Barcelona Buzzes with Excitement as Brazilians Steal the Limelight in First Round of Furusiyya Final

The Brazilian team topped the opening round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2013 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain today.  Pictured (L to R) Eduardo Menezes, Rodrigo Pessoa, Marlon Zanotelli, Alvaro de Miranda Neto and Chef d’Equipe Jean-Maurice Bonneau.  Photo: FEI/Tomas Holcbecher.
The Brazilian team topped the opening round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2013 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain today. Pictured (L to R) Eduardo Menezes, Rodrigo Pessoa, Marlon Zanotelli, Alvaro de Miranda Neto and Chef d’Equipe Jean-Maurice Bonneau. Photo: FEI/Tomas Holcbecher.

The Brazilian team topped the opening round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2013 at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain today where the battle for the eight qualifying spots for Sunday’s second round was a real thriller.  The sport of Nations Cup jumping is on fire right now, and today’s competition has set the stage for a spectacular conclusion to the new series on Sunday afternoon.

The Netherlands, Belgium, Ireland, France, Great Britain, Canada and Ukraine also made the cut, but it was no easy task as course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, really tested the big field of 18 nations over his tough 13-fence course.  And for the USA it was heart-break, as, tied on nine faults along with Canada and Ukraine, they missed out on a qualifying spot by just over three seconds when teams were separated by the combined times of their best three riders.

The sense of history in the making is everywhere, and the excitement amongst the riders is tangible.  Change often doesn’t come easily, but after a tentative start the Furusiyya concept has been embraced with huge enthusiasm by everyone in the sport, and the anticipation ahead of Sunday’s decider is electrifying. 

Began to Intensify
Varela’s course began to intensify once riders turned down the line from the oxer at fence five to the open water at six which was quickly followed, on a continuously snaking line, by the double - oxer to vertical - at seven.  A number of horses kicked out the front pole of the oxer when possibly distracted by turning away from the exit gate, and although the open water proved relatively unproblematic, there were a few exciting moments at the double.  One of these came from Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander when her gelding, Ego van Orti, seemed to go for a one-stride distance where it was clearly designed for two.  The horse thankfully put down again before pushing through the poles at the second element, but with only three team-members in the Australian side, and 11 faults on the board for their pathfinding partnership, the writing was already on the wall. 

The following oxer at eight, approached after a right-hand turn, penalised quite a few and the vertical that followed was also very influential.  It was here that Brazilian ambitions seemed to be dashed when Eduardo Menezes was eliminated for a fall. Talking about it afterwards, the 33-year-old rider said “it was exactly the same as a line I rode in Lausanne two weeks ago so I thought I knew exactly what to do.  My horse has a long stride and I was just letting him run down the line, but he kind of backed off the vertical and put down again in front of it” he explained.  The result was that he was pushed right forward and, in the process, removed his horse’s bridle.  As his 12-year-old gelding began to turn back down the long side of the arena, Menezes decided to part company with him because he no longer had any control.  Fortunately both horse and rider were none-the-worse for the experience.

The triple bar at fence 10 led on to the most troublesome obstacle of the day, the triple combination of vertical to oxer to vertical.  The distance between the first two elements was tight, and despite attempting a variety of stride patterns on the approach it didn’t come up right for many.  In fact from a starting field of 71, a total of 27 hit the middle element, eight hit the final element and two hit the first element. And many who ran into problems there also found the penultimate water-tray vertical and final oxer quite difficult to negotiate too.

Steadied the Ship
Third-line rider, Marlon Zanotelli, steadied the Brazilian ship when returning with just a single time fault with Clouwni, so as the last member of each of the 18 teams came into the ring it was left to Alvaro (Doda) de Miranda Neto to ensure Brazil would finish first and clinch the all-important pole position on Sunday’s start-list.

