French Out In Front as Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ Arrives in Rome

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Watch it LIVE on FEI TV - Coverage of the second leg of the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series in Rome begins at 15.05 CEST on Friday 28th May.  Go to www.feitv.org for live coverage, event reports, highlights programmes and interviews.

Rome, Italy - The 2009 title-holders from France hold the lead as the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series moves to Rome this week where the host-country makes a guest appearance on home ground.   This brings the total of competing nations to 11 for the second leg of the prestigious eight-round tournament which concludes at Dublin in early August.  And it promises to raise the competitive temperature considerably, as Italy is already making a spirited come-back to the top level of team sport through good results in the Promotional League series.  Relegated at the end of the 2009 season they are fighting their way back with real determination, and a win in Athens just over a week ago has put a shot across the bows of the opponents they will face in this Friday's top-level contest.

Italy holds the record for the greatest number of wins - 27 in total - at the Piazza di Siena, the charming venue located in the gardens of the Villa Borghese which lies at the heart of the Italian capital city which has been home to top-class show jumping for 78 years.  The French however have the distinction of lying second on the Italian Nations Cup Roll of Honour, having lifted the trophy on 18 occasions.  Their last victory was in 2006 and on current form they could prove hard to beat.  Chef d'Equipe Laurent Elias has recalled Kevin Staut and Penelope Leprevost who were both members of his winning side at the opening leg at La Baule two weeks ago and has added Patrice Deleveau, Simon Delestre and Nicolas Delmotte to the mix.

Defending Champions
The USA are defending champions in Rome having topped the line-up in 2009, and team manager George Morris fields the same squad as he brought to La Baule where they were pipped for the win by just one fence. Richard Spooner is the only member of last year's winning side, but he is ably-supported by some of the most experienced names in the sport including Mario Deslauriers, Beezie Madden, McLain Ward and Hillary Dobbs.  The Americans have been in exceptional form since descending on the European circuit this year and will provide formidable opposition.

Lying a comfortable third on the leaderboard to date, Otto Becker's German selection includes Rebecca Golasch, Ulrich Kirchhoff, Max Kuhner, Janne-Freiderike Meyer and Philipp Weishaupt while new British team manager Rob Hoekstra made a great start with his side that finished fourth at the opening French fixture.  He brings Peter Charles out again, and the Liverpool-born rider is this time joined by Ben Maher, Nick Skelton and the Whitaker brothers Michael and John.  

Maiden Voyage
On their maiden voyage in the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series the Spanish did themselves proud when finishing fifth earlier this month.  A centre-page spread in one of the top Spanish newspapers announced their launch into top-level nations cup jumping just days beforehand, and they rose magnificently to the challenge.  Team manager Marco Fuste was well-pleased with his side's result and he has named the same four riders - Pilar Cordon, Julio Arias Cueva, Echevarria Garmendia and Sergio Alvarez Moya - along with Ricardo Jurado.  Irish team manager Robert Splaine has decided to rest his star combination of Shane Breen and Carmena Z who produced one of the six double-clear performances at La Baule and to bring them back next week for the third leg of the series in St Gallen.  In the meantime he recalls Cameron Hanley and Darragh Kenny while giving Cian O'Connor, Billy Twomey and Capt David O'Brien their first taste of Meydan action for the year.

Switzerland's Rolf Grass will be hoping for a more competitive performance this time out.  The reigning European champions finished seventh in the first leg, and only World No 1 Pius Schwizer returns to action this Friday when he will be joined by Jane Richard, Christina Liebherr, Niklaus Schurtenberger and Janika Sprunger.

The last four teams on the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ leaderboard will be relegated this season so any finishing spot below sixth place is not good news.  Therefore Gosta Asker's Swedish team which finished eighth on their inaugural 2010 outing know only too well they need to do better this time around.  Malin Baryard-Johnsson and Helena Lundback will line out once more, this time in the company of Daniel Zetterman, Erika Lickhammer and Jens Fredricson.  

