It was “Vive la France” at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain today where the French team claimed the brand new Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping trophy on the last afternoon of the much-anticipated inaugural series Final. The fixture has created the biggest buzz that equestrian sport has enjoyed for a very long time, and today’s closing round brought the world’s richest team event to a riveting conclusion.
Brazil finished second ahead of Ireland in third, while the Dutch lined up fourth, edged out by just over a single second when finishing on the same score as their Irish rivals. Belgium finished fifth ahead of Canada in sixth, Ukraine in seventh and Great Britain in eighth and last place.
It was a surprising result for the British, as the 2012 Olympic and recently-crowned European Champions were expected to present formidable opposition. But things didn’t go their way from the outset, with William Funnell’s Billy Congo withdrawn on Friday morning after picking up an injury and today’s 21-fault total leaving them well out of contention for the main honours.
However British anchorman and Olympic and European team gold medallist, Scott Brash, had plenty to celebrate as he divided the €200,000 bonus on offer to riders jumping double-clear over the two Final rounds. Eric Lamaze claimed the other half of the bonus when also producing a superb anchor ride for Canada with Powerplay today. The Netherlands’ Jeroen Dubbeldam was presented with the “Furusiyya Rider of the Final” award which was decided by former world number two ranked professional tennis player, Conchita Martínez, and former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer, Àlex Crivillé from Spain. The award was presented by Saudi Equestrian's Team Director, Sami Al Duhami.
The sport itself has been a big talking point at the Spanish fixture all weekend, but the man they are talking about most is course designer Santiago Varela. Once again the Spanish master created a terrific test that kept the riders and horses on their toes and the spectators breathless with excitement. Starting them out over a 1.55m vertical, the track veered right-handed to a 1.55m oxer and then left-handed to a long line of four related obstacles beginning with the 1.60m vertical at fence three. The 1.55m x 1.60m oxer at fence four fell just once during the afternoon while the following open water claimed only one victim also, Ukraine’s Ulrich Kirchhoff whose mare, Carlina, made a big splash at this one. But the sequence was all about testing control and accuracy at the vertical at six, which was made all the more challenging for the fact that it stood 1.65m tall and was topped by a white plank. It proved very influential as the day progressed.
A 1.55m oxer at seven was followed, off a right-handed roll-back, by the double - triple-bar to vertical - at eight and then another oxer at nine before turning right-handed again to the 1.70m-wide oxer at ten, located right in the centre of the arena.
With just two fences to go they were nearly home now, but 11 horse-and-rider combinations faulted at the penultimate triple combination, while the top pole of the final vertical, standing at an uncompromising 1.60m, was dislodged seven times.
Best of Drawn Order
Starting in reverse order of merit following Friday’s first round, it was the Brazilians who had the best of the draw when last to go, and Rodrigo Pessoa kicked off with a pole down at the oxer at 10 with Citizenguard Cadjanine Z. It was the first element of the double at eight that penalised French pathfinders Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express, but when Aymeric de Ponnat and the fabulous stallion Armitages Boy produced one of just three clears in the entire competition, his side began to look menacing.
Simon Delestre added just four faults more to French tally when clipping the oxer at fence nine, but as it came down to the last-line riders it was clear they still seemed to be the ones to beat. A foot-perfect run from Penelope Leprevost and Nayana would reduce their scoreline to just four faults when the best three scores were counted and leave them untouchable as the Ukrainians, Canadians, British, Belgians and Dutch were not in a position to pose any kind of threat.
Just as happened in last Friday’s thrilling first round however, it would go right to the wire, and you could hear a pin drop as Leprevost set off. There was a gasp of disbelief when Nayana kicked out the top pole at the first fence and the Frenchwoman immediately retired. Her team would have to finish with eight, and the picture had changed dramatically.
Brazil could now possibly take the title, because a clear from Alvaro de Miranda and AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno would discount the 12 collected by Eduardo Menezes and Cavalda and leave them adding just the single time fault picked up by Marlon Zanotelli, whose superb round with Clouwni brought tears to his father’s eyes as he watched him from the ringside. A five-fault scoreline might be plenty good enough to win it.
