The Netherlands secured a convincing victory in the second leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup™ series in Rome (ITA) today where the Belgians were runners-up ahead of the Irish in third.
This was only the second time for a Dutch side to come out on top at the Piazza di Siena, and two of today's team - Jeroen Dubbeldam and Eric van der Vleuten - were also on the winning side back in 2004. The smoothness of their success was such that anchorman Dubbeldam did not have to return to the arena in round two because the result was already decided, and the Dutch now go to the next leg at St Gallen (SUI) next Friday lying third on the leaderboard, while the Belgians are in second and the Irish retain the driving seat.
Food For Thought
Giovanni Bussu's 12-fence track provided plenty of food for thought, with faults evenly spread but the open water proving the bogey of the day.
The French were in charge at the half-way stage, counting just two time faults when both Penelope Leprevost (Mylord Carthago HN) and Simon Delestre (Couletto) missed the 80-second time limit in otherwise faultless runs, and anchorman Michel Robert (Kellemoi de Pepita) went clear. The Belgians were next in line carrying five while the USA was in third carrying eight. The Dutch and British were lying joint-fourth with nine faults apiece but the Irish had already accumulated 13, so seemed unlikely to repeat their spectacular win at the opening leg in La Baule two weeks ago.
Perhaps the biggest surprise of the day however was the fact that the crack German squad were already struggling after racking up 17 faults and were only trailed by Denmark and Italy in equal-eighth place.
Marcus Ehning's Plot Blue had already faulted at the wall at fence three before the stallion lodged an objection between the vertical at five and the water-tray oxer at six. And when the final upright also hit the sand, he completed with a total of 17 faults. This meant that the better scores of the other German riders had to be taken into account including Daniel Deusser's 12 from Cabreado.
So Germany lay only one fault ahead of the Danes and Italians going into round two.
Big scores from all four riders put paid to Danish prospects second time out however, and the Italians, making a guest appearance in the series as they are no longer eligible for the FEI Nations Cup™ honours having been relegated from the Top League in 2009, also faded.
The Germans made a good recovery when Ludger Beerbaum's mare, Gotha, was foot-perfect in round two, Philipp Weishaupt's Monte Bellini, a very handsome son of Montender, produced a second sensational round for just a single time fault and Ehning returned with just a foot in the water which ensured Deusser's nine faults could be dropped. Their final tally of 23 however would be matched by the British who added 13 to their first-round score of nine and the French who plummeted down the order as they collected 21 faults.
Leprevost fell foul of the water, Delestre lowered the oxer at four as well as the first element of the penultimate double and Kevin Staut repeated his eight-fault first-round effort with Banda de Hus. So when Michel Robert's mare, who had already dropped two fences, refused at the vertical after the water he retired because his score could now not improve the situation.
It has been a remarkably low-key start to the 2011 season for the country which has been so dominant over the last two seasons.
Lost Their Grip
The Americans lost their grip when Charlie Jayne's Athena picked up 20 faults and Christine McCrea's first-round clear with Romantovich Take One was followed by 16 faults this time out. Margie Engle added just a single mistake to her opening clear from Indigo and although Rich Fellers and Flexible also faulted just once, the 24 additional penalties hit the US hard.
The Belgians added nine, Dirk Demeersman's 13 with Bufero VH Panishof discounted when Philippe Le Jeune produced one of only two double-clears of the day with Vigo D'Arsouilles, Judy-Ann Melchior collected eight with As Cold as Ice Z and Jos Lansink returned with just one time fault again with the big-jumping Cavalor Valentina Van't Heike. But this would still be good enough for runner-up spot.
The Irish put in another steady performance, with four faults for both Shane Sweetnam (Amaretto D'Arco) and Shane Carey (Lancero), and bolstered by the only other double-clear of the day from the on-form Billy Twomey (Tinka's Serenade) which allowed them to drop the nine from Cameron Hanley (Southwind VDL) and brought their total to 21.
