Tag Archives: FEI Nations Cup

Belgium’s “Never Give Up Team” Beats Them All in Barcelona

Team Belgium showering their Chef d’Equipe, Peter Weinberg, in a champagne celebration after winning the FEI Jumping Nations Cup 2018. (FEI/Jim Hollander)

French second and Ireland third in super-tight finish

Belgium won through on the tense and thrilling final afternoon of the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2018 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP). With all eight nations that qualified from Friday night’s first round starting again on a zero scoreline, and just one more round of jumping to decide the new champions, it was a roller-coaster ride over a big, challenging track set by Spanish course designer Santiago Varela. And in the best sporting tradition, it was impossible to guess the outcome until the very end.

Like so many of the other teams, the Belgians had mixed fortunes, Niels Bruynseels kicking off with a superb clear from Gancia de Muze, but both Pieter Devos (Claire Z) and Jos Verlooy (Caracas) each leaving three fences on the floor. However, last man in, Nicola Philippaerts, kept a cool head to bring H&M Harley v. Bisschop home with a foot-perfect run that would prove plenty good enough to clinch it.

“We call ourselves the ‘Never Give Up Team’ because in the middle we had two with 12 faults already but still we were fighting to the last rider, so this victory means a lot to us!” — Peter Weinberg (Chef d’Equipe, Team Belgium)

It seemed to have fallen into the lap of the Italians in the closing stages, as a clear from their anchor rider and last man into the ring, Lorenzo de Luca (Ensor de Litrange), would see them complete on eight faults to win it. But Varela’s extraordinary track was one that had to be ridden with absolute precision, and when, like so many before him, it unravelled for the Italian on the final line, his team completed on a total of 16. And because their combined times were slower than the French and Irish, this dropped them into fourth place ahead of the Dutch when all four teams finished on a 16-fault tally. Sweden and Austria slotted into sixth and seventh places when both posting 20-fault finishing scores and Switzerland lined up eighth and last when putting 32 on the scoreboard.

It’s no surprise that Varela has been selected as course designer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. The track was a masterpiece that questioned control, balance, judgement, and skill every inch of the way. As Varela pointed out, it wasn’t about the number of faults the riders collected. “A score of 8 or 12 didn’t mean they had a bad round; horses jumped unbelievably, but the course was difficult, tough and big… and everything was connected,” he explained. That was borne out by the number of riders who lost out over the last four fences where an oxer to a vertical could be tackled on a five long or six short strides, but where an error of judgement often led to mistakes at the penultimate double and final oxer.

In the end the Belgians were the only side that managed to produce two clear rounds – “and two clear rounds today was a super result!” Varela said.

Bruynseels was asked if he had a plan when setting off with Gancia de Muze to produce the first clear round of the competition. Bur apparently, he doesn’t really “do” planning with his brilliant but quirky 12-year-old mare.

“I have a little bit of a special horse, so she’s not like all the others. She has really a lot of temperament so I have to do my course and my round. So I don’t mind going first and I don’t have to see the other horses, because we always have a different plan!” — Niels Bruynseels (Team Belgium)

Philippaerts said his team-mates told him “everything is still possible” when he was last to go. “I just tried to ride my own class and it worked out well – today it was me that could make the clear round that would make a difference, and another time it will be one of the others,” he said. And he had even more reason to be pleased when sharing the €100,000 bonus for double-clear performances with team-mate Bruynseels, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson, and Italy’s new star, Riccardo Pisani.

This was Belgium’s second time to claim the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping title in Barcelona, their last in 2015. As Chef d’Equipe Weinberg said, “It was an interesting day, first ups and then in between downs, but in the end, we won anyway so it was really great sport!”

Result here.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Team Germany Clinches the Challenge Cup

Marcus Ehning riding Comme Il Faut. (FEI/Jim Hollander)

USA finishes second ahead of Brazil in third 

Marcus Ehning was the hero of the hour when clinching the Challenge Cup for Germany at the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2018 in Barcelona (ESP) riding Comme Il Faut. Team-mate Philipp Weishaupt produced a foot-perfect pathfinding run from the lovely mare Asathir, but when Hans-Dieter Dreher left two fences on the floor with Berlinda and youngest team member Maurice Tebbel had a fence down and a time fault with Chacco’s Son, then all the pressure was piled on Ehning’s shoulders. He knew exactly what he had to do because he’s done it so many times before.

