The Netherlands won the Mercedes Benz Prize, part of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 series at Aachen, Germany tonight. In yet another thrilling leg of this inaugural season, the result lay in the hands of the final few riders. And it was Gerco Schroder’s double-clear with the fabulous stallion London, the only one recorded on the day, that proved pivotal for the winning side when a last to go mistake from Ludo Philippaerts saw it slip from Belgium’s grasp.
This was always going to be an almighty clash, with the home team determined to rack up as many points as possible in their quest to qualify for the series final at Barcelona, Spain in September. The Dutch had a terrible day on their home turf in Rotterdam just a week ago where Germany reigned supreme, but tonight revenge was sweet as the host nation had to settle for third place behind Belgium and it was the flag of The Netherlands that was flying high over the hallowed Soers Arena.
A total of eight nations lined out, and France slotted into fourth ahead of Ireland in fifth, Switzerland in sixth, Great Britain in seventh and Saudi Arabia in eighth place. There were only three team members in the Saudi Arabian side so they were always going to be under pressure, and they were already lying bottom of the order after the opening round as Frank Rothenberger’s imposing 12-fence track took its toll.
Even the opening vertical claimed a significant number of victims, while the rustic-coloured oxer at fence four also proved influential. However it was the line from the oxer at fence six to the following open water and on to two further verticals that posed one of the biggest questions of the day. Time and again horses seemed a little startled at the open water which had an unusual looking turreted take-off board, and Belgian chances took a heavy blow when pathfinder, Gregory Wathelet, returned with 20 faults on the board after Desteny van het Dennehof seemed to give himself a fright here. The last vertical in this line also fell regularly when the distance didn’t come up comfortably while the penultimate triple combination, with its opening planks and long stretch to the final oxer, played a significant role.
Despite Wathalet’s big opening score however it was the Belgians who were out in front at the halfway stage, counting just the single time fault from Dirk Demeersman and Bufero van het Panishof after both Nicola Phillipaerts (Cortez) and his father Ludo (Challenge V Begijnakker) went clear. They had a significant six-fault lead over the French who were lying second even though Olivier Guillon and Lord de Theize were eliminated at the triple combination, both Patrice Delaveau (Orient Express HDC) and Eugenie Angot (Old Chap Tame) collecting just a single time fault while anchorman Kevin Staut (Quismy des Vaux HDC) returned with five faults on his first tour of the track.
Germany lay third carrying eight faults, Christian Ahlmann and Codex One providing the only clear as Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Bella Donna put a foot in the water and collected a time fault for the discard score while Daniel Deusser (Cornet d’Amour) and Ludger Beerbaum (Chiara) each made a single mistake.
The Dutch were in fourth and seemed to be already consigned to a minor placing with 14 on the board after nine-fault efforts from both opener Marc Houtzager (Sterrehof’s Tamino) and third-line rider Harrie Smolders (Emerald), a five-fault effort from Leon Thijssen (Tyson) and their only clear from anchorman Schroder. Ireland were in fifth with 21 faults, the British were in sixth with 22, the Swiss were next in line with 23 while Saudi Arabia were already burdened with 34 faults as the second round got underway.
Under the Lights
But how fortunes would change as the second round evolved under the lights. The Belgian lead looked vulnerable when Wathelet didn’t appear this time. “My horse was maybe a bit injured after the jump at the water. We tried him over a few fences in the warm-up and he wasn’t happy so we decided he wouldn’t jump again” the rider explained afterwards. So when Nicola Philippaerts left the two verticals following the open water on the floor they would now be obliged to add those eight faults to their tally. Demeersman steadied the ship with a great clear from Bufero however, and by now the French had disappeared from reckoning with an additional 16 faults, Guillon bravely returning to the ring but unable to assist his side when collecting 18 faults with Lord de Theize this time out.
