Ireland scored their first ever win in the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing in superb style at Boekelo (NED), final leg of the 2015 season, after four fine Cross Country performances over an influential track.
The USA finished second, which was also their best result since the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing began in 2012. New Zealand was third and, as a result, beat Japan in this Asia-Pacific Olympic qualifier to secure their ticket to Rio 2016. Great Britain, the only nation to contest all seven legs this year, finished fifth at Boekelo after half the team completed the competition, but they easily sealed their place at the head of the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing final leaderboard by seven points over Germany.
Ireland’s team manager Nick Turner said he was “absolutely delighted” with the win. “We had a young rider competing in his first CCI3* and some exciting young horses and everyone pulled together and focused,” he added. “It’s a great note to finish on this season and it sets the team up in good spirits for Olympic year.” It was a thrilling rollercoaster of a competition in which the scoreboard changed dramatically.
New Zealand led after Dressage with Jonelle Price in pole position on Cloud Dancer, the recent winner of the young horse CIC3* at Blenheim Palace (GBR). But although Price gave the black gelding a great ride across country, the Dutch warmblood looked a little green and clocked 14.8 time penalties.
The rest of the Kiwi team - Jesse Campbell on his CCI4* horse Kapaachino, Tim Price (Xavier Faer) and Dan Jocelyn (Dassett Cool Touch) - all went clear as well, but they couldn’t match the speedy Irishmen who were on a mission around Sue Benson’s twisting, technical course.
The 19-year-old Cathal Daniels (IRL), who making his CCI3* debut, set the competition alight with a blazing round on the eight-year-old Rioghan Rua which was the first of only four inside the optimum time of 10 minutes 32 seconds.
Jonty Evans, eventually eighth on another lovely young horse, Cooley Rorke’s Drift, Joseph Murphy (Westwinds Hercules) and pathfinder Padraig McCarthy on Simon Porloe were all equally committed and the Irish quartet shot up from seventh place after Dressage to overtake the New Zealanders by 0.3 penalties.
The American team, whose best rider was Matthew Brown, eventual sixth on Super Socks BCF, also had four clear Cross Country rounds. Marilyn Little withdrew RF Scandalous before Jumping, but Brown, Buck Davidson and Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp went on to ride solid final phase rounds. This was good enough to overtake the New Zealanders, who lost any chance of victory when they added a disastrous 40 penalties to their team score and dropped to third.
France, who have been a consistent presence in the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing 2015, finished fourth at Boekelo. Their anchorman, Cedric Lyard, retired Qatar de Puech Rouget after two refusals at the double of waters, but Astier Nicolas (Spes Addit d’Or) and Nicolas Touzaint (Crocket 30) finished in ninth and 10th places.
Britain had had four riders in the top 10 but, unfortunately, only two of them were team members: Dani Evans, fifth on Smart Time, and Izzy Taylor, seventh on Briarlands Birdsong. Nicola Wilson, who triumphed as the CCI3* winner on her other horse, Bulana, fell off her team horse Kiltealy Brief at fence seven and Emily Parker did not start across country on Diamond Sundance.
Germany was also down to two riders after falls for Marina Köhncke and Josefa Sommer and Australia crashed out when Paul Tapner withdrew Short Black before Cross Country and Sam Griffiths had a fall with Angelo. Australia’s woes continued when Christopher Burton, who held the individual lead after Cross Country with a superb performance on Monarch’s Exclusive, dropped to 14th with 17 Jumping penalties.
Alice Naber-Lozeman (NED) was crowned national champion when finishing 19th on ACSI Peter Park, but, sadly, the host nation, Netherlands, had no chance when two team members, Tim Lips and Merel Blom, withdrew.
Great Britain has been committed to the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing since the concept started in 2012, always drawing from a pool of younger riders who have not had senior team experience. This year, they won at Ballindenisk (IRL) and Strzegom (POL) and were disappointed not to triumph on home ground at Houghton Hall (GBR) where they were beaten by Germany. They were also third at Fontainebleau (FRA) and fourth at Waregem and, by contesting all seven legs this season, were able to discard their eighth place at Aachen (GER) in the final scoresheet.