The only ones who could beat them at this stage were the Dutch after Jur Vrieling (VDL Bubalu) and Maikel Van der Vleuten (VDL Verdi) went clear.  If Willem Greve’s single mistake, and additional time fault, could be eradicated then they would finish at the top of the scoreboard but anchorman, Jeroen Dubbeldam, retired when Utascha SFN hit the oxer at five because he could no longer influence the result now.  That put plenty of pressure on de Miranda, but he cruised home with AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno to secure Brazilian dominance.

Meanwhile Belgium, Ireland, France and Great Britain all completed with eight faults apiece and in that order when times were taken into account.  Belgian hero was 17-year-old Jos Verlooy who was so impressive at the PSI FEI European Championship in Herning, Denmark last month and whose lovely clear with Domino secured third spot today, while it was anchorman, Billy Twomey, who rode to Ireland’s rescue with his great mare Tinka’s Serenade.  The French began with a clear from Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express HDC that proved pivotal while Scott Brash has made something of a habit of producing that all-important foot-perfect performance when it is most needed.  Last to go for his side with the mare, Ursula, he ensured the reigning Olympic and European team champions will be in the race for the Furusiyya title on Sunday afternoon. 

Battle for Last Places
The battle for the last two qualifying places was a brutal one.  The Canadians were desperate to negate one of two nine-fault results they were carrying so they could benefit from Tiffany Foster’s opening clear with Verdi lll, and 2008 Olympic champion, Eric Lamaze, ensured they did just that when producing a superb, and fast, round from Powerplay.  Cassio Rivetti and Vivant produced Ukraine’s only clear and they also finished up with nine faults while American hearts were lifted when Beezie Madden galloped home without incident when last to go for her side to leave them on level pegging. 

However when time was taken into account they were pushed out by the Ukrainians and are qualified only for tomorrow’s Consolation competition in which Colombia, Spain, Switzerland, Saudi Arabia, Austria, Qatar, Japan and Australia will also take part.  Few would have expected powerful nations like the USA, Sweden and Switzerland to be sitting on the sidelines on Sunday afternoon, but the unpredictability of the Furusiyya series and the many surprises it has thrown up since the season began last February have combined to make it all the more interesting.