Meanwhle the Dutch had already delivered - clears from Van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Utascha SFN) and Harrie Smolders (Regina Z) and only a single time fault from Gerco Schroder (Eurocommerce New Orleans) rocketing them up the leaderboard. Dubbeldam didn't need to come back to the ring with BMC Van Grunsven Simon who had been foot-perfect first time out. The maximum points were already in the bag.
Van der Vleuten compared this win with that of 2004. "Over the years one of the things that has changed in the sport is that the courses are more difficult now. It is not just the height - they are more technical - and the course designer has to find different things to catch the riders. You have to grow with this sport or you get left behind" he pointed out.
Chef d'Equipe, Rob Ehrens, was delighted with his side's result. "I always try to be optimistic, if you are not optimistic then you can never win and today my team did a great job" he pointed out. "I am looking forward to a good season. Last year was difficult but this year we have enough horses, enough brilliant riders and we have our sights set on the European Championships at Madrid later in the season. Our target is to get as many points as possible during the first three FEI Nations Cup shows, so we are doing well so far!" he added.
They are indeed, because this result has promoted them from equal-fifth on the series leaderboard up to third place going into the next leg in seven days time.
For further information on the second leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup™ series in Rome (ITA) consult www.piazzadisiena.com or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +39 335 610 7070. The next leg takes place at St Gallen (SUI) on Friday 3 June. For information on the Swiss fixture go to website www.csio.ch or contact Press Officer Peter Wyrsch, Email email@example.com, Tel +41 794065207.
1, Netherlands 10 flts: VDL Groep Utascha SFN (Eric Van der Vleuten) 8/0, Regina Z (Harrie Smolders) 8/0, Eurocommerce New Orleans (Gerco Schroder) 1/1, BMC Van Grunsven Simon (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 0/NS.
2, Belgium 14 flts: Vigo D'Arsouilles (Philippe Le Jeune) 0/0, Bufero VH Panishof (Dirk Demeersman) 4/13, As Cold as Ice Z (Judy-Ann Melchior) 4/8, Cavalor Vanntina Van't Heike (Jos Lansink) 1/1.
3, Ireland 21 flts; Amaretto Darco ((Shane Sweetnam) 8/4, Lancero (Shane Carey) 5/4, Southwind VDL (Cameron Hanley) 9/9, Tinka's Serenade (Billy Twomey) 0/0.
Equal 4, Germany 23 flts: Gotha FRH (Ludger Beerbaum) 4/0, Cabreado SE (Daniel Deusser) 12/9, Monte Bellini (Philipp Weishaupt) 1/1, Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) 17/5.
Equal 4, France 23 flts: Mylord Carthago (Penelope Leprevost) 1/4, Couletto (Simon Delestre) 1/9, Banda de Hus (Kevin Staut) 8/8, Kellemoi de Pepita (Michel Robert) 0/Ret.
Equal 4, Great Britain flts: Carlo (Nick Skelton) 4/4, Tripple X (Ben Maher)16/5, Murka's Nevada (Peter Charles) 5/5, Talan (Robert Smith) 0/17.s
7, USA 32 flts: Athena (Charlie Jayne) 8/20, Romantovich Take One (Christine McCrea) 0/16, Indigo (Margie Engle) 0/4, Flexible (Rich Fellers) 12/4.
8, Italy 52 flts: Loro Piana Utile (Roberto Arioldi) 9/5, Loro Piana Quinta Roo (Lucia Vizzini) 12/21, SNAI Corradio (Natale Chiaudani) 9/8, Kapitol D'Argonne (Emilio Bicocchi) 0/NS.
9, Denmark 55 flts: Unos Safier (Andreas Schou) 1/13, Caballero (Emilie Martinsen) 5/12, Cartani (Charlotte Lund) 13/15, Amarone (Thomas Sandgaard) 12/12.
FEI Nations Cup 2011 - Standings after Round 2 in Rome (ITA):
1. Ireland - 16.0
2. Belgium - 14.0
3. Netherlands - 13.5
4. Germany - 10.0
5. Great Britain - 9.0
6. France - 6.0
7. USA - 5.5
8. Denmark - 2.0
FACTS AND FIGURES:
Today's victory was only the second ever recorded by a Dutch team in the Rome Nations Cup.