“I had to go clear to win the class. This last 20 years I’ve been doing the sport I’m used to the pressure. Especially this year I had a few rounds where I had to be clear and I was lucky I was clear, but I hope that will change and that in future years the pressure is on someone else!” — Marcus Ehning (Team Germany)

Of the seven competing nations there were two with just three team-members, Canada who started out that way in the first round of the Final and USA whose numbers were reduced when Jessica Springsteen and RMF Zecilie were a late withdrawal. But Alex Granato really rose to the occasion by steering Carlchen W through a foot-perfect round. So when all the US had to count was a double-error from Andy Kocher and Kahlua and a single time fault from Lucy Deslauriers with Hester, then their nine-fault total was good enough for runner-up spot.

That time fault was costly, however, because Deslauriers was the last of the five riders chasing down a €50,000 bonus on offer to anyone producing clear rounds. If she had been just that little bit faster, she would have had it all to herself.

Brazil lined up third on 10 faults ahead of Spain with 15, Canada with 16, Great Britain with 20, and the United Arab Emirates on a big score of 40 faults.

The Germans had mixed feelings about their success. The competition was open to the teams that did not qualify in the first round for the top-eight Final. Philipp Weishaupt said it was tough to miss the cut by such a narrow margin when time was taken into account after four teams completed with an eight-fault scoreline. “We missed out by less than a second, and it wasn’t so easy to keep the motivation up today. We put our breeches on in the hotel and came out to jump tonight but all the other teams had their jeans on. But we knew we had to do it and we knew we had to try our best,” he added.

Ehning, who along with Tebbel was a member of the German team that claimed bronze at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon, USA two weeks ago when their team-mate, Simone Blum, also took the individual title with the lovely mare DSP Alice, is one of the world’s most admired horsemen. He had the crowd spell-bound as he cruised at high speed around the track to bring glory to his country once again.

When asked how he prepared to go into such a pressure round, he explained that Comme Il Faut had been jumping too high in the practice arena, so he schooled him over small fences to get him to jump lower which would allow them to take on the course at greater speed.

“Especially at the first fence I wanted him to be fast. The time was a bit tight… but if you can flow with him then you just have to follow him and he makes it very easy for the rider; he’s a very clever horse!” — Marcus Ehning (Team Germany)

Meanwhile, his Chef d’Equipe described the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series as “the biggest thing we have in our sport! All of our different stakeholders are fighting for it: the breeders, supporters, owners, the riders, the Chefs’ d’Equipe, the Federations, everybody. It’s something special to be in a team, to fight with a team, to lose or win together for your country. I love this!” Otto Becker said.

Result here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Italy and Austria Top Thrilling First Round, but Sunday’s Decider Will Be Whole New Ball Game

Julia Houtzager-Kayser and Sterrehof’s Cayetano Z. (FEI/Lukasz Kowalski)

“We won already!” said Austrian Chef d’Equipe Marcus Wallishauser after his team shared top spot with Italy at the end of the first round of competition at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2018 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain. But there’s still a long way to go before the new champions are crowned on Sunday afternoon when the top eight teams return to the arena for the second and deciding round.

The Austrians and Italians collected just a single time fault each, and with just four faults apiece Sweden, Belgium, and The Netherlands have also made the cut along with the Irish who picked up five faults. But it came down to the combined times of team riders to separate the Swiss, French, Germans, and Americans when they all completed with eight faults on the board.

And when the calculations were done it was the Swiss and French who were signed up for Sunday afternoon, while the Germans and Americans will join Canada, Great Britain, Brazil, the UAE and host nation of Spain in the Challenge Cup for those that didn’t make it.

Wallishauser’s team booked their tickets to Barcelona when winning the Europe Division 2 qualifier in Budapest (HUN), but they were not hot favourites even though that victory in August was a convincing one when they trounced the opposition with a zero score.

“For us to be in the final is already perfect – now we just need to focus like we did today and let’s see what we can do!” said the Austrian team manager who is hoping that Roland Englebrecht (Chambery), Julia Houtzager-Kayser (Sterrehof’s Cayetano Z), Felix Koller (Captain future 3), and Max Kuhner (PSG Final) can continue this run of great form.