The Germans meanwhile could not produce a single clear at their second attempt, Ahlmann picking up five faults, Deusser collecting four at the bogey vertical at fence nine, Michaels-Beerbaum’s Bella Donna again putting a foot in the water while her brother-in-law Ludger, hero of the day in Rotterdam a week earlier with Chiara, lowered the oxer three fences from the finish line.
The Dutch however really rallied with brilliant clears from Houtzager and Thijssen. Smolders nine-year-old stallion went into the water and lowered the first element of the triple combination but when Schroder and London produced the second of their spectacular fault-free performances then all the pressure was transferred to Belgian anchorman Ludo Philippaerts.
As he entered the ring for a second time the Dutch tally stood at just those 14 first-round faults while the Belgians had victory in their sights with only nine on the board. Ludo could even afford a fence down and they would still come out ahead by a single point, and that’s how it seemed it would end as he rode down to the last with just the poles from the oxer at fence four on the ground. But in his haste to get to the finish he saw a very long stride to the final vertical and the packed stadium of spectators gasped as he struck the fence. “I rode for the time after the triple combination and went forward, but the horse backed off the last and it was too far, we had no chance” a disappointed Philippaerts said afterwards.
Plenty to Celebrate
There was plenty to celebrate in the Dutch camp however. Tonight’s success has earned the valuable 100 maximum points and moved them up two places to third spot on the Europe Division 1 leaderboard which continues to be headed by the Swiss followed by France in second place. It was “mission accomplished” for Dutch Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens who said “we had mistakes in the first round but we fought back and the team did a marvellous job in the second round. I’m very happy about that!”
It was a particularly great day for Schroder who took the Furusiyya Rider of the Day award for his classic double-clear with the very handsome 11-year-old stallion London with which he claimed double-silver at the London 2012 Olympic Games. “I had two fantastic rounds. London was in great shape yesterday, I was going to jump him in a small class but I decided to go in the bigger one and he was brilliant. I’m really happy with him” he said tonight.
His team-mate, Harrie Smolders, said “it was fantastic how we came back in the second round. This morning we had some problems with our horses and my nine-year-old had to compete in his first Nations Cup of his life, so to win in Aachen is fantastic”.
Talking about the course Smolders said “it was great, but not a typical Aachen course because the fences came up very quickly and the course was not so long. For us though it was a great day!”. Schroder agreed with Smolders’ assessment of Frank Rothenberger’s test. “It was a nice course, maybe everything came a little faster than we are used to, the time was quite short and if you lost time it was expensive - that made it more difficult” he explained.
French team anchorman, Kevin Staut, said “when we come to Aachen everyone is expecting a place on the podium, so we are down a bit. We had some good rounds from Patrice, and Eugenie jumped really well. My horse didn’t have any Nations Cup experience at all, and a big foot in the water jump in the first round coupled with Olivier’s horse not being completely in the competition meant that we finished where we did.”
“It’s an amazing atmosphere, and it’s always nice to ride in a Nations Cup in Aachen. I thought that this year was especially difficult, although it was two fair rounds with strong teams, and it was great that there was suspense right until the end.”
It was certainly another great day in the history of the sport of Nations Cup Jumping and, with the Europe Division 1 series now really hotting up with only three further legs to go, the next round will take place in Falsterbo, Sweden two weeks time. There will also be a leg of Europe Division 2 taking place on the same afternoon at Budapest in Hungary so there is another feast of equestrian action in prospect on Friday 12 July.
For information on the fourteenth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 series at Aachen (GER) check out website www.chioaachen.de or contact Press Officer Niels Knippertz at Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +49 241 9171 182. The next two legs take place on Friday 12 July - at Falsterbo, Sweden, Europe Division 1 continues and for all information on the Swedish fixture go to website www.falsterbohorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Elisabeth von Schrowe, Email email@example.com. Budapest, Hungary hosts the next leg of Europe Division 2. Check out website www.csiobudapest.hu or contact Press Officer Dorottya Strobi, Email firstname.lastname@example.org
1. Netherlands 14 faults: Sterrehof's Tamino (Marc Houtzager) 9/0, Tyson (Leon Thijssen) 5/0, Emerald (Harrie Smolders) 9/9, London (Gerco Schroder) 0/0.