Might Draw Level
Before de Miranda took his turn however, Ireland could draw level with the French if Billy Twomey could repeat the fantastic ride-to-the-rescue clear he produced with his great mare, Tinka’s Serenade, on Friday as both Denis Lynch (All Star) and Shane Breen (Balloon) faulted just once, leaving Cameron Hanley’s opening five faults with Antello Z as the discount score.
Would the inaugural Furusiyya title be decided in a jump-off between the Irish and French, or could de Miranda keep them both at bay and clinch it for Brazil with his last-to-go run?
The first possibility was discounted when Twomey fell victim to the trap set by Varela on the run from the open water to the vertical at six, so the Irish finished with 12 faults along with the Dutch, benefitting however from a faster combined time.
Now it was all down to de Miranda. He started out with big, bold jumping from his 13-year-old gelding but, losing balance a little on the turn to the double at eight, they hit the second element and it was all over. It would be “The Marseillaise” that would ring out around the arena as the French stood top of the podium with their eight-fault finishing score, the Brazilians climbed onto the second step with their total of nine and the Irish lined up in third with 12.
Winning team-member, Simon Delestre, said “today was fantastic sport, and big congratulations to the course designer!” Varela came in for a lot of praise. “I think throughout the week he did a great job. The horses all jumped well and the best team won and it was a great week of competition!” said Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa. Ireland’s Billy Twomey agreed - “I think he’s done a really good job this week. There were no catastrophes for the lesser nations who are new to this level. None of them had bad scores. He is encouraging them to keep going and keep improving, yet this was a tough course today and there were faults all over the course, but again no crashes or big disasters” the Irishman pointed out.
Varela said at this evening’s press conference “they all did a very good job, but it is very difficult to build courses for these good riders because they can solve all the problems I give them!”
Victorious Chef d’Equipe, Philippe Guerdat, talked about the Furusiyya series and how his opinion about the new concept has changed over this first season. “When the FEI came up with the idea for this new Nations Cup I didn’t agree, and I had plenty of fighting with John Roche (FEI Director of Jumping), but in the end he was more right than me! Not just because we won today, I still think we can change a few small things, but have seen another side of the sport. It was like a World Championship this year, so next year I think it will be like the Olympic Games!” he said. And of course he was delighted with the result produced by his riders, not just those on today’s winning side but the many who contributed to the French success over the last few months. “I am pleased to have a great team, we had 15 riders in our team this year fighting for qualification, and I want to say a big thanks to everyone for all their help this season” he said.
FEI President, HRH Princess Haya, attended the final press conference. “I don’t think I need to say anything because the sport spoke for us all today!” she said. “My only job is to say thank you to the French team for giving us this fantastic day of sporting history. And to thank the participants, the public and our friends here in Barcelona. Also to thank Prince Faissal for giving us the chance to revive this competition” she added.
Decision to Sponsor
HRH Prince Faissal Faissal talked about the decision to sponsor the Furusiyya series through the Saudi Equestrian Fund. He explained that it all began “with my involvement with the FEI in 1994 when I was a member of the FEI, we were in Florence, and this was the main topic - how to find a way to expand the sport and improve participation in the sport. Since then we have all been talking about it, but Her Royal Highness (Princess Haya) has really enforced it, and all the talk has become a reality. Her Royal Highness is putting her imprint on what is happening” he said.
He talked about “investing in the nature of the sport” and the “Arab love for this wonderful creature, the horse”. He continued, “this series can expand more, it is good for the industry and we can expand its base”. He added that the impression he has received is “that everyone is very enthused about this (the Furusiyya series) and we hope it will grow and grow. From the reports I am getting the riders are happy too!” HRH Prince Faissal said.
The inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2103 series has indeed been a resounding success, modernising and rejuvenating a competition that has, at it’s core, the best of the spirit of equestrian sport.
The inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final took 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 www.csiobarcelona.com or contact Press Officer Isabel Suter at email email@example.com or telephone +34 760 258 222.
1. France 8 faults: Orient Express HDC (Patrice Delaveau) 4, Armitages Boy (Aymerica de Ponnat) 0, Classic B
ois Margot (Simon Delestre) 4, Nayana (Penelope Leprevost) Ret.