But as Italian anchorman, Lorenzo de Luca, pointed out, the next challenge from Spanish course designer Santiago Varela is going to be considerably more testing.

“There’s still a big day ahead – Sunday is going to be huge!” — Lorenzo de Luca (Team Italy)

He picked up four faults with Ensor de Litrange but was under absolutely no pressure when last to go because team-mates Luca Marziani (Tokyo du Soleil) and Riccardo Pisani (Chaclot) had both jumped clear while Bruno Chimirri (Tower Mouche) clocked up just a single time fault. So that was all they would have to put on the board when the best three scores were taken into account.

“It was a very good night for Italy; my team all jumped great so I didn’t have to jump but I decided to bring my horse in to let him see the fences. We are going to celebrate tonight but we will still be focused for Sunday, I promise you!” de Luca added.

In stark contrast to the Italian rider, Irish anchorman Darragh Kenny had no room for error when he came into the ring. With five faults already on the board, another four would leave his team well outside the qualifying zone, but he kept a cool head to steer Balou du Reventon through the finish with nothing to add. “Our goal was to get into Sunday; that was the most important thing for us so we were very happy we did that. We have a great team and we’re all working really well together so I think we should do well. We’ll go out there trying to do our best and see what happens, that’s for sure!” he said.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

New Champions to Be Crowned and Scores to Be Settled at Sizzling Spanish Showdown

Felipe Amaral and Premiere Carthoes BZ, pictured at the qualifier in Ocala, Florida (USA) earlier this year. (FEI/Shannon Brinkman)

Like the annual gathering of the clans, Jumping riders from all around the globe are descending on the beautiful city of Barcelona in Spain for this week’s Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final 2018. For the sixth year in succession, this celebration of all that’s best in team sport takes place in the quietly sophisticated surroundings of the Real Club de Polo, venue for Jumping at the 1992 Olympic Games.

But coming just two weeks after the FEI World Equestrian Games™ (WEG) in Tryon, there’s an extra edge to it this time around. There are points to be made, scores to be settled, and muscles to be flexed, especially for the countries that had high hopes going to the USA last month only to have them dashed when the pendulum of sporting fortune didn’t swing in their direction.

The defending Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ champions from The Netherlands didn’t make it onto the Tryon podium but they did manage to claim one of the six qualifying spots for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. And Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens clearly means business again this week, bringing three of his Tryon team – Marc Houtzager, Frank Schuttert, and World No. 1, Harrie Smolders – along with Leopold van Asten and Maikel van der Vleuten.

The Swiss looked set to carry off WEG gold but had to settle for fifth in the final analysis, although the individual silver and bronze medals collected by Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat demonstrated their super strength and commitment.

Guerdat’s loyalty to the Nations Cup format is second to none, and the London 2012 individual champion will be back in the ring this weekend giving it everything he’s got along with Paul Estermann, Bryan Balsiger, Arthur Gustavo, and Barbara Schneiper. We won’t be seeing the newly-crowned individual world champion Simone Blum, but her Chef d’Equipe, Otto Becker, will be keen to follow up WEG team bronze with a strong result from another formidable German side that includes Hans-Dieter Dreher, Marcus Ehning, Maurice Tebbel, Andre Thieme and Philipp Weishaupt.

And the Irish will be there. The reigning European Champions missed out on a ticket to Tokyo when finishing seventh at the WEG – “We will be trying to try to erase the bad taste that our result in Tryon has left,” said team manager Rodrigo Pessoa, after confirming his selection of Shane Breen, Anthony Condon, Darragh Kenny, Billy Twomey, and Michael G Duffy last week.

The real tension may well be between the Americans and Swedes. It took an edge-of-the-seat jump-off to separate them in the battle for world championship gold, and it would be very sweet revenge if the Swedes could turn the tables this time out.

So Henrik Ankarcrona has selected Jonna Ekberg, Peder Fredrison, Stephanie Holmen, Irma Karlsson, and Erica Swartz who will be on a mission. American confidence should be at an all-time high, however, and although Laura Kraut is the only member of that gold-medal-winning Tryon team to be called up again this week, she and her compatriots Lucy Deslauriers, Alex Granato, Andrew Kocher, and Jessica Springsteen should have an extra spring in their step.

