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Aachen, GER - The Irish team claimed the Mercedes-Benz Prize, Part of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ when storming to victory in Aachen, Germany tonight. This sixth leg of the 2010 Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series was a classic contest, with five top teams tied for the lead at the halfway stage. But it was the men in green who stood firm while their rivals crumbled in the closing stages, and Robert Splaine's side produced two of the three double-clears in this sensational Nations Cup clash.
The host country finished second, German chances seriously hindered by an unfortunate first round from Ludger Beerbaum and his young mare Gotha, while the USA hung on for third place ahead of the struggling Swiss and the French who shared fourth. The Netherlands slotted into sixth while last week's winners form Sweden had to settle for seventh spot this time around, and the British put up a big score for eighth place. Poland and Spain sat it out after round one, the Spanish side reduced to just three team members when Julio Arias was a late withdrawal.
Today's result has shaken up the leaderboard, but the French still hold the strong advantage they established with their hat-trick of wins early in the season. The USA has improved to second place but the Irish have rocketed up from sixth to third ahead of Britain in fourth, Germany in fifth and Spain now in that uncomfortable sixth spot. The same four teams continue to occupy the bottom-four relegation zone in the 10-nation series. Just three points separate The Netherlands, Switzerland and Sweden but for Poland there is no escape from the reality of returning to the Promotional League in 2011, as they have still not collected a single point to date.
Did Not Disappoint
Frank Rothenberger's 12-fence track did not disappoint. Riders come to Aachen knowing that nothing less than their best will do on this hallowed ground and he demanded big, bold jumping from the horses and intelligent riding from their pilots. This was not a course for the faint-hearted, and experience would count for a great deal. Yet the two Irishmen who never touched a pole were both riding horses with little mileage at this level of the sport. With characteristic patience, 2002 World Champion Dermott Lennon has nurtured the talent of his 10 year old gelding Hallmark Elite and tonight they really showed their class in both rounds while Cian O'Connor's new ride, K Club Lady who has only been in his yard since April, made the course designer's questions seem very elementary indeed. This daughter of Landgraf was competing with an amateur rider in Spain until O'Connor spotted her a few months ago, but she has taken to the challenge of bigger fences with consummate ease.
Irish pathfinder, Billy Twomey, collected just four faults on his first tour of the arena with Tinka's Serenade - one of the many victims of the penultimate triple combination. This, the water at fence nine and the triple-bar at fence four proved influential throughout the competition. Irish anchorman, Denis Lynch, looked set for a clear until lowering the very last, and with four faults on the board the Irish shared the lead with the USA, France, Switzerland and Germany at the halfway point. The real battle was played out between these five sides as round two got underway.
The result was produced with clinical efficiency however when Twomey, Lennon and O'Connor put zero scores on the board. Lynch didn't even have to line out a second time and so can look forward to defending Sunday's Grand Prix title with a fresh horse. Although Penelope Leprevost and Mylord Carthago produced the third of those precious double-clears the French were shaken by two 13-fault rounds from master-craftsman Michel Robert whose mare, Kellemoi de Pepita, lost her confidence and concentration after hitting the odd-looking triple bar in round one, and they finished with a 16-fault score along with the Swiss whose pathfinder Steve Guerdat collected 20 faults with Jalisca Solier to leave them vulnerable.
The all-girl US team that won in Rotterdam last month were expected to prove difficult to beat, but only Ncole Simpson and Tristan managed a clean sheet in the second round, and with four faults from Lauren Hough (Quick Study), Candice King (Skara Glen's Davos) and Laura Kraut (Cedric) their total of 12 would only be good enough for third. German riders of course were hoping to shine in front of their home crowd but Beerbaum's 18-fault first-round result undermined their situation - his talented mare frightening herself so much over the triple bar fence that he was forced to pull her away from the following oxer before going on to lower the second part of the tricky double two fences later and picking up a lot of time faults. The German ace of course returned a clear second time out, but by then Marco Kutscher and Cash had put four faults on the board and Janne-Frederike Meyer, a fantastic find for the German team this season, had added a single time penalty to her single mistake at the first fence in round one and there was no point in Marcus Ehning bringing Plot Blue out again. The Irish had it in the bag, and Germany was already assured of runner-up spot with a nine-fault total.
A Great Thrill
"I'm absolutely delighted!" said Robert Splaine afterwards. "It's a great thrill to be Chef of the winning team and I'd like to thank my riders very sincerely, they did a great job today" he said. This was Ireland's fifth win in the 81-year history of the Aachen Nations Cup - they previously headed the line-up in 1937, 1979, 1995 and 2003. Lennon thanked Splaine "for having enough faith to put me back on the team - I have not gone so well in the last few weeks but I knew my horse was coming good" he added with typical understatement.
Cian O'Connor said the track was "one of the biggest we've seen in the Meydan series this year. Some of the oxers were unbelievably wide and you needed to get up a rhythm so the horses could jump really well". Denis Lynch said his team-mates "did a fantastic job - and we are very proud to win. The goal for the week was to be in the top three so to win is a huge bonus" he explained, and Twomey pointed out that "we've been knocking on the door all year - its great to get a win under our belts, now hopefully we can push on from here".