Germany have been Britain’s great rivals in the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing, topping the leaderboard in 2013 and 2014. They won three times this year, in Houghton Hall, Aachen and Waregem (BEL), but missed Fontainebleau and Ballindenisk and so could not overtake Britain this time.
This is the first year Australia has played such a prominent part in the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing and they have generally drawn on the same quartet of riders for the six events they contested, with their best results being second places at Fontainebleau and Strzegom.
France has been strong in the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing from the start, and heroically made the long journey to Ireland for Ballindenisk. Their best result in five starts was their win on home ground at Fontainebleau. The Netherlands, fifth in the final table, competed at six out of seven events, their best result being a third place at Waregem.
“This was a fantastic finale at Boekelo,” said the FEI’s Eventing Director Catrin Norinder. “The FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing continues to be an excellent series, especially now that so many countries are beginning to realise the benefits it offers in terms of giving championship and team experience to young horses and riders.”
1 Ireland 174.9
Jonty Evans/Cooley Rorke’s Drift, 54.5; Joseph Murphy/Westwinds Hercules, 60.1; Cathal Daniels/Rioghan Rua, 60.3 (Padraig McCarthy/Simon Porloe, 65.9)
2 USA 197.0
Buck Davidson/Copper Beach, 67.4; Matthew Brown/Super Socks BCF, 52.6; Elisabeth Halliday-Sharp/HHS Cooley, 77.0; [Marilyn Little/RF Scandalous, WD Jumping]
3 New Zealand
Jonelle Price/Cloud Dancer, 62.9; Jesse Campbell/Kaapachino, 64.5; Tim Price/Xavier Faer, 71.5; (Dan Jocelyn/Dassett Cool Touch, 81.6)
4 France 227.3
Astier Nicolas/Spes Addit d’Or, 54.6; Nicholas Touzaint/Crocket 30, 55.2;Jean-Lou Bigot/Focus, 117.5; (Cedric Lyard/Qatar de Puech Rouget, EL Cross Country)
5 Great Britain, 1,105.2
Dani Evans/Smart Time, 52.4; Izzy Taylor/Briarlands Birdsong, 52.8; (Nicola Wilson/Kiltealy Brief, EL Cross Country; Emily Parker/Diamond Sundance, WD Cross Country)
6 Germany 1,122.5
Josephine Schaufer/Sambucca 10, 58.9; Anna Siemer/Butts Avondale, 63.6; (Marina Köhncke/Let’s Dance, EL Cross Country; Josefa Sommer/Hamilton 24, EL Cross Country)
7 Australia 1,123.0
Christopher Burton/Monarch’s Exclusive, 58.3; Andrew Hoy/Cheeky Calimbo, 64.7; (Sam Griffiths/Angelo, EL Cross Country; Paul Tapner/Short Black, WD Cross Country)
8 Netherlands 1131.6
Alice Naber-Lozeman/ACIS Peter Parker, 61.8; Andrew Heffernan/Millthyme Corolla, 69.8; (Tim Lips/Brent, WD Cross Country; Merel Blom/Chiccolino, WD Cross Country)
9 Japan 1,135.7
Ryuzo Kitajima/Just Chocolate, 77.6; Yoshi Oiwa/The Duke of Cavan, 58.1; Toshiyuku Tanaka/Ballastar Bay, EL Cross Country
10 Brazil 2,050.8
Gabriel Figueiredo Silva Cury/Grass Valley, 50.8; Ruy Fonseca/Korsica, RET Cross Country; Carlos Paro/Summon Up The Blood, RET Cross Country
FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing 2015 Leaderboard
1 Great Britain 52 points
2 Germany 44
3 Australia 40
4 France 39
5 Netherlands 32
6 Ireland 27
7 Belgium 17
8 New Zealand 17
9 USA 17
10 Sweden 11
11 Spain 6
12= Poland 4
12= Canada 4
13 Japan 2
14 Brazil 0