The Netherlands won through in a close-fought clash with a talented British side at the penultimate leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 2 series at Gijon, Spain today. Belgium finished third, but it was the fourth-place Italians who had some of the biggest smiles on their faces at the end of a very exciting afternoon. Because a gutsy performance has kept their hopes of a place at the inaugural Furusiyya Final alive going into the last Europe Division 2 qualifier on home ground at Arezzo, Italy in six days’ time.
A total of 10 nations lined out today over a testing 12-fence track designed by Spain’s Avelino Rodriguez-Miravalles, and, as winning team-member Frank Schuttert pointed out afterwards “it was really nice, and there was everything in it!”
Just six teams returned for the second round, and the host nation riders joined their Portuguese neighbours along with the Americans and French in missing the cut at the halfway stage.
The Dutch were already in the lead as the second round began, but the British pursued them vigorously and with the only two double-clear performances of the day looked set to overtake Roelof Bril’s quartet. However The Netherlands held on tight to eventually come out the winners by a narrow two-fault margin.
Flair and Finesse
The Spanish course designer, best known as Avelino, has long had a reputation for flair and finesse, and once again put his stamp on today’s track which gave them plenty to think about. There were three fences standing at the maximum 1.60m and one of these, the brightly coloured planks at fence nine, was particularly influential throughout the competition.
There was also an open water, 4m wide, but it was the triple combination, just one fence from home, that collected the most penalties, while the final wavy planks also claimed a good number of victims. As Dutchman Schuttert pointed out afterwards, “the most difficult fence was the triple combination - two strides to a vertical and one stride to an oxer - you needed scope to get to the last element, it was a long one-stride distance in there”.
Starting out over a vertical with a rustic base, there was a choice of six or seven strides to the following 1.50m oxer, before turning left-handed to the following oxer at fence three. This innocuous-looking fence fell many times during the day, with riders often cutting the corner on approach and subsequently paying the price. The following Longines vertical stood at a full 1.60m and then it was right-handed to the double at fence five where the water-tray at the second element took some by surprise. A left-handed roll-back to the Furusiyya vertical at six led on to the open water and the following oxer before a right-hand line to the troublesome planks at nine and then a bending line to the oxer at ten.
Many horse-and-rider combinations made it all the way here only for it all to fall apart down the final line of triple combination to planks. Italy’s Francesco Franco had already left the second and third fences on the floor before his first round with Banca Popolare Bari Cassandra unravelled at this point, a hesitant approach leaving them with far too much ground to cover in the one-stride distance so the nine-year-old horse put down in front of the final element, although bravely jumping through without incident at the second time of asking.
With 18 first-round faults to count, the Italians just squeezed through to the second round. And it was then that Franco and his grey mare showed the stuff they were made of, as they rode to their country’s rescue with a fabulous clear.
As round two began, the Italians were in sixth place carrying 18 faults and just one fault behind the Irish, while Germany had 13 faults on the board in fourth place. The Belgians with nine, the British with eight and the Dutch with just five were the hottest contenders. But, despite just a single second-round time-fault from Gregory Wathelet and Papillon Z and only one mistake from Patrik Spits and Withney vd Dwerse Hagen at the Furusiyya vertical, the Belgians couldn’t make any headway when the nine faults collected by Dominique Hendrickx and Cor vd Wateringhoeve for mistakes at the frequently-falling oxer at three and the following Longines vertical had to be counted because Jerome Guery and Upper Star racked up 12 faults.
The Italians however really rose to the occasion and upped their game. They could only make it to the Furusiyya Final in Barcelona, Spain at the end of September by adding 134 points to their running score on the Europe Division 2 leaderboard, and they went a long way towards doing that today. Luca Moneta didn’t have his best day out, with nine and 12 faults from Connery over his two pathfinding rounds, but Luca Marziani returned just five faults in each round with Wivina while anchor rider, Lorenzo de Luca, produced two great four-fault efforts from the very handsome Zoe ll. So when Francesco Franco followed his drama-filled opening effort with a completely contrasting foot-perfect run, their 27-fault finishing score would move the Italians up two places and earn them 75 valuable qualifying points. With a total of 215 after today, only a disaster at Arezzo next week can now prevent them from ousting the third-placed Norwegians from third spot on the Europe Division 2 leaderboard and from earning a spot alongside the long-qualified Belgians and Swedes at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final.