A total of 15 nations – Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, UAE, and USA – will line out when the first round of the Final gets underway at 20.00 local time on Friday evening. Teams go in order of the draw that takes place Thursday evening, and only the top eight nations will qualify for the series title decider on Sunday afternoon.

The remaining sides will compete in Saturday night’s Challenge Cup, and with €1,700,000 in prize money on offer, it promises to be a superb weekend of sport. It will be another interesting one for America’s Lucy Deslauriers as the 19-year-old will compete against her father, Mario Deslauriers, who will line out for Team Canada and who was just 19 years old himself when setting a record, that still stands, as the youngest ever rider to win the coveted Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping trophy back in 1984.

Following an agreement announced last year, Longines became the brand new long-term title partner of the FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ series, and after 13 qualifiers on three continents, this 109th season of Nations Cup Jumping is coming to a thrilling climax.

It’s going to be spell-binding so check out the full entry list here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Awesome Austrians Win Europe Division 2 Final in Budapest

Felix Koller with Captain Future 3. (FEI/Martin Dokoupil)

Team Austria earned promotion to Division 1 next season with a definitive victory at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Hungary in Budapest (HUN). And they’ll join their Hungarian hosts at the Longines 2018 World Final in Barcelona (ESP) in eight weeks’ time, as the top two teams in this Europe Division 2 decider are entitled to contest the lucrative annual clash of champions.

Three clears in the first round gave the Austrians the early edge and they didn’t flinch to finish on a zero scoreline. It was a superb weekend for anchorman Max Kuhner (44).

“I’m feeling pretty good because I won the Longines Grand Prix on Friday with Cielito Lindo and now I’m on the winning Nations Cup team with PSG Final!” — Max Kuhner (AUT)

All the more creditable was the fact that his Nations Cup horse is just an eight-year-old, the lovely bay gelding securing one of those pivotal foot-perfect runs in the opening round. It was Christian Rhomberg (27) who led the way for the winning side with an eight-fault result from Saphyr des Lacs, but when Julia Houtzager-Kayser (44) and rising star Felix Koller (21) made no mistake, then Kuhner wrapped up the early advantage.

However, the Hungarians were in hot pursuit as round two got underway, sharing a four-fault tally with Portugal and the Czech Republic while Norway was next in line carrying nine. The Norwegian side was almost a completely Gulliksen-family affair with son and daughter, Victoria and Johan-Sebastian, joining their father Geir along with Lisa Ulven. And they just missed the cut to the Barcelona Final when completing with 13 faults, only one point behind Hungary at the end of the day. Portugal finished fourth while Czech Republic had to settle for fifth ahead of Poland, Greece and the three-man Bulgarian team who brought up the rear.

The course designed by Germany’s Werner Deeg had some difficult lines as Houtzager-Kayser explained. “The water to the double at fences six and seven, and the line from the triple bar to the vertical and the oxer from eight to ten – none of that was easy!” she pointed out. However, she was well-pleased when her 14-year-old stallion Sterrehof’s Cayetano Z racked up an impressive double-clear, the only other coming from the 11-year-old Captain Future 3 ridden by team-mate Koller.

This young man, who has been based with the legendary Paul Schockemohle in Germany for the last six months, claimed individual Young Rider bronze at the Longines FEI European Championships in Fontainebleau (FRA) four weeks ago and looks to have a big future ahead of him.

“This was my first 5-Star Nations Cup and my horse was amazing; he is owned by my Austrian sponsor and he always gives his heart to me whenever we go in the ring!” — Felix Koller (AUT)

The prospect of fielding a team at the Longines 2018 Final in a few weeks’ time and of competing in Europe Division one next year all seemed quite overwhelming because Austria has a limited number of horses and riders at the top end of the sport. “Christian and Max will be competing at the World Equestrian Games in Tryon so we may have to find different horses for Barcelona, but this is so exciting – I can hardly believe it!” Koller said.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Mexicans Live the Dream in Dublin

Patricio Pasquel celebrates in a sombrero after jumping two brilliant clear rounds with Babel. (FEI/Jon Stroud)

They arrived as complete underdogs to take on many of the best nations in the world, but Team Mexico turned the sport on its head when winning the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Ireland in Dublin (IRL). This last leg of the Europe Division 1 series was electrifying from beginning to end, and incredibly tense in the closing stages with the home crowd willing their own boys to win it.

