula, and the Swiss and Italians were the same, clears from Steve Guerdat (Corbinian) and Martin Fuchs (Clooney) ensuring Paul Estermann’s four with Lord Pepsi would be all the former would count. The Italians showed the same kind of grit that earned them victory in the Furusiyya leg in Dublin this summer with clears from Piergiorgio Bucci (Casallo Z) and Lorenzo de Luca (Ensor de Litrange) backed up by single mistakes from their team mates.
The battle for the last two places was possibly the closest of the day, and the Brazilians were unlucky to lose out. Rodrigo Pessoa set them up with an opening clear from Citizenguard Cadjanine Z but when Stephan de Freitas Barcha (Landpeter do Feroleto) put a foot in the open water and lowered the last, and then Felipe Amaral (Premiere Carthoes BZ) did the same and also hit the vertical at fence 10, it seemed their chances were dashed. But a brilliant last-line clear from Pedro Veniss and the stunning stallion Quabri de l’Isle left them on an eight-fault total that looked good enough to see them through to Saturday’s finale. However, the Dutch matched that when last-to-go Gerco Schroder (Glock’s London) repeated Harrie Smolders’ opening clear with Emerald.
And then the Irish were suddenly rescued by their last-line partnership, Greg Broderick with MHS Going Global. Darragh Kenny (Go Easy de Muze) and Denis Lynch (All Star) each left a pole on the floor, but a clear from Greg could dispose of Shane Breen’s opening double error with Golden Hawk and, if the Irishman was quick enough, he could also snatch a qualifying spot for his country. Because, if the Dutch, Irish and Brazilians were all tied for seventh place, time would decide which teams get through to Saturday night’s extravaganza.
Cool as a breeze, Greg set Going Global off at a cracking pace, and when the scoreboard showed a clear in 73.71 seconds, his team slotted in behind the Dutch and put paid to Brazilian chances.
However, despite their fault-free scorelines, the leading sides were not going to let today’s strong result go to their heads. “I was very happy with the way all four horses jumped today and it’s great to be in the Final on Saturday – this is the target from today’s qualifier – but we all start on a zero score on Saturday so we have to do it all over again,” said German Chef d’Equipe Otto Becker. It will be an emotional night for Ludger Beerbaum as he says farewell to the team sport on which he has had such influence during his long and illustrious career, but he didn’t want to get caught up in the emotion today. “After 30 years I feel very lucky to do the job the way I’ve done it. I have had a lot of support and I have no regrets. Now I’m looking forward to whatever is left,” he said.
The big question is whether “whatever is left” includes helping his country to claim the coveted 2016 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping title.
1. Germany 0 faults: Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) 0, Pret a Tout (Marcus Ehning) 0, First Class van Eeckelghem (Daniel Deusser) 0, Casello (Ludger Beerbaum) 4.
1. USA 0 faults: Ohlala (Lauren Hough) 0, Capital Colorado (Audrey Coulter) 8, Barron (Lucy Davis) 0, Zeremonie (Laura Kraut) 0.
1. Belgium 0 faults: Bisquet Balou C (Nicola Philippaerts) 4, Cas de Liberte (Niels Bruynseels) 0, Grand Cru van de Rozenberg (Jerome Guery) 0, Coree (Gregory Wathelet) 0.
4. Switzerland 4 faults: Quorida de Treho (Romain Duguet) 8, Corbinian (Steve Guerdat) 0, Lord Pepsi (Paul Estermann) 4, Clooney (Martin Fuchs) 0.
4. Great Britain 4 faults: Big Star (Nick Skelton) 0, Viking (Michael Whitaker) 0, Ursula (Scott Brash) 4, Ornellaia (John Whitaker) 8.
4. Italy 4 faults: Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 0, Ensor de Litrange (Lorenzo de Luca) 0, Antonio (Gianni Govoni) 4, Tower Mouche (Bruno Chimirri) 4.
7. Netherlands 8 faults: Emerald NOP (Harrie Smolders) 0, VDL Groep Arera C (Maikel van der Vleuten) 8, Caruso LS La Silla (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 8, Glock’s London NOP (Gerco Schroder) 0.
7. Ireland 8 faults: Golden Hawk (Shane Breen) 8, Go Easy de Muze (Darragh Kenny) 4,, All Star (Denis Lynch) 4, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 0.
Full result here
Facts and Figures:
18 teams started in today’s first round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2016 Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain.
This is the fourth Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final and the participating countries are Australia, Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Colombia, Egypt, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Mexico, Netherlands, Qatar, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and USA.
19 qualifiers took place around the globe ahead of this year’s Final.
Course designer is Spain’s Santiago Varela.
There were 20 clears from 72 starters in today’s first-round competition.
The 10 teams that did not make the cut into Saturday night’s finale will compete in tomorrow night’s (Friday 23rd) Longines Challenge Cup.
FEI Nations Cup Jumping celebrates its 107th season in 2016.
Otto Becker, Chef d’Equipe Germany: “My team on Saturday will start in the same order, I am confident about that – Christian starts and Ludger will be the last rider.”
Ludger Beerbaum GER: “It was a tough class, the course was big enough and we had a good result. The course builder has reason to be pleased, but that’s it: the best eight go on to a new competition on Saturday and I think we have no guarantee we will be sitting here (at the press conference) on Saturday as well!”
Robert Ridland, Chef d’Equipe Team USA: “Usually we are preparing for the Friday night class! [Not having qualified for Saturday night’s competition.] When we walked the course this morning I thought it was fantastic, it’s going to be legitimate, the eight teams that make it will deserve to be there on Saturday – and it proved to be the case.”
Talking about Team USA this year: “We certainly had a good year, one we can be proud of, but our depth is not just in our Rio team. It’s nice to be here on zero score today.”
Laura Kraut USA : “We were all very excited to come here. We were lucky Lucy (Davis) decided to come and it’s great to ride with all the girls. Like Ludger said, it will be a new game on Saturday night, the lights and the atmosphere will change things for the horses.”
Ludger Beerbaum GER answering a question about his involvement in the development of equestrian sport in China: “As we all know, China is a huge country and very strong market. It’s different from the rest of world, especially Europe, but the Government decided 10 or 12 years ago to support and invest in equestrian sport and since then it has been developing and growing. Since 2006 I’ve been involved with the Federation and the riders – for six years they have been hosting a show at the Bird’s Nest Olympic Stadium and it is really motivating to be part of this development. In the long term there is a lot of potential for our sport – a lot of riders from China and Asia will be competitive in our sport over the next 5-10 years.”