The Swiss team of Pius Schwizer, Romain Duguet, Paul Estermann and Steve Guerdat swept to victory at the opening leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 league in Lummen, Belgium today. The defending champions from France very nearly pushed them to a third-round jump-off against the clock, but a last-to-go error from Penelope Leprevost saw her side having to settle for runner-up spot, while Ireland and Belgium rallied brilliantly in the second round to share third place in the final analysis.
The Dutch team were contesting the lead with a zero score at the halfway stage, but their effort collapsed in round two so they finished fifth ahead of the Spanish who enjoyed very mixed fortunes on the day. And Sweden lined up seventh ahead of the British side who finished last of the eight competing nations.
The Belgian venue, which is home to brothers Pete and Luke Postelmans, is new to the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 circuit this year and has a few surprises of its own. The big grass arena provides a very natural environment with its permanent derby fences, trees and wide open spaces, but for some horses coming out of the long winter indoor season it can prove a little overwhelming. Concentration can prove difficult, especially for younger horses, and part of today’s challenge was to keep all that in check.
For the Swiss however, it was all a breeze, their victory achieved without ever having to call out their fourth-line rider, Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, who watched from the sidelines as his team-mates were foot-perfect from start to finish.
The 12-fence course designed by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani came in for high praise from the winning side. “Horses are inclined to be a little different in the second round and are getting tired at the end and that makes it difficult, but we had enough clear rounds and no dramas today” said winning team member Schwizer.
“The last line was difficult - from 9 to 10 and from 11 to 12 - but we had good horses and good riders who know how to ride a difficult line, so they jumped it well. I’m happy. Speed wasn’t an issue today, the time is 400 metres a minute and you shouldn’t have to change the time. The course builder has to build the fences to test the riders, not just to play with the time allowed. We are all quite happy with the way today’s course was built” Schwizer added.
Only four riders exceeded the time-allowed of 81 seconds and there were seven double-clear performances, three of which were produced by the Swiss. The only other team to come close to that was Spain with two, but Marco Fuste’s side got off to a bad start when Manuel Anon was eliminated at the Longines double at fence five when Baldo DS threw in a strong objection in the opening round, while Manuel Fernandez Saro’s Darius ducked out at the second element here to return a first-round score of 15.
This fence was followed by the open water which, faced with a groundline of narrow white poles, produced some spooky jumps. Then it was on to an oxer before turning to the triple combination - vertical, oxer, vertical - which took its toll before horses and riders came down the penultimate line of a big oxer at nine followed by four forward or five holding strides to a skinny vertical at fence ten and then the final test. Some riders paid the price for a less than generous left-handed turn to the 1.60m vertical with water-tray at fence 11, just two from home, which led to the final oxer that was ridden on either a five or six-stride distance.
By the halfway stage it had already come down to a three-way battle between the Swiss, French and Dutch, all on a zero score. Sweden and Belgium carried eight faults into round two while the Irish carried 12, but Spanish chances seemed to be dashed with 15 on the board while the British already trailed the field with 16.
Three second-round Irish clears, from 18-year-old Bertram Allen (Molly Malone), Mark McAuley (Isco de Amoranda) and Billy Twomey (Diaghilev) would see them rocket up the board however and McAuley’s recovery after two fences down, and a temper tantrum from his horse at the water jump first time out, was remarkable.
Meanwhile a double-clear from anchorman Gregory Wathelet (Sea Coast Forlap DC) and a second-round fault-free effort from pathfinder Pieter Devos put Belgium back on track too, as they had to add just four faults this time out. And the Spanish were lifted by double-clears from Eduardo Alvarez Anzar (Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Mar) and Sergio Alvarez Moya (Zipper) which would also improve their position.
But it all fell apart for the joint-leaders from The Netherlands when Robert Vos’s Interline H temporarily refused to take on the triple combination before finally posting a 12-fault score. This meant the double-error from the promising Johnny Pals (Vignet) and the single mistakes made by Bart Bles (Lord Sandro DDH) and Dutch stars Jur Vrieling and VDL Bubalu had to be taken into account for a total of 16 faults which sent them plummeting down the order.
So now it became a French/Swiss tussle, and the French began to lose their grip when Kevin Staut’s Reveur de Hurtebise HDC landed on the back pole of the oxer at fence three in an otherwise clean run. However Aymeric de Ponnat and the spring-heeled Armitages Boy were foot-perfect once again while Jerome Hurel and Quartz, who made just a single mistake first time out, were also fault-free which meant that if last-line rider, Leprevost, could leave all the poles in place then there would be a third-round showdown.
Because by now Schwizer had already steered Toulago to another fabulous clear while Duguet, competing in only the fourth Nations Cup of his career, had done likewise with Quorida de Treho and Paul Estermann followed suit with his lovely mare Castlefield Eclipse. With not a blot on their copybook, they could only stand, watch and wait as Leprevost set off with Dame Blanche van Arenberg. And the French rider’s grey horse made it all the way to the skinny vertical at fence 10 before lowering that for four faults which was still plenty good enough for second place behind the all-conquering Swiss.
