Team Great Britain produced a superb back-to-back double in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 Europe Division 1 League when following up their success at La Baule, France a week ago with another extraordinary victory at Piazza di Siena in Rome, Italy today. It was another nail-biting competition that came down to a fierce battle with the reigning Furusiyya champions from The Netherlands this time around. And, not for the first time in his long and legendary career, the result was sealed by the master craftsman John Whitaker.
It was his younger brother, 55-year-old Michael, who clinched it for his side at the French fixture seven days ago, but today Michael’s single time fault could have cost his country dearly. Because if John, who turns 60 in August, left a fence on the floor second time out, then all the glory would go to the Dutch. But instead he produced one of four double-clear rounds to ensure pole position and a standing ovation for his team from the enthusiastic Italian crowd.
Sweden lined up third behind The Netherlands while Spain, Switzerland, Italy, Qatar and Belgium filled the remaining places.
Judgement And Skill
Another hero of the day today was master Italian course-designer Uliano Vezzani whose judgement and skill was tested to the limit by appalling weather conditions that seriously affected the arena surface. Thunderous rain prior to the competition made the going deep and sloppy, and he took the decision to lower rails, reduce spreads and take over a metre off the stretch of the open water in order to ensure the welfare of horses was not compromised in any way. Yet he still produced an afternoon of intense competition that went right down to the wire.
The British were already out in front on a zero score at the halfway stage after foot-perfect runs from Michael and John Whitaker, and John’s son Robert. Relative newcomer, 25-year-old Holly Gillott, hit the second element of the Longines triple combination at fence seven and both elements of the penultimate double to provide the British discount score first time out with Dougie Douglas.
The open water was the fourth fence on the track and provided few problems but the following oxer hit the floor on several occasions while the planks vertical at six required a careful approach off a sweeping left-hand turn and it was here that Dutch pathfinder and reigning World double-gold medallist Jeroen Dubbeldam made an error with Zenith. However the biggest drama of the first round was provided by Italy’s Piergiorgio Bucci when, clear all the way to the final planks, his stallion, Casall Z, drifted to the right on this left-bending line and galloped past the fence. The crowd was dumb-struck as the pair were awarded a total of six faults from which their side could not recover.
The Swiss rallied superbly with three fault-free rounds second time out that included a double-clear for pathfinders Jane Richard Philips and Pablo Virton, but it was all too late to put them back in the game with 16 faults already on the board. And a nasty fall for Jos Verlooy and Farfelu de la Pomme when the mare left out a stride at the final element of the combination put paid to Belgian chances. The team from Qatar inched ahead of them to fill seventh place at the end of the day while the Spanish held their ground when adding just four faults to finish on a total of 12. And Sweden also stood firm, thanks in no small part to superb double-clears from Angelie von Essen (Jordan ll) and Henrik von Eckermann (Cantinero).
But it was the Dutch who chased the British all the way to the line, Dubbeldam’s second four-fault effort followed by three great clears from Maikel van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Verdi) and Jur Vrieling (VDL Zirocco Blue) whose horses never touched a pole all day to leave them on their first-round four-fault tally.
Boost British Chances
Gillott produced a copybook second round to boost British chances, but a mistake at the very last fence for Robert Whitaker and Catwalk IV put the pressure on, and although Michael Whitaker and Cassionata were also free of jumping faults they passed the 80-seconds time-allowed to collect a single time fault and suddenly it was critical. Because if John Whitaker could not stay clear then his team would have to count that single fault and would have to settle for runner-up spot with a total of five.
The crowd watched intently as he set off, last to go and with everything hanging in the balance. And Argento ensured that his rider had plenty of riding to do as he pulled his way around the course, but leaving all the timber intact to the great joy of the appreciative crowd. This was Great Britain’s ninth victory in the 83-year history of CSIO Rome, and the spectators enjoyed every moment of it.
Great One To Win
“This is a great one to win and it was important for us to do well today because we were looking for points. Everyone rode fantastic!”, John said afterwards. And talking about the hands-on ride he experienced in both rounds with Argento he pointed out, “he’s a stallion and he’s a bit full of himself because its spring! He’s a lovely horse, not as difficult to ride as he might seem, he’s so careful at the jumps - he really wants to clear every fence and that’s a fantastic feeling”, he explained.
Holly Gillott was understandably delighted. “For my horse it wasn’t easy on the wet ground, it rained for one whole hour before we started and he didn’t like the going, he got tired and flattened at the combinations but he came back really well in the second round.”
“There were so many Whitakers on the team I was worried that we might not win, so it’s a relief!”, joked Michael Whitaker. Robert Whitaker really enjoyed the family feeling today. Asked if riding alongside Michael and John puts him under pressure he replied, “it’s less pressure actually because I’m riding with my family and it feels very different. We probably try even harder when we are all together, it’s great!”