Back at the sharp end, it was a two-way affair in the closing stages, a mistake at the planks at fence nine for British pathfinders Daniel Neilson and Zigali matched by the same result, but this time at the very last fence, for Holland’s Gert Jan Bruggink and the very promising PrimeVal Dejavu. The British looked like getting the upper hand when Louise Saywell (Hello Winner) and Robert Whitaker (Catwalk lV) each produced a second fantastic clear. But Schuttert steadied the Dutch ship when following a mistake at the second fence by team-mate Jur Vrieling with Zirocco Blue VDL with a cracking clear from Winchester HS.
Now if British anchorman, William Whitaker, could keep a clean sheet with Fandango then his side would complete on their first-round tally of eight faults. But when the second element of the double at five and the final planks hit the floor the final British scoreline would stand at 12.
So it was up to last-man-in, The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders, to decide the result. He would have to dispose of one of the four faults already collected if his team was to win the day, and, under immense pressure, he did it in style, steering the lovely nine-year-old Emerald to a careful tour of the track that left all the timber in place while just exceeding the 78-second time-allowed for a single time-fault and a team-total of 10.
Course designer, Avelino Rodeiguez-Miravalles was pleased with how the competition evolved. “Bearing in mind this is a 5-Star design, I sought to develop a course that would make ‘the best team’ win without proving to be too difficult for most teams to compete. As a course designer, I also have the responsibility of ensuring the competition remains as interesting as possible. I developed this course in order to try to exploit the skills of the riders, but without wanting to exhaust the horses by forcing them into exerting maximum energy and effort from start to finish” he explained.
A relieved and happy Harrie Smolders said afterwards, “my team mates were fantastic in letting me know what I had to do. The fact that my horse is so good made it much easier for me as well. I must say that at the beginning of the second round I thought Great Britain would grab the victory, but with the help of Frank we managed to turn it around!”.
Dutch Chef d’Equipe, Roelof Bril, was delighted. Talking about his team’s performance in the second round he commented, “we started with Gert who is a very young rider and he was unlucky with his first fault. It was the first 5 star Nations Cup for his horse as well. Frank performed in three big Nations Cup shows this year and he had a very good first and second round today. Harry had the pressure in the second round but I think he jumped absolutely brilliant”.
The Dutch are really looking forward to the inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final. Asked if he has yet decided his team for that event he replied, “at the moment, it is the team that competed in the European Championships last week that will be travelling to Barcelona”. That means that Vrieling will be joined by Willem Greve, Maikel van der Vleuten and Jeroen Dubbeldam. And Vrieling said this evening “at the moment we are lucky and have a good feeling. We really just have to go for it in Barcelona!”.
The venue and ambience at Gijon were highly-praised by the winning side. Team-manager Bril said, “I have been to Gijon many times now over the years. If you compare how the show has improved it is absolutely incredible. It has all the ingredients to be ranked at the very highest level”.
Gert Jan Bruggink said, “it is an absolutely beautiful show. I have great memories here, having won the European Championships back in 2001. We had the bronze medal and now we have the gold one!” Frank Schuttert added, “I really liked this show. It is the nicest arena I have been to. I was really impressed to see all the fences here, they are very unique and the concept is fantastic. Well done to the course designer for producing such brilliant and creative obstacles”.
This fixture saw the emergence of many new and very talented young horses and winning team-member, Jur Vrieling, said “I would like to thank the course designer for the great job that he did. I also want to thank the rest of my team, including the chef d’equipe, who worked hard to develop the young horses”.
It is the exposure of so many new stars, both in the saddle and under the saddle, that has defined this inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ season which is hurtling towards a thrilling conclusion in a few weeks’ time. Before that however, there is one last competition at Arezzo, Italy next week which promises to bring the global qualifying events to a perfect conclusion.
For further information on the Spanish fixture go to website www.hipico.gijon.es or contact Press Officer Jose Ramon Rodrigues, Tel + 34 629 043 529, Email email@example.com
The next leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series is the last round of the Europe Division 2 league and takes place at CSIO 3* Arezzo/San Marino, Italy on Friday 6 September . For information on the Italian fixture go to www.csiosanmarinoarezzo.com or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel: +39 335 610 7070
1. Netherlands 10 faults: PrimeVal Dejavu (Gert Jan Bruggink) 0/4, Zirocco Blue VDL (Jur Vrieling) 1/4, Winchester HS (Frank Schuttert) 4/0, Emerald (Harris Smolders) 4/1.
2. Great Britain 12 faults: Zigali PS (Daniel Neilson) 12/4, Hello Winner (Louise Saywell) 0/0, Catwalk IV (Robert Whitaker) 0/0, Fandango (William Whitaker) 8/8.