Both Eric van der Vleuten and Jeroen Dubbeldam were on the team from The Netherlands that previously won in 2004.
Two riders recorded double-clear rounds in today's competition - Ireland's Billy Twomey (Tinka's Serenade) and reigning World Champion Philippe Le Jeune (Vigo D'Arsouilles).
Three riders cleared all the obstacles in both rounds but picked up a single time penalty each time out - The Netherlands' Gerco Schroder (Eurocommerce New Orleans), Belgium's Jos Lansink (Cavalor Valentina Van't Heike) and Germany's Philipp Weishaupt (Monte Bellini).
Eight nations are competing in the 2011 FEI Nations Cup™ series - Ireland, Belgium, France, USA, Germany, The Netherlands, Denmark and Great Britain.
Italy competed in today's leg of the Top League series as host nation, but were not eligible for FEI Nations Cup™ points.
Italy holds the record for most Nations Cup wins at CSIO Rome - 27 in total.
Ireland won the first leg of the 2011 series at La Baule, France two weeks ago.
The next leg of the series takes place in sevan days time, on Friday 3 June in St Gallen, Switzerland.
The oldest horse in today's competition was the 15 year old Irish-bred stallion Flexible (by Cruising), ridden by America's Rich Fellers.
The youngest horses were nine year olds - Banda de Hus (Kevin Staut FRA), Amarone (Thomas Sandgaard DEN), Monte Bellini (Philipp Weishaupt GER), Tripple X (Ben Maher GBR) and As Cold as Ice Z (Judy-Ann Melchior BEL).
The Belgian team included two World Champions - Philippe Le Jeune who won the title at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky last September and Jos Lansink, winner at Aachen in 1996.
Two Olympic champions were also competing today - The Netherlands' Jeroen Dubbeldam who took individual gold at Sydney 2000 and Germany's Ludger Beerbaum, individual gold medallist at Barcelona in 1992.
Dutch Chef d'Equipe, Rob Ehrens - "We had a strong team at La Baule but Tamino had a tiny injury and couldn't go so we had to put another horse in. This week we had a really strong team of top-class riders with great horses".
Rob Ehrens - "For St Gallen the Dutch team will be Leon Thijssen, Michael and Eric van der Vleuten, Piet Raijmakers Jnr and Jur Vrieling. After that we will try some other new combinations".
Eric Van der Vleuten - "I've been to Rome many time and it is one the most beautiful showgrounds in the world. It was maybe nicer when we jumped on grass but this sand footing is safer because you can always compete no matter what happens with the weather".
The FEI Nations Cup™ is a five-star competition in which official teams representing nations compare their merit. At each event the teams gain points according to their placing. At the end of the 2011 season the team with the highest points wins the FEI Nations Cup™ and the two teams with the lowest points will be relegated to the FEI Nations Cup Promotional League. The highest placed team from the 2011 FEI Nations Cup Promotional League Final and the highest placed Team on the FEI European Nations Cup Promotional League standings immediately prior to the 2011 FEI Nations Cup Promotional League Final will join the FEI Nations Cup™ Top League for 2012.
FEI Nations Cup™ 2011 Calendar:
La Baule (FRA), Friday 13 May; Rome (ITA), Friday 27 May; St Gallen (SUI), Friday 3 June; Falsterbo (SWE), Friday 8 July; Aachen (GER), Thursday 14 July; Hickstead (GBR), Friday 29 July; Dublin (IRL); Friday 5 August.; Rotterdam (NED), Friday 26 August.
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Photo Caption: The Dutch team won the second leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup™ at the Piazza di Siena in Rome (ITA) today. Pictured (L to R) : Eric van der Vleuten, Harrie Smolders, Chef d'Equipe Rob Ehrens, Jeroen Dubbeldam and Gerco Schroder. Photo: FEI/Bruno di Lorenzo.