But Eugenio Garza Perez (22) and his veteran team-mates Federico Fernandez (50), Patricio Pasquel (46) and Enrique Gonzalez (54) enjoyed the warmest reception, including a great big Mexican wave, from the 20,000 spectators when producing three second-round clears to pin Ireland, France, and Italy into joint-runner-up spot. Mexico had never won at the Irish fixture before and it was 37 years since they last contested the coveted Aga Khan trophy at the historic Royal Dublin Society showgrounds. So along with their delighted Chef d’Equipe Stany van Paesschen they didn’t hold back on the celebrations afterwards.

“I’ve been doing this sport a long time and I’ve never had a day like this!” said Gonzalez, whose last-to-go effort proved the clincher. “The Mexicans were really incredible; they came back in the second round with real determination and when you’re in contention in a Nations Cup that’s how you have to ride,” Irish Chef d’Equipe Rodrigo Pessoa added.

It seemed the reigning European Champions from Ireland would have it all their own way when they cruised into the lead on a zero score at the halfway stage, with Italy snapping at their heels on four faults followed by USA, Mexico and France carrying eight apiece. The Swiss, British, and Dutch were already down the line, eventually finishing sixth, seventh and eighth while USA slotted ahead of them in fifth despite being hampered by elimination for Jamie Barge (Luebbo) at the water in both rounds.

Mexican pathfinder Garza Perez (Victer Finn) showed a dramatic improvement from his 12-fault first-round effort when clear second time out, and when Pasquel (Babel) produced one of four double-clears of the day and Gonzalez (Chacna) wrapped it up by also being foot-perfect all the pressure was on the Italians and Irish. And both faltered, adding four faults to complete along with France on a total of 12 as Team Mexico made history and a whole lot of new Irish friends.

“It’s a dream come true. Since we got the invitation we have not stopped dreaming about this moment. We worked hard to be here and we enjoyed every second!” said Fernandez who posted two four-fault scores with Landpeter do Feroleto. This is a very unique horse-and-rider partnership; both are survivors. Federico was involved in a devastating air-crash that left many dead in 1987, and Peter, as the horse is known, also suffered serious injury in a lorry accident that nearly took his life. The pure joy of success was written all over every Mexican face, and Federico was in tears at the post-competition press conference.

“After what happened to me I feel an obligation to be happy, and today was one of the happiest days of my life!” he said. Garza Perez was happy too because he is trained by Irish showjumping legend Eddie Macken and was disappointed with his three mistakes in the first round.  But he put it all right when clear at his second attempt. “I was anxious not to let Eddie down and I hope today was as good for him as it was for me. It’s really out of a dream; it’s incredible!”

This result confirms Belgium as winners of the Europe Division 1 series with Ireland finishing a close second, just five points behind. Switzerland, France, Netherlands, Great Britain, and Sweden fill the next five places on the leaderboard and all seven countries will compete at the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona (ESP) in October. However, Germany and Italy have missed the cut and the Spanish who have finished last at the end of the 2018 season will be relegated to Europe Division 2 next year.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Irish Pip British in Brilliant Battle at Hickstead

Photo: Anthony Condon and SFS Aristio. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Ireland won out in a two-way jump-off against old rivals Great Britain in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Great Britain at Hickstead. Wild winds and the first heavy rain to hit the region for more than 50 days ensured conditions were seriously challenging in this penultimate qualifier of the Europe Division 1 series. But Rodrigo Pessoa’s side of Trevor Breen (39), Richie Moloney (36), Michael Duffy (23) and Anthony Condon (31) battled through, and Condon clinched it in a third-round showdown against Holly Smith.