3. Belgium 23 faults: Withney vd Dwerse Hagen (Patrik Spits) 4/4, Upper Star (Jerome Guery) 4/12, Cor vd Wateringhoeve (Dominique Hendrickx) 1/9, Papillon Z (Gregory Wathalet) 8/1.
4. Italy 27 faults: Connery (Luca Maria Moneta) 9/12, Wivina (Luca Marziani) 5/5, Banco Popolare Bari Cassandra (Francesco Franco) 20/0, Zoe ll (Lorenzo de Luca) 4/4.
5. Ireland 30 faults: Annestown (Capt Michael Kelly) 4/4, Romanov (Bertram Allen) 8/4, All Inclusive NRW (Denis Lynch) 5/5, Zarnita (Shane Breen) 17/Ret.
6. Germany 35 faults: Cassydy (Markus Renzel) 12/17, Firsth of Lorne (Katrin Eckermann) 4/13, Contanga (Andre Thieme) 5/5, Colorit (David Will) 4/4.
7. Spain 19 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Octavio (Pilar Lucrecia Cordon) 17, Conington (Carlos Lopez-Fanjul) 9, Nectar du Plessis (Rutherford Latham) 10, Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 0.
8. USA 24 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Wolf S (Reed Kessler) 8, Springtime (Saer Coulter) 12, Barron (Lucy Davis) 4, Tackeray (Lauren Hough) 12.
8. France 24 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Quorioso Pre Noir (Timothee Anciaume) 8, Cristallo A (Julien Epaillard) 12, Oh d'Eole (Michel Robert) 20, Qlassic Bois Margot (Simon Delestre) 4.
10. Portugal 65 faults IN FIRST ROUND: Venus C (Ricardo Gil Santos) 21, Arthos (Hugo Carvalho) 12, Corrabe (Ivo Carvalho) 32, Wannahave (Alexandre Mascarenhas de Lemos) DNS.
Facts and Figures:
Gijon in Spain presented round 9 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 Europe Division 2 series.
Just one further qualifying round has yet to take place in Europe Division 2, at Arezzo, Italy next Friday, 6 September.
10 teams started in today's competition, with 6 returning the for the second round.
Course designer in Gijon was Spain's Avelino Roriguez-Miravalles.
12 fences, 15 jumping efforts.
2 double-clear performances and both from British riders - Louise Saywell (Hello Winner) and Robert Whitaker (Catwalk lV).
Youngest rider in today's competition was 18-year-old Bertram Allen (IRL).
Oldest rider in today's class was 64-year-old Michel Robert (FRA).
Youngest horses in today's competition were both 8-year-olds, Octavio ridden by Spain's Pilar Cordon and Arthos ridden by Portugal's Hugo Carvalho.
Oldest horse in today's class was the 15-year-old Romanov competed by Ireland's Bertram Allen.
Harrie Smolders, NED: “The new format of the Nations Cup makes the competition more global which also contributes to having more people involved in horse sport – that is great. It is definitely going the right way, especially due to the fact that more money is involved and more people are engaging in horse sport all over the world”.
Event Director, Roberto Fernandez Alvarez, talking about the fixture at Gijon - “The work and preparations have been very intense. There are great relationships between the staff members here which help tremendously in putting up a show of this magnitude. Everything has worked perfectly in that respect. Without the sponsors, we wouldn’t be able to do any of this. As per the tradition of the show, we have a nice blend of sponsors that have been with us for 15-20 years as well as new sponsors that are keen on getting involved in the show”
“We have seen this show grow tremendously and become better every year. The fact we are so critical and harsh on ourselves enables us to continue pushing on. Once this show finishes, we immediately start planning for next year. There is no break – our work really is non-stop. This show means a lot to a city like Gijon. It isn’t just a sports related show, but also seen as a social event by the thousands that come in numbers to witness the competitions. In that respect, our aim is to create a tight unit between all the people involved: from organizers, to sponsors and spectators. This show is of international standing and we always manage to achieve a full house – every year, more people turn up than the one previous. The combination of the sport and leisure aspects is a defining point in our continued success”.
Course designer, Avelino Rodriguez Miravalles: “I have been involved in this event since 1968 and as a Director since 1971. It is a concept that has developed over the years. I use my imagination and creativity to design them. I am a bit of a perfectionist and enjoying paying great attention to detail. I try not to have the same fences used over and over again. Doing this each year (creating new obstacles) gives each course its own personality and identity. This contributes to making the show so individual and unique”.