Make Amends
Surprisingly, the Dutch finished second-last of the 10 nations at La Baule and Chef d'Equipe Rob Ehrens is determined to make amends this week.  His line-up is completely changed, and he will expecting a significantly better result from Leon Thijssen, Leopold Van Asten, Eric Van der Vleuten, Albert Zoer and new recruit Annet Williem.  Already lying last on the series table, Poland's Rudi Wassibauer sends out Jan Chrzanowski, Andrzej Lemanski and Aleksandra Lusina once again and they will this time be joined by Krzysztof Lukwiczak and Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski.  The Polish team manager has been saying that he knows the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series is a big step-up in level for his riders, but under pressure in La Baule they showed great courage and raw talent and he is determined to give them every opportunity to grow in skill and experience over the coming months.  If they continue to cope with the exceptional test of character they faced last time out then they just might spring a surprise or two themselves over the next 10 weeks.  Despite the worst possible draw when first to go in the opening leg they didn't flinch, with Lemanski picking up just four, and Lusina and Chrzanowski collecting only eight faults apiece in the first round.  

The Italian team cannot collect points in Rome this week but they will surely be out to impress. Under the guidance of new team manager Markus Fuchs they have quickly developed a steely spirit which earned them team silver at last summer's European Championships and it looks to be here to stay.  In front of their home crowd, Natale Chiaudani, Giuseppe D'Onofrio, Gianni Govoni, Gabrielle Grassi and Lorenzo Toscano will be the toughest of opponents.  

The draw for order-of-go in Friday's competition takes place tomorrow (Thursday) at 16.15 local time and you can watch all the action LIVE on FEI TV from 15.05 CEST on Friday afternoon.  For further information on the Italian fixture go to website www.piazzadisiena.com or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi at Email: c.vagnozzi@iol.it, Tel: + 39 335 6107070.

2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ - Standins After Round 1 at LaBaule:
1.    France - 10
2.    USA - 7
3.    Germany - 5.5
3.    Great Britain - 5.5
5.    Spain - 4
6.    Ireland - 3
7.    Switzerland - 2
8.    Sweden - 1
9.    Netherlands - 0
10.   Poland - 0

Facts and Figures:
This is the 78th annual horse-show at the Piazza di Siena in Rome
Italy holds the record for most wins at the Italian fixture - 27 in total since 1926.

The venue is located at the Villa Borghese in the heart of Italy's capital city.  It is recognised as one of the most charming horse-show locations in the world.
For the fourth consecutive year a special sand surface is laid in the main arena.  Technological advances ensure that the naturally undulating surface is levelled through the use of a laser
.
There is a 20cms height difference from the centre of the arena to the sidelines, and this guarantees excellent drainage in the event of heavy rainfall.
Course designer for 2010 is, once again, Italy's Uliano Vezzani.
The team from the USA won the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ in Rome in 2009.
A total of 11 nations will compete in Rome this Friday - the 10 teams included in the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series along with the host country of Italy.

Meydan FEI Nations Cup™
A Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ event is organised as a five-star Nations Cup, i.e. a 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 2010 season the team with the highest points wins the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ and the four teams with the lowest points are relegated to the FEI Nations Cup series (Promotional League). Following the Promotional League Final, the two best placed teams from that series join the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ for 2011.

The World’s Top 10 Teams: France, the USA, Germany, Switzerland, Ireland, The Netherlands, Sweden, Great Britain, Spain and Poland.

The World’s Best Eight Venues:
La Baule (FRA), Friday 14 May; Rome (ITA), Friday 28 May; St. Gallen (SUI), Friday 4 June; Rotterdam (Ned), Friday 18 June; Falsterbo (SWE), Friday 9 July; Aachen (GER), Thursday 15 July; Hickstead (GBR), Friday 30 July; Dublin (IRL), Friday 6 August.

The complete rules, latest news, results, standings and photos are on www.meydanfeinationscup.org

To learn more about the FEI go to www.fei.org

To learn more about Meydan, the title sponsor of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup, go to www.meydan.ae




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