Qatar won the aptly-named Longines Challenge Cup at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2015 at Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain tonight where, once again, the competition was a cliff-hanger to the very end. And, for the second day in a row, course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, set them a super-tough track that tested judgement, jumping ability and nerve in equal measure.
The winners finished on a nine-fault scoreline while Australia, Brazil and France shared second place when all three sides posted a total of 12 each. Once again the one-round format produced a class filled with unpredictability, the result eventually decided by the very last horse-and-rider combination into the arena.
The Furusiyya series is not just about crowning the best Nations Cup team of the year however, it is also about drawing new nations into the fold and encouraging their participation and development. So it was exciting to see Egypt, who at one stage look set to create a real sensation, sharing fifth place with the much more experienced Italian side when both finished on 13 faults at the end of day.
The 11-nation startlist consisted of the teams that didn’t qualify for tomorrow’s second round of the Furusiyya Final, and they competed in reverse order of merit following yesterday’s competition so Poland and Spain were the first two countries into the ring. It was immediately evident that Varela’s course would be no walk in the park when Polish pathfinder, Msciwoj Kiecon, was eliminated for a fall, although Spain got off to a promising start when Manuel Fernandez Saro’s Santiago de Blondel was clear all the way to the final vertical.
The oxer at fence two hit the ground on numerous occasions and there were plenty of faults at the open water at fence six and the following planks. However the triple combination at 10 was the bogey of the competition, and Qatar’s chances appeared to have been dashed from the outset when Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani’s mare, Vienna Olympic, stopped at the middle element after a mistake at the oxer on the way in, and then hit the final element at her second attempt to rack up a total of 19 faults.
Brazil, in stark contrast, got off to the ideal start with a foot-perfect run from Pedro Veniss and Quabri de L’Isle. There were three riders in contention for a €50,000 bonus if they could match the clear round they produced yesterday with another one tonight. And when the other two faulted, it was Veniss who scooped the lot.
A mistake at the second element of the double at five prevented Egypt’s Karim Elzoghby from taking his cut of the extra cash, but after a great ride by Mohamed Talaat (Connaught) who returned with just a single time fault, the Egyptians were in with a chance of finishing with just five faults if last-line rider, Sameh El Dahan, could leave all the fences up with Suma’s Zorro. In a contest in which the anchor riders were under the most immense pressure however, 12 faults put paid to that.
The French were looking well out of contention until Kevin Staut posted one of just four clears on the night when last to go for his side with Reveur de Hurtebise, and Edwina Tops-Alexander did exactly the same for Australia with a big performance from Heidi du Ruisseau Z. Her team-mate, Jamie Kermond, was the third of the bonus bidders, but lost out with mistakes at the water and the penultimate oxer at fence 12. However second-line Australian, Jessica Brown, has been a sensational find this week. Almost unknown before riding into the ring yesterday with her lovely grey gelding Casco, she once again looked like a very elegant Pony Clubber as she popped around the track for just four faults with the greatest of ease.
It was the teams from Qatar and Brazil who battled it out in the closing stages, third-last to go, Bassem Hassan Mohammed producing a pivotal anchorman clear that ensured Sheikh Ali’s 19 faults could be dropped and leaving Qatar on a finishing total of nine faults. Khalid Mohammed Al Emadi (Tamira IV) picked up four at the last element of the triple combination and Ali Yousef Al Rumaihi and Gunder returned with five on the board after lowering only the very last.
However if the Brazilians could drop the eight faults picked up by Felipe Amaral, who replaced Rodrigo Pessoa in today’s team, then they would be carrying only the single error made by Doda de Miranda and AD Living the Dream. So as Marlon Modolo Zanotelli cantered into the arena there was a huge air of expectation.
Last to go, he could afford a fence down, while a time fault would leave his country on level-pegging with the Qataris. The crowd held their breath when Rock ‘n Roll Semilly hit the first element of the triple combination, but they gasped when the pole rolled off the top of the following triple bar, and with four more faults at the final fence it was all over. Team Qatar were the winners, while the Brazilians had to settle for runner-up spot alongside the French and Australians.
The man who clinched victory for his country, Bassem Hassan Mohammed, described his side’s success as “a big day of history for Qatar, and I’m really happy for this! Congratulations to the Qatar Equestrian Federation, to all my team and my family. I don’t think anything could be better than this at this moment!” he said with delight afterwards.
Asked if he was nervous with so much hanging in the balance as he was going in to jump he replied “to be honest I didn’t know the result before I went in - what I knew was I really had to jump a clear round and that’s what I had in my mind and I made it!” And he praised his lovely grey mare. “I don’t think there is a word to describe California today, she really flew, she really jumped super, I’m really happy for me, for her, for everybody!” he said.
Chef d’Equipe, Willem Meeus, said “I’m very proud of my riders and the whole team. This year we have competed in three Nations Cups and we’ve won two of them. We’ve been working hard for the last three years, with the help of Jan Tops, to get to a high level”, he explained.
Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani was able to put the disappointment of his round behind him. “Today I put my team in a bad position, but the other riders fought back and did really well. We missed getting into the final tomorrow but we didn’t give up, and now we are really happy”, he said.
For the teams that have qualified for the second round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final however, tomorrow is a whole new day as all eight teams restart on a zero score. There’s still a lot more action to play itself out before the 2015 Furusiyya title-holders are crowned tomorrow night.
For further information on the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2015 at Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) from 24 to 27 September, visit www.csiobarcelona.com
Result, Longines Challenge Cup:
1. Qatar 9 faults: Vienna Olympic (Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani) 19, Tamira IV (Khalid Mohammed A S Al Emadi) 4, Gunder (Ali Yousef Al Rumaihi) 5, Eurocommerce California (Bassem Hassan Mohammed) 0.
2. France 12 faults: Flora de Mariposa (Penelope Leprevost) 8, Number One D’Iso Un Prince (Nicolas Delmotte) 4, Quod Coeur de la Loge (Roger Yves Bost) 8, Reveur de Hurtebise HDC (Kevin Staut) 0.
2. Australia 12 faults: Quite Cassini (Jamie Kermond0 9, Casco (Jessica Brown) 4, Fedor (Scott Keach) 8, Heidi du Ruisseau Z (Edwina Tops-Alexander) 0.
2. Brazil 12 faults: Quabri de L’Isle (Pedro Veniss) 0, Premiere Carthoes BZ (Felipe Amaral) 8, AD Living the Dream (Doda de Miranda) 4, Rock /n Roll Semilly (Marlon Modolo Zanotelli) 12.
5. Italy 13 faults: Admara 2 (Emanuele Gaudiano) 4, Gitano v Berkenbroeck (Juan Carlos Garcia) 12, Silverstras (Lorenzo de Luca) 1, Catwalk Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 8.
5. Egypt 13 faults: Vingino (Abdel Said) 8, Connaught (Mohamed Talaat) 1, Amelia (Karim El Zoghby) 4, Suma’s Zorro (Sameh El Dahan) 12.
Full result here
Bassem Hassan Mohammed (QAT) Winner Longines Challenge Cup English
Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid AL Thani (QAT) English
Pedro Veniss (BRA) Double Clear Portuguese
Pedro Veniss (BRA) Double Clear English
Jessica Brown (AUS) English
Mohamed Talaat (EGY) English