The Irish will be first to go in tomorrow's fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ 2011 following the draw which took place at the German venue this afternoon. The wet weather has failed to dampen spirits at the Soers Arena, and the draw press conference was a lively affair, although some of the team managers arrived a little late.
"I think we need a new rule - that when the Chef isn't there we shouldn't do the draw!" joked Ireland's Robert Splaine whose face dropped when he realised that, in his absence, his team had been pulled out of the hat as pathfinders for tomorrow. For once this season it seems the defending series champions from France may have fortune on their side, as they will be last to go of the eight competing nations.
The starting order is as follows: 1, Ireland; 2, Great Britain; 3, The Netherlands; 4, USA; 5, Denmark; 6, Germany; 7, Belgium; 8, France.
Less Than A Week
It is less than a week since the fourth round of the series at Falsterbo in Sweden where this week's hosts from Germany came out on top. The German team went to the Swedish fixture determined to improve their position on the leaderboard, and succeeded by promoting themselves to third place following a great effort from a very strong team.
Chef d'Equipe, Heinrich Herman Engemann, pointed out last Friday how important it was to get those points because it is vital to remain in the Top League. Two nations will be relegated at the end of the season, and as tomorrow's competition gets underway it is the USA and Denmark who hold the bottom two places while the Dutch stand top of the league table with the Irish in second, Germany third, Belgium fourth, Great Britain in fifth and the French in sixth place.
The German team will not include Marcus Ehning, as this week's Chef d'Equipe, Otto Becker explained. "We will miss Marcus tomorrow, but his wife is expecting a baby so we have to go without him. But the rest of the team is in top shape, and I hope we finish in the top three tomorrow" he added. The Germans have an impressive track record on their home turf, with 26 wins in the 82-year history of this competition which was won by Sweden when first staged way back in 1929. Of the remaining seven nations competing tomorrow, the Americans and British share a total of five previous victories, the Irish who will be returning to the scene of their triumph in 2010 have accumulated four, the French have won on three occasions, the Dutch twice and Belgium just once - in 2001.
The Irish team includes two of the four riders who scooped last year's honours - Billy Twomey and Denis Lynch - who be joined this time around by American-based Shane Sweetnam and Hickstead-based Tipperary man Shane Breen. "We had a great day here last year" said team manager Splaine today, "we have four very good riders and I hope we have another good show again". With a win for 2002 World Champion Dermott Lennon in yesterday's opening competition giving his side a boost, he has every reason to feel optimistic.
For Danish Chef d'Equipe, Achaz von Buchwaldt, however the expectations are a little lower. Denmark, qualified for the Top League through their win at the FEI Promotional League Final in Barcelona last September, has struggled hard with the step up in class this season. "It will be very difficult for us" von Buchwaldt" said. "We will be happy if we are not last - if we can do that then it will be a great success for us!" he pointed out.
As always, Dutch team manger Rob Ehrens was in upbeat mood. He has every reason to be, as his side have been showing fantastic form all season, but he said today the Germans are "always strong". He added, with his usual good humour - "the rest of the teams are also good so I think it will be an open competition tomorrow and I hope it will be a nice evening and that we are all still friends afterwards!".
Great Britain's Rob Hoekstra said "Aachen is always very testing and the Germans very strong. France and Holland are strong too so it will be tough. I hope the course designer will be kinder than today, especially at the water! But we're feeling pretty positive" he pointed out.
Belgium's Philippe Guerdat said his only ambition is for his side to finish in the top four while French team manager, Henk Nooren, predicted "an exciting evening". America's George Morris concluded by saying "Aachen is always about top quality and quantity - all the teams here are good so, tomorrow, it's anybody's game....."
There will be an emotional moment for Belgium's Jos Lansink on Saturday night when the great stallion, the 18 year old Cumano, will be officially retired at the venue where the partnership achieved their greatest moment of glory when taking the individual title at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games™. Few will forget the gentility and cooperation the powerful horse displayed when carrying three of the world's top lady riders - Australia's Edwina Alexander, Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and America's Beezie Madden - around the course in the Top-Four final before galloping to victory with Lansink. Cumano, already a prolific producer of good jumping horses, is retiring to stud.
The specially-prepared Press Kit (above) provides you with all you need to know ahead of tomorrow's fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ series.
For further information on CHIO Aachen 2011 go to website www.chioaachen.de
FEI Nations Cup 2011 - Standings after Round 4 at Falsterbo (SWE):
1. Netherlands - 29.5
2. Ireland - 24.0
3. Germany - 21.0
4. Belgium - 20.0
5. Great Britain - 19.0
6. France - 18.0
7. USA - 15.5
8. Denmark - 5.0
The FEI Nations Cup™ is a five-star 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 2011 season the team with the highest points wins the FEI Nations Cup™ and the two teams with the lowest points will be relegated to the FEI Nations Cup Promotional League. The highest placed team from the 2011 FEI Nations Cup Promotional League Final and the highest placed Team on the FEI European Nations Cup Promotional League standings immediately prior to the 2011 FEI Nations Cup Promotional League Final will join the FEI Nations Cup™ Top League for 2012.
FEI Nations Cup™ 2011 Calendar:
La Baule (FRA), Friday 13 May; Rome (ITA), Friday 27 May; St Gallen (SUI), Friday 3 June; Falsterbo (SWE), Friday 8 July; Aachen (GER), Thursday 14 July; Hickstead (GBR), Friday 29 July; Dublin (IRL); Friday 5 August.; Rotterdam (NED), Friday 26 August.
Photo Caption: The draw for the fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ 2011 took place in Aachen (GER) this evening. Photo: FEI/Dirk Caremans.
FEI TV: Live broadcast on Thursday 14 July from 17.25 GMT (19.25 CEST) to 20.55 GMT (22.55 CEST) - www.feitv.org