For further information on the eighth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series at Piazza di Siena in Rome, Italy visit www.piazzadisiena.com or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, Email email@example.com, Tel +39 335 6107070.
The next leg will take place in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday 29 May. For details of the Portuguese fixture go to www.sociedadehipica.pt or contact Press Officer Christina Larangeiro, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +351 91 659 4181.
1. Great Britain 1 fault: Dougie Douglas (Holly Gillott) 12/0, Catwalk IV (Robert Whitaker) 0/4, Cassionato (Michael Whitaker) 0/1, Argento (John Whitaker) 0/0.
2. Netherlands 4 faults: Zenith NOP (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 4/4, VDL Groep Verdi TN NOP (Maikel van der Vleuten) 0/0, VDL Zirocco Blue NOP (Jur Vrieling) 0/0, Glock’s Cognac Champblanc (Gerco Schroder) 8/0.
3. Sweden 8 faults: Udermus (Douglas Lindelow) 12/8, Bonzai H (Helena Persson) 4/4, Jordan ll (Angelie Von Essen) 0/0, Cantinero (Henrik von Eckermann) 0/0.
4. Spain 12 faults: Eliot Dws (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 0/4, Gribouille du Lys (Pilar Lucrecia Cordon) 4/4, Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) 12/0, Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 4/0.
5. Switzerland 16 faults: Pablo de Virton (Jane Richard Philips) 0/0, Windsor XV (Niklaus Rutschi) 12/0, Bonne Chance CW (Janika Sprunger) 4/0, Corbinian (Steve Guerdat) 12/4.
6. Italy 18 faults: Fixdesign Funke Van’T Heike (Giulia Martinengo Marquet) 0/8, Erco van T Roosakker (Lorenzo de Luca) 4/4, For Passion (Daniele Augusto da Rios) 8/0, Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 6/4.
7. Qatar 21 faults: Gunder (Ali Yousef Al Rumaihi) 8/4, Appagino 2 (Hamad Ali Mohamed Al Attiyah) 4/4, Vienna Olympic (Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani) 4/4, Primeval Dejavu (Bassem Hassan Mohammed) 0/5.
8. Belgium 28 faults: Echo van T Spieveld (Niels Bruynseels) 4/4, Sea Coast Pebles Z (Gudrun Patteet) 4/0, Farvelu de la Pomme (Jos Verlooy) 16/Elim, Bisquet Balou C (Nicola Philippaerts) 4/12.
Full result here
Facts and Figures:
Piazza di Siena, located in the beautiful Villa Borghese public park in the heart of the city of Rome, Italy, was the venue for today’s third leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 Europe Division 1 League.
A total of 8 nations competed, with 5 - Great Britain, Italy, Netherlands, Spain and Sweden - chasing points towards the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ 2015 Final which will take place in Barcelona, Spain from 24-27 September.
The Belgian team were defending the title they won at Piazza di Siena in 2014.
11 clear rounds in first round.
The British were in the lead on a zero score at the halfway stage and won with just a single time-fault to add.
6 double-clear performances - from Switzerland’s Jane Richard Philips (Pablo de Virton), Sweden’s Angelie Von Essen (Jordan ll) and Henrik von Eckermann (Cantinero), The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Verdi) and Jur Vrieling (VDL Zirocco Blue NOP) and Great Britain’s John Whitaker (Argento).
Following today’s third leg of the Europe Division 1, France still heads the league table with Italy in second and Belgium in third place.
The next leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 series is the third round of the Europe Division 2 League which will take place in Lisbon, Portugal on Friday 29 May.
Holly Gillott GBR: “I’m thrilled to be on a team with John and Michael, they are legends, and it’s been fantastic to be part of this win today.”
Robert Whitaker GBR: “it’s always nice to win Rome Nations Cup, and to do it with my uncle and Dad is very special - and well done to Holly as well!”
Holly Gillott GBR: “I was on two Division 2 teams last year and then was on the Lummen team this year where we finished third.”
Di Lampard, GBR Chef d’Equipe: “it was absolutely fantastic, my job is made very easy by this fantastic team of riders, they were amazing today, and last week too - they make the job easy for me!”
Uliano Vezzani, course designer- “it was so wet and it was new for me to have to deal with this. I reduced the width of the oxers and the height of some of the fences and we got through it because the riders are so good, they helped me to do my job.”
Holly Gillott GBR, referring to her tremendous improvement in the second round. “I quite enjoy being the underdog and having to fight back!”
Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ 2015 Europe Division I Standings (after Round 3 in Rome, Italy):
1. France - 160
2. Italy - 155
3. Belgium - 150
4. Spain - 135
4. Netherlands - 135
6. Sweden - 130
7. Ireland - 125
8. Great Britain - 100