For today’s winning Chef d’Equipe, Jean-Maurice Bonneau, Brazilian success is all part of a master-plan. But he is realistic about how the remainder of this weekend’s competition will play itself out.  "Three weeks ago I spoke about this team at Arezzo (Italy). We have a huge target - the Olympic Games in Rio - and next year we go to France for the World Equestrian Games.  But we are not coming from nowhere, we have to set up the team and we have top riders like Rodrigo (Pessoa) and Doda (Alvaro de Miranda Neto) and we are trying new riders like Marlon and Eduardo and I hope some new riders as well, some of them are in Europe.  We tried our best today, but this is not Sunday.  Our win in Arezzo gave us confidence, and the horses were rested before we came here.  We did it today, but we know that Sunday is another picture and that we have to stay hungry" said the man whose name is synonomous with the sport of Nations Cup Jumping having led his home country of France to a long period of dominance during the early years of the new millennium.
Rodrigo Pessoa, said “today was an exciting day, with some teams dropping out it was a thriller, and now it has to be done all over again on Sunday!”  Everyone is really looking forward to the grand finale.
Success of Series
Much of the conversation at the post-competition press conference was about the success of the Furusiyya series.  Asked about his thoughts on the rule which allows for one substitution in each team on Sunday, The Netherlands’ Jeroen Dubbeldam said enthusiastically, "it's something new and very good.  In other sports, like soccer, you can bring in reserves off the bench, so why not in our sport?  We have the possibility to change, and it gives the Chef and the team a bit of flexibility - the format is great!" he insisted.
Pessoa agreed.  "I really like the new format, running the Final over two days with a rest day in the middle” he said, and Belgium’s Francois Mathy Jr added, "a new class, a new format, it's important to do something new - its not only good for the sport it makes for more exciting sport, and we are all enjoying it!".
For Furusiyya and the FEI this weekend is a very important one in many ways. FEI Jumping Director, John Roche said this evening "the restructuring has turned the Nations Cup into a truly global series.  This is the oldest series the FEI has - it combines team sport and national pride, and it’s very dear to the heart of the FEI.”
John Madden, Chair of the FEI Jumping Committee pointed out "the atmosphere among the riders is great, they all say that this feels like a real Championship.  When we were formulating the Furusiyya series a lot of people thought that 18 teams was too many, but we enjoyed really great sport today. 
We sat down early in the process with the Furusiyya people and defined some clear principles on which we all agreed, and then Furusiyya left it to us at the FEI to develop the formula within those principles.  We have modified the sport of Nations Cup Jumping which is a most important property of the FEI.  There may be some mild tweaks to what we have created, there is always room for modification, but the guiding principles will remain the same”.
Brazilian Chef d'Equipe, Jean-Maurice Bonneau, rounded up today’s action. "I'd like to thank the Organising Committee and the course designer for doing a super job. For the course designer it's not easy to cope with 18 teams, to find the right balance that will find the winners and still protect the weaker teams.  We had a bit of an adventure with our second rider (Eduardo Menezes) but in the end they (his team) stayed close and did a professional job.  I'm proud to be their Chef!"
He will be even more proud if they are holding the brand new Furusiyya trophy aloft on the top step of the podium on Sunday afternoon.
The inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final is taking place at Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain from 26-29 September 2013.  For all information on the Spanish fixture go to the event website or contact Press Officer Isabel Suter at email or telephone +34 760 258 222.
1. Brazil 1 fault: Citizenguard Cadjanine Z (Rodrigo Pessoa) 0, Calavda (Eduardo Menezes) Elim, Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) 1, AD Rahmannshof's Bogeno (Alvaro de Miranda Neto) 0.
2. Netherlands 5 faults: VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 0, Carambole (Willem Greve) 5, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel Van der Vleuten) 0, Utascha SFN (Jeroen Dubbeldam) Ret.
3. Belgium 8 faults, 243.54: Pollinska des Isles (Francois Mathy Jr 4, Candy (Pieter Devos) 4, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 0, Cortez (Nicola Phillipaerts) 8.
4. Ireland 8 faults, 236.26: Antello Z (Cameron Hanley) 4, Allstar (Denis Lynch) 4, Balloon (Shane Breen) 4, Tinka's Serenade (Billy Twomey) 0.
5. France 8 faults, 238.50: Orient Express HDC (Patrice Delaveau) 0, Classic Bois Margot (Simon Delestre) 4, Armitages Boy (Aymeric de Ponnat) 8, Nayana (Penelope Leprevost) 4.
6. Great Britain 8 faults: Tripple X (Ben Maher) 4, Viking (Michael Whitaker) 4, Hello Winner (Louise Saywell) 4, Ursula (Scott Brash) 0.
7. Canada 9 faults, 237.90: Verdi ll (Tiffany Foster) 0, Amor van de Rostal (Mac Cone) 9, Showgirl (Jonathan Asselin) 9, Powerplay (Eric Lamaze) 0.
8. Ukraine 9 faults, 239.26: Vivant (Cassio Rivetti) 0, Nobylis (Oleg Kraysuk) 10, Carlina (Ulrich Kirchhoff) 5, Charlie (Katharina Offel) 4.
9. USA 9 faults, 243.07: Rothchild (McLain Ward) 4, Cylana (Reed Kessler) 8, Barron (Lucy Davis) 5, Simon (Beezie Madden) 0.
10. Sweden 12 faults: Lunatic (Jens Fredricson) 4, Mic Mac du Tillard (Angelica Augustsson) 4, H&M Cash In (Peder Fredricson) 4, Casall Ask (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) 4.
11. Colombia 15 faults: Sancha LS (Daniel Bluman) 5, Woklahoma (Roberto Teran Tafur) 13, For Rosa's Pleasure (Rodrigo Diaz) 10, Eldorado van het Vijverhof (Dayro Arroyave) 0.
12. Spain 18 faults: Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 5, Conington (Carlos Lopez-Fanjul) 13, Notre Star dle la Nutria (Paola Amilibia Puig) 9, Quinai des Chayottes (Julio Arias) 4.
13. Switzerland 21 faults: Croesus (B Mandli) 5, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 8, Nasa (Steve Guerdat) 8, Toulago (Pius Schwizer) 14. Saudi Arabia 35 faults: Al Capone (Ramzy Hamad Al Duhami) 21, Davos (HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Miteb Al Saud) 5, Talan (Prince Faisal Al Shalan) 13, Noblesse des Tess (Kamal Abdullah Bahamdan) 17.
15. Austria 37 faults: Glock's Prince de Vaux (Dieter Kofler) 13, The Sixth Sense (thomas Fruhmann) 16, Sterrehof's Ushi (Julia Kayser) 8, Chilli van Dijk NRW (Stefan Eder) DNS.
16. Qatar 39 faults: Cantaro (Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani) 12, Castiglione L (Mubaak Yousuf Al Rumaihi) 10, Rosalia la Silla (Bassem Hassan Mohammed) 17, Ravenna (Ali Yousef Al Rumaihi) ELIM.
17. Japan 43 faults: Fine Fleur du Marais (Eiken Sato) 4, Corrito (Toshiki Masui) 22, Ulano (Satoshi Hirao) 17, Avenzio (Taizo Sugitani) DNS.
18. Australia 47 faults: Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) 11, Yirrkala Cortina (William James Passy) 22, Vedor (Julia Hargreaves) 14.