2. Belgium 17 faults: Desteny van het Dennehof (Gregory Wathelet) 20/DNS , Cortez (Nicola Philippaerts) 0/8, Bufero van het Panishof (Dirk Demeersman) 1/0 , Challenge v. Begijnakker (Ludo Philippaerts) 0/8.
3. Germany 21 faults: Codex One (Christian Ahlmann) 0/5, Cornet D'Amour (Daniel Deusser) 4/4, Bella Donna (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) 5/5, Chiarra (Ludger Beerbaum) 4/4.
4. France 23 faults: Orient Express HDC (Patrice Delaveau) 1/4, Old Chap Tame (Eugenie Angot) 1/4, Lord de Theize (Olivier Guillon) Elim/18, Quismy des Vaux HDC (Kevin Staut) 5/8.
5. Ireland 35 faults: Loughview Lou-Lou (Dermott Lennon) 5/5, Balloon (Shane Breen) 8/4 , Ballymore Eustace (Shane Carey) 8/27, Tinka's Serenade (Billy Twomey) 9/5.
6. Switzerland 42 faults: Nasa (Steve Guerdat) 9/9, Never Last (Werner Muff) 17/13, Uptown Boy (Janika Sprunger) 5/9, Picsou de Chene (Pius Schwizer) 9/1.
7. Great Britain 48 faults: Titus ll (Guy Williams) 0/12, Voila (Robert Smith) 14/9, Tripple X (Ben Maher) 13/5, Unique (Tina Fletcher) 9/Elim.
8. Saudi Arabia 62 faults: Davos (HRH Prince Abdullah Al Saud) 5/5, Talan (Prince Faisal Al Shalan) 8/9, Al Capone (Ramzy Al Duhami) 21/14.
Facts and Figures:
The World Equestrian Festival at CHIO Aachen presents Germany's largest and most prestigious sporting event.
During the 10-day fixture, organisers are expecting over 350,000 visitors and 112,000 had already attended by Wednesday evening.
The event has attracted 557 horses and 375 athletes from 30 nations who are competing for 2.67million euros in prize-money.
CHIO Aachen presents Nations Cups in five disciplines since 2008 - Jumping, Dressage, Eventing, Driving and Vaulting.
The main stadium where the Jumping events takes place has a seating capacity for 40,000 spectators.
8 teams competed in today's Europe Division 1 leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series at Aachen.
4 teams were chasing qualification points for the Final which will take place in Barcelona, Spain in September - The Netherlands, Germany, Ireland and France.
Sweden won the first-ever Nations Cup at Aachen staged in 1929.
France claimed the FEI Nations Cup honours in 2012.
Today's team from Saudi Arabia consisted of just three riders while all the other nations fielded teams of four.
The oldest horse in today's class was the 16-year-old mare Tinka's Serenade ridden by Ireland's Billy Twomey.
The youngest horses were both nine-year-olds - Never Last ridden by Switzerlands' Werner Muff and Quismy des Vaux HDC competed by Kevin Staut for France.
1 double-clear performance in tonight's competition - from The Netherlands' Gerco Schroder and London.
2 eliminations - Olivier Guillon and Lord de Theize (FRA) in round one and Great Britain's Tina Fletcher who had a fall at the water with Unique IX in the second round.
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) - “I went into the water in both rounds. After the first round we analysed it, I had been too deep, so I tried not to be too deep the next time and I came too big! It’s Bella’s first Nations Cup at Aachen and her first under lights. I’m hoping to improve her water jumping for sure”.
German Chef d’Equipe, Otto Becker, talking about his team’s performance - “we didn’t have enough clear rounds. You need clear rounds, especially in the second round, we were not good enough today”.