It was no day for the faint-hearted as the formidable Hickstead fences took their toll. The tall white gate at fence three was a real bogey, as was the 4-metre-wide open water which sealed the fate of the 2017 series champions from The Netherlands who retired in the closing stages. Only two weeks ago Johnny Pals and Chat Botte du Ruisseau Z were the Dutch heroes when pinning the Irish into runner-up spot at Falsterbo (SWE) in a four-way jump-off against the clock. But the lovely 10-year-old stallion found the Hickstead water very scary in both rounds, and, down to a three-man side following the withdrawal of Willem Greve’s Zypria S, the pair’s second-round tally of 23 faults was so expensive that Chef d’Equipe, Rob Ehrens, decided his team should call it a day.

But the British were also reduced to just three counting scores when former world no. 1 and 2012 Olympic gold medallist Scott Brash was eliminated at the open water both times out with Hello Shelby. Team manager Di Lampard has tremendous talent at her disposal, however, and Smith (Heart’s Destiny), Amanda Derbyshire (Luibanta BH) and William Whitaker (Utamaro D’Ecaussines) showed true grit to force the jump-off against the boys in green.

Smith set the target with a lovely clear round from her big, quality, nine-year-old bay who broke the beam in 43.39 seconds. Condon, who has been based in England for the last 14 years, knew what he had to do when it came to his turn.

“Holly is a very fast rider and her horse has a huge stride so she can be deceptive – I just thought that if I could do the same and be a little quicker, then I could catch her.” — Anthony Condon (IRL)

Steering his 12-year-old stallion SFS Aristio, which is owned by John and Pat Hales and their daughter Lisa, whose names will always be intrinsically linked with the super-stallion Arko and rider Nick Skelton, he broke the beam more than two seconds sooner. As he raced through the finish his fellow-countrymen Duffy (EFS Top Contender), Breen (Bombay) and Moloney (Freestyle de Muze), and the entire Irish contingent, exploded with delight.

Ireland has now rocketed up to third on the Europe Division 1 leaderboard and, with 335 points, the reigning European champions look well-qualified for the Longines 2018 Final in Barcelona (ESP) in October. Brazil finished third, Sweden fourth and the Belgians, long-time Europe Division 1 leaders, had to settle for fifth ahead of Italy who lined up sixth of the seven competing nations.

And the Irish have another big day to look forward to when the Europe Division 1 series concludes on home ground in Dublin (IRL) in 12 days’ time where Britain and Italy will be desperate to move out of the danger-zone at the bottom of the league table, as only seven of the 10 competing nations will make the cut to the Barcelona Final.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Dutch Win against All Odds at Fabulous Falsterbo

Photo: Maikel van der Vleuten and IDI Utopia. (FEI/Satu Pirinen)

Fierce battle in thrilling four-way jump-off against Ireland, Sweden, and Italy

It wasn’t all smooth sailing as the Dutch swept to victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Sweden at Falsterbo (SWE). Reduced to a three-man team following first-round drama for Michel Hendrix (31) and Baileys, and only making the cut into the jump-off after a successful appeal against four faults at the water for Maikel van der Vleuten (30) and IDI Utopia in round two, it might well have been too much to hope for that it would all come right in the end.

But when you combine great leadership with passion and pride, and you add in the quality of a partnership like Johnny Pals (36) and his super-stallion Chat Botte du Ruisseau Z who produced no less than three spectacular clears, and the final one the quickest of all, then you have all the ingredients for an epic afternoon of sport.

You don’t get days like this too often, and even the Irish who finished second, the Swedes who lined up in third and the fourth-placed Italians couldn’t argue with that. It was a Nations Cup classic, with just fractions of seconds deciding the result.

“Today was an absolute thriller!” — Rob Ehrens (Rob Ehrens, Chef d’Equipe, Team Netherlands)

It was the triple combination at fence five that led to the withdrawal of The Netherlands’ Hendrix when Baileys stopped and then tipped off his rider when they tackled it again. The Irish, hot favourites to win after a spectacular week of success at the Swedish fixture, held the lead on a zero score at the halfway stage while the Dutch, Swedes and Italians lay close behind with four faults apiece.

When Bertram Allen’s Gin Chin van Het Lindenhof put a foot in the water second time out and then Mark McAuley’s Utchan de Belheme left a pole on the floor the Irish advantage began to slip, however. But clears from Daniel Coyle (Cita) and Paul O’Shea (Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu) steadied the ship and they went into a four-way jump-off with Italy, Sweden, and eventually The Netherlands, all on a two-round four-fault tally.