As so often happens in this Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series however, it was US team manager, George Morris, who had the last word. "I’d like to congratulate the Irish, it was no surprise they won today, the Irish by nature and by blood are the greatest horse people in the world. They are very well mounted and it’s always very frightening when they are well mounted. Robert Splaine does a super job, so it was not an unexpected victory" he pointed out. Although he couldn't stop himself from adding "I'm very proud of my girls".
As the 2010 series moves to Hickstead in Great Britain in two weeks time the relegation battle is still far from over, but tonight the Irish can rest assured that their chances of staying amongst the elite nations of international show jumping is looking a lot better than it did at the beginning of today's class. For the Dutch, the Swiss, the Swedes and the Polish team however, it is is a very different story indeed.....
1. Ireland 4 faults: Tinka's Serenade (Billy Twomey) 4/0, Hallmark Elite (Dermott Lennon) 0/0, K Club Lady (Cian O'Connor) 0/0, Lantinus (Denis Lynch) 4/DNS.
2. Germany 9 faults: Cash (Marco Kutscher) 0/4, Cellagon Lambrasco (Janne-Frederike Meyer) 4/1, Gotha (Ludger Beerbaum) 18/0 , Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) 0/DNS.
3. USA 12 faults: Quick Study (Lauren Hough) 0/4, Skara Glen's Davos (Candice King) 0/4, Tristan (Nicole Simpson) 4/0, Cedric (Laura Kraut) 4/4.
4. Switzerland 16 faults: Jalisca Solier (Steve Guerdat) 8/12, Cantus (N Schurbenberger) 4/4, Campione (Werner Muff) 0/4, Carlina (Pius Schwizer) 0/4.
4. France 16 faults: Mylord Carthago (Penelope Leprevost) 0/0, Kellemoi de Pepita (Michel Robert) 13/13, Lord de Theize (Olivier Guillon) 4/8, Kraque Boom (Kevin Staut) 0/4.
6. The Netherlands 24 faults: Audi's Alpapillon-Armanie (Vincent Voorn) 12/8, Eurocommerce New Orleans (Gerco Schroder) 7/0, Exquis Walnut de Muze) Harrie Smolders) 4/8, Opium VS (Marc Houtzager) 0/5.
7. Sweden 31 faults: H&M Actrice W (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) 4/8, Caramell KS (Svante Johansson) 4/9, Frodo (Henrik Von Eckermann) 8/5 , Quintero La Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) 1/9.
8. Great Britain 35 faults: Murkas Pom D'Ami (Peter Charles) 4/5, Chamberlain Z (David McPherson) 4/17, Intertoy Z (Scott Brash) 25/4, Peppermill (John Whitaker) 1/0.
9. Poland 17 faults in FIRST round: Bischof L (Andrzej Lemanski) 4, Torado 2 (Krzysztof Ludwiczak) 12, Trojka (Antoni Tomas zewski) 8, TMN Coriana (JaroslawSkrzyczynski) 5.
10. Spain 18 faults in FIRST round: Herald (Pilar Crecrecia Cordon Muro) 4, Victory V. Hazelarenhoekj (Julio Arias) DNS, Lord du Mont Milon (Jesus Garmendia Echeverria) 9, Mme Pompadour (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 5.
The NEXT leg takes place in Hickstead, Great Britain on Friday 30 July. For details on the British fixture check out website www.hickstead.co.uk or contact Press Officer Peter Jeffery at email firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone +44 1273 834 175.
2010 MEYDAN FEI NATIONS CUP™ - STANDINGS AFTER ROUND 6 AT AACHEN:
1. France - 43.5
2. USA - 31.5
3. Ireland - 28.5
4. Great Britain - 28.5
5. Germany - 28.5
6. Spain - 21.5
7. Netherlands - 17.0
8. Switzerland - 15.0
9. Sweden - 14.0
10. Poland - 0
Facts and Figures:
There were three double-clear rounds - from Ireland's Dermott Lennon (Hallmark Elite) and Cian O'Connor (K Club Lady) and from Penelope Leprevost (Mylord Carthago) from France.
The two teams that failed to qualify for the second round of today's competition were Poland and Spain.
The Spanish team was reduced to a three-strong side due to the late withdrawal of Julio Aria and Victory V. Hazelanenhoekj.
This was Ireland's fifth nations cup victory in Aachen.
The Irish previously won in 1937, 1979, 1995 and 2003.
Five teams - Ireland, USA, France, Switzerland and Germany - were sharing the lead at the halfway stage on a four-fault total - an unusual occurrence in nations cup jumping.
A massive total of 42,500 spectators watched the competition unfold in the world-famous Soers arena tonight.
Irish Chef d'Equipe Robert Splaine - " I’d like to congratulate Aachen, Frank (Kemperman) and all his team, Meydan and Mercedes"
Irish team member Billy Twomey - "the course was really big and difficult today, the latter part was most difficult, the combination coming home seemed to catch a lot of people".
US Chef d'Equipe George Morris - "I thought the Germans on paper were the favourites to win today - just to be in this company is stellar".
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). Two teams from the Promotional League will join the Top League in 2011.
The complete rules, latest news, results, standings and photos are on www.meydanfeinationscup.org
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.
Photo Caption: Dermott Lennon and Hallmark Elite produced a superb double-clear performance to help Ireland to clinch the Mercedes-Benz Prize as winners of the sixth leg of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series at Aachen, Germany tonight. Photo: Kit Houghton.