Facts and Figures:
18 teams competed in today's first round of the inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain.
8 teams qualified for Sunday's second round which will decide the fate of the Furusiyya 2013 title, and it was a very close-fought affair as the time decided eighth place when three nations finished on a nine-fault total.
The 10 teams that did not qualify for Sunday's second round will compete in tomorrow's Consolation competition.
The qualified nations for Sunday's second round are Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Great Britain, Ireland, Netherlands and Ukraine.
Course designer was Spain's Santiago Varela.
Two eliminations - Qatar's Ali Yousef Al Rumaihi (Ravenna) and Brazil's Eduardo Menezes (Calavda).
The bogey obstacle on his 13-fence track was the triple combination - vertical, oxer, vertical.

From a starting field of 71, a total of 27 hit the middle element of the triple combination, eight hit the final element and two hit the first element.12 horse-and-rider combinations jumped clear today.
Daniel Giro, Director CSIO 5* Barcelona, "This was a very exciting and historic day and we are feeling very happy that Furusiyya and the FEI trusted in Barcelona to host his first Final".
Rob Ehrens, Chef d’Equipe The Netherlands talking about today’s competition: "I'm happy, it was a perfect course, not too hard for horses and we are happy to be here.  I said yesterday that I brought a good team and they did well today but Sunday is new day, with a new battle and new sport so I hope we will still do well on Sunday".
Alvaro de Miranda, Brazil - "the course was very well built, fair enough but very difficult at the same time.  The last line to the triple combination, some riders got a little close or they didn't have enough pressure in which case they took a back pole.” 
Kurt Gravemeier, Belgian Chef d’Equipe: "We are very happy to be in the Final in which we will all start on zero on Sunday. It was a super course, super ground and super sport today.  I'm happy because I have a young team, the youngest is just 17 years old (Alex Verlooy) and maybe he will ride again on Sunday".
Santiago Varela, course designer: "this course made for nice sport, it was quite difficult - the line of the triple combination was quite hard but we had to select eight teams for Sunday and I'm very happy with the final result.  All the horses jumped very, very well today.  And the best teams go through to the Final."