First against the clock was Italy’s Luca Marziani, setting the target when clear in 42.71 seconds with Tokyo du Soleil, but the Swedish crowd went wild with delight when their hero, Henrik von Eckermann, steered Toveks Mary Lou through the timers more than a second faster in 41.52. As Johnny Pals set off you could hear a pin drop. “Rob said – you go for it – so I went for it!” said the Dutchman whose fabulous chestnut stallion jumped like a cat to put a time of 39.33 on the board. Last man in, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle, gave it his best shot with Cita who broke the beam in 40.47 seconds for runner-up spot. But it was the Men in Orange, and the 2017 Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ champions, who would stand top of the Falsterbo presentation podium for the second year in a row.

The exceptional team spirit of the Dutch has delivered a stream of success for many years now. Maikel van der Vleuten reflected that when he looked back on the story of the day and how it all fell into place. “Michel was a bit unlucky in the first round; his horse just wasn’t feeling it today but that’s why we are a team and we were still strong enough to do the job!” And as Jur Vrieling (48), who produced an all-important anchorman double-clear with VDL Glasgow v. Merelsnest NOP, pointed out, supporting your team-mates is at the core of Nations Cup Jumping. “I’ve had it before where I’ve gone wrong and others have helped, so I was happy today to be able to do my job this time around!”

And as for Johnny Pals, he couldn’t help but be thrilled with the sensational performance of his 10-year-old stallion who never looked like putting a foot wrong all day.

“His breeding is Casall and Darco and he’s the horse of a lifetime!” — Johnny Pals (NED)

“He has so much scope and so careful! I have him two years and at the beginning he was a bit strong but he always had a great mentality,” he said of the horse who seems to have unbounded enthusiasm for his job.

And what now for the Dutch who have moved into sixth place on the Europe Division 1 leaderboard which is still headed by Belgium? “We have two more legs at Hickstead and Dublin left… we are going to try to beat the Belgians and win the League!” Rob Ehrens said.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Back-to-Back Win for Brilliant Belgians Puts Them Top of Division 1

Photo: Pieter Devos and Espoir. (FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst)

Germany finishes second in classic contest at Rotterdam; hosts share third place with USA and Switzerland

On a day of doubles, Team Belgium posted a back-to-back win in Europe Division 1 when coming out on top in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup of The Netherlands in Rotterdam. There were seven double-clears in the gripping competition over a really testing course set by Ireland’s Alan Wade. And the man who clinched it for the Belgian side, 22-year-old Jos Verlooy riding Igor, had already scooped the honours in Friday’s Longines Grand Prix with his other top horse Caracas.

However, perhaps the most important double of all was the fact that this was only the second time in the 70-year history of CSIO Rotterdam for a Belgian side to take the Nations Cup honours. Their only previous victory was back in 1950, and they did it in great style, under pressure in front of a packed stadium, and under the watchful eye of Dutch royal family member, and former Queen, Princess Beatrix, when posting a zero scoreline.

The Belgians are the form team right now, and they know it. “Our horses and riders are very strong this year – we are working towards the WEG (FEI World Equestrian Games) in September and I think we can produce a great result there!” said Verlooy. And his Chef d’Equipe Peter Weinberg was thinking even further down the line, to the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ 2018 Final in Barcelona (ESP) in October.

“I have a team of unbelievable fighters and we are high on the points table now so we are looking good for the final!” — Peter Weinberg (Chef d’Equipe Team Belgium)

Alan Wade will be course designer at the WEG and the world’s best are very happy to get experience over his tracks. As always it was built to maximum height and he tested riders more than horses, demanding straightness, balance, control and complete concentration from start to finish.

Belgium and Germany shared the lead on a zero score at the end of the first round, with Switzerland and USA close behind each carrying just four faults and the hosts and Great Britain next in line with eight apiece. Sweden couldn’t recover from a 15-fault first-round effort, but although the French completed with 16 they, like the British, showed evidence of the development of a very exciting string of newcomers.