2. Brazil 9 faults: Citizenguard Cadjanine Z (Rodrigo Pessoa) 4, Calavda (Eduardo Menezes) 12, Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) 1, AD Rahmannshof's Bogeno (Alvaro de Miranda Neto) 4.
3. Ireland 12 faults, 234.16: Antello Z (Cameron Hanley) 5, Allstar (Denis Lynch) 4, Balloon (Shane Breen) 4, Tinka's Serenade (Billy Twomey) 4.
4. Netherlands 12 faults, 235.37: VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 8, Carambole (Willem Greve) 8, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten) 4, Utascha (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 0.
5. Belgium 16 faults: Polinska des Isles (Francois Mathy Jr) 4, Candy (Pieter Devos) 8, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 8, Cortez (Nicola Philippaerts) 4.
6. Canada 17 faults: Showgirl (Jonathan Asselin) 17, Verdi lll (Tiffany Foster) 4, Amer van de Rostal (Mac Cone) 13, Powerplay (Eric Lamaze) 0.
7. Ukraine 20 faults: Vivant (Cassio Rivetti) 8, Carlina (Ulrich Kirchhoff) 4, Nobylis (Oleg Krasyuk) 8, Charlie (Katharina Offel) 8.
8. Great Britain 21 faults: Tripple X (Ben Maher) 12, Viking (Michael Whitaker) 9, Hello Winner (Louise Saywell) 12, Ursula (Scott Brash) 0.
Facts and Figures:
France won the inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series title at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain today.
The winning team members were Patrice Delaveau (Orient Express), Aymeric de Ponnat (Armitages Boy), Simon Delestre (Classic Bois Margot) and Penelope Leprevost (Nayana).
Canada finished second with Ireland in third.
8 teams competed in today's last round.
The total prize-money on offer to the teams qualified for the last day was €1,500,000.
The winning team took home €500,000 of that.
And two riders received a half-share of the €200,000 bonus up for grabs to any rider jumping clear in Friday's first round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final and today's second round - Eric Lamaze (CAN) and Scott Brash (GBR).
The Furusiyya Rider of the Final Award went to The Netherlands' Jeroen Dubbeldam.
Just four clear rounds in today's competition.
11 horse-and-rider combinations had poles down at the penultimate triple combination.
Rodrigo Pessoa (BRA) - “It was like being in the big championships so it was very close and maybe we were a bit unlucky today with my mistake which was very light, and we had a time fault. But all in all we are really pleased with the result and the team stuck really well together and we proved we have our place in big Championships like this so we are really happy with the result.”
Aymeric de Ponnat (FRA), whose stallion Armitages Boy jumped a stunning clear round today - “I got this horse three years ago but I only started jumping big classes this year with him. He did the European Championships in Denmark and today he was really fantastic - I’m very happy”.
Penelope Leprevost (FRA) when asked why she retired so quickly after hitting the first fence today - “it wasn’t necessary to jump, my thought at the end was that we (the French team) couldn’t do better if I had one down and if there was a jump-off my horse could be fresher”.
Billy Twomey (IRL) when asked what he was thinking before going into the arena as Irish anchorman again today - “I think I was clear we were jumping off, but I can’t be disappointed with her (Tinka’s Serenade). She jumped clear for us to get back in it on Friday so she absolutely did her job on Friday and what’s one fence in show jumping. You know they can all do it, and she is no spring chicken. She is sixteen years of age so I’m really happy!”
Scott Brash (GBR) - I knew there was a lot at stake because the bonus money was big and as the clears kept going and (other riders) kept having fences I kept thinking this bonus is getting a bit bigger so I thought I better try and jump a clear. Eric will be annoyed I took £100,000 off him but I’m happy!”
Exmo Sr Xavier Trias, Mayor of Barcelona - “Thank you for choosing Barcelona for this very important event. This city has a long link with sport, especially after 1992 (Olympic Games), and for 102 years we have been holding equestrian competitions in our city”.
Eric Lamaze (CAN), talking about winning his share of the €200,000 bonus for a double-clear round from Powerplay. “For me, its all about coming back in the sport. I wanted to enjoy some unbelievable moments with an unbelievable horse called Hickstead. I am now with Powerplay and I was happy for the horse. I am always happy for the horse. I think they deliver incredible performances for us. I am happy to be back!”