Mistakes from Marcus Ehning (Comme Il Faut) and Markus Beerbaum (Cool Hand Luke) undermined German chances, but a double-clear from pathfinder Nicola Philippaerts (24) with H&M Chilli Willi got the Belgians off to a great start in the second round. Niels Bruynseels’ (34) lovely mare Cas de Liberte was one of several horses to misinterpret the triple bar at fence three in round one, and they went on to collect an uncharacteristic 13 faults. But second time out they were pure perfection, so when Verlooy also left the course fully intact it was game over and Belgium’s second win in a week following success in Sopot (POL) last Sunday. Pieter Devos (32) who had stepped in to rescue the situation with a brilliant first-round clear from Espoir didn’t have to jump again.

Verlooy was thrilled to have been the one to seal this historic success and was quick to thank his long-time trainer and current world no. 1 rider, Dutchman Harrie Smolders.  “Harrie told me: don’t think about the result; think about jumping every fence correctly and only look at the result when you are over the finish line – stay focused on what you are doing all the way!” Verlooy explained.

Belgium has now overtaken Switzerland on the Europe Division 1 leaderboard with Germany in third, France in fourth, Spain in fifth and Sweden in sixth place. Italy, Ireland, Great Britain and Netherlands are sitting at the bottom of the table but they all have three more chances to dramatically improve their positions at the remaining Europe Division 1 legs in Falsterbo (SWE) and Hickstead (GBR) next month and in Dublin (IRL) where the last qualifier will take place on 10 August.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145

Team Belgium Reigns Supreme in Hard-Fought Battle at Sopot

Photo: Niels Bruynseels and Cas de Liberte. (FEI/Lukasz Kowalski)

Frenchman Robert produces the only double-clear; Belgians now just 10 points behind Swiss at top of league table

Team Belgium won the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Poland, but it was no walk in the park. This fourth leg of the Western European League attracted teams from eight countries to the Hippodrome Arena in the popular seaside town of Sopot, and with six of those chasing down qualifying points for the Longines Final in Barcelona (ESP) in October it was always going to be a right royal battle.

Taking the early lead, Peter Weinberg’s side held on to reign supreme ahead of France in runner-up spot and the USA in third. Belgian anchorman, Niels Bruynseels (34), didn’t have to bring out his brilliant mare, Cas de Liberte, a second time but as he pointed out that wasn’t because it was an easy afternoon’s work.

“The course was tough – big and technical – and the time was quite tight, but we came here well prepared, with a strong team, strong riders and a good tactic, and everyone did a super job!” — Niels Bruynseels (Team Belgium)

Olaf Petersen Jr’s 12-fence course was certainly challenging. “The water (fence 5) was wide, there was a huge triple bar to a vertical (fences 9 and 10) and the last double (11) was very difficult,” Bruynseels pointed out. The distance to the big final water-tray oxer also caught out several of the big names in the first round, including French stalwart Kevin Staut (For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC) and American legend Margie Goldstein-Engle (Royce).

But it was Staut’s second-round clear that pulled his side back into the frame on a day when Mathieu Billot and Shiva d’Amaury, heroes of the French victory in St Gallen (SUI) two weeks ago, will want to forget. Olivier Robert didn’t have to jump in either round at the Swiss fixture because his team-mates were so impressive. But he helped France secure second spot with the only double-clear of the entire competition from his 14-year-old gelding Eros.

Foot-perfect runs from Olivier Philippaerts (24) and H&M Ikker and Jerome Guery (37) with Garfield de Tijl des Templiers meant that the four faults collected by Pieter Devos and Claire Z was the Belgian drop-score first time out and Bruynseels single time penalty was all they would carry into round two. Philippaerts double-faulted second time out, but Devos was clear and by the time Guery came home with just four on the board it was all over. Their 13-fault total could not be bettered.

Lying second on four faults at the halfway stage the Swedes disappeared from the reckoning, and a final tally of 16 moved the French into runner-up position while 21 faults secured third place for Team USA on a high-scoring afternoon.

The Belgians now head to Rotterdam in The Netherlands next Sunday (24 June) for the fifth round of the eight-leg Western European series lying just 10 points behind the league leaders from Switzerland and 20 points ahead of France, and with the tension increasing with every outing.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Ruth Grundy
Manager Press Relations
Email: ruth.grundy@fei.org
Tel: +41 787 506 145