It was the ideal result for Swiss Chef d’Equipe, Andy Kistler. “Our plan is to try to get as many points as possible in the early competitions of Europe Division 1 because our aim is the World Equestrian Games in Normandy and we want to create a rest period in our programme in the lead up to the Games. We do the qualifiers at Lummen (BEL), La Baule (FRA), St Gallen (SUI) and then Rotterdam (NED)” he said, indicating the four rounds at which his country will be chasing those all-important qualifying points for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final which will take place in Barcelona, Spain in October.
Each nation has just four chances to make the cut from the eight-leg series, so each of the designated points-gathering competitions are crucial to every side.
For 33-year-old Romain Duguet, who is based in Berne, Switzerland, today was a big day. “We had a super team here, three guys with a lot of experience with Olympics and everything - and then me!” he said this evening. Talking about the 10-year-old French-bred Quorida de Treho who was competing in a team of horses with a lot more top-class mileage he said, “she’s unbelievable, she’s a super mare! I have her two and a half years, we jumped clear in the Grand Prix at Basel and in the Nations Cup at Falsterbo last year and she had one down in the Grand Prix at Calgary”. After today’s performance, Duguet and his mare seem likely to become a lot better known.
As Andy Kistler and his side move on to the second leg at La Baule, France in two weeks’ time they now head the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 leaderboard. A total of five teams were chasing points today including the French who are just 10 points in arrears going into their home event where they are certain to want to dislodge their near neighbours from the top of the league table.
For further information on Round 3 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 series at Lummen (BEL) visit www.lummen-horses.be or contact Press Officer Edith de Reys at Email email@example.com or Tel +32 475 659 281.
There is a double-bill of Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping next Friday, 9 May, with competitions at both Linz (AUT), and Coapexpan (MEX). For further details about the Austrian Europe Division 2 fixture, visit website http://www.linzerpferdefestival.com/ or contact Press Officer Nora Kronheim, Email Presse@linzerpferdefestival.at and for further information on the Mexican event contact Event Director Javier Fernandez, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +52 33 3682 0285.
1. Switzerland 0 faults: Toulago (Pius Schwizer) 0/0, Quorida de Treho (Romain Duguet) 0/0, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 0/0, Nasa (Steve Guerdat) DNS/DNS.
2. France 4 faults: Reveur de hurtebise HDC (Kevin Staut) 0/4, Armitages Boy (Aymeric de Ponnat) 0/0, Quartz Rouge (Jerome Hurel) 4/0, Dame Blanche van Arenberg (Penelope Leprevost) 0/4.
3. Belgium 12 faults: Candy (Pieter Devos) 8/0, Cortez (Nicola Philippaerts) 8/4, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 0/4, Sea Coast Forlap DC (Gregory Wathelet) 0/0.
3. Ireland 12 faults: Caribo (Thomas Ryan) 4/4, Molly Malone (Bertram Allen) 4/0, Isco de Amoranda (Mark McAuley) 18/0, Diaghilev (Billy Twomey) 4/0.
5. The Netherlands 16 faults: Lord Sandro DDH (Bart Bles) 0/4, Interline H (Robert Vos) 4/12, Vignet (Johnny Pals) 0/8, VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 0/4.
6. Spain 19 faults: Baldo DS (manuel Anon) Elim/18, Darius 2 (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 15/4, Rockfeller de Pleville Bois mar (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) 0/0, Zipper (Sergio Moya) 0/0.
7. Sweden 21 faults: H&M Cash In (Peder Fredricson) 4/8, Titan (Emma Emanuelson) 4/8, Gotha FRH (Henrik von Eckermann) 4/4, Casall Ask (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) 0/1.
8. Great Britain 33 faults: Zaire (Guy Williams) 8/0, Catwalk (Robert Whitaker) 4/9, Fandango (William Whitaker) 4/8, Billy Congo (William Funnell) 8/11.
Facts and Figures:
- The Longines Spring Classic of Flanders at Lummen, Belgium presented Round 1 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 1 series today.
- The winners were from Switzerland, with the defending champions from France finishing second ahead of Ireland and Belgium sharing third place.
- This is the first time for the Belgian venue to host a top-level leg of the premiership of FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping.
- FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping celebrates 105 years in 2014.
- Course designer at Lummen was Italy's Uliano Vezzani.
- 8 nations - Belgium, France, Great Britain, Ireland, The Netherlands, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland - lined out in today's competition.
- The countries competing for points were Belgium, France, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
- 7 horse-and-rider combinations jumped double-clear in today’s competition.
- The next leg of Europe Division 1 will take place on Friday 16 May at La Baule, France.
- The Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 series comprises 20 qualifiers in 20 countries.
- The number of nations competing in Europe Division 1 has been expanded from eight to 10 this season.
Romain Duguet SUI: “the course was nice to ride, there was nothing stupid - it was really clever, typical of Uliano (Vezzani, the course designer).”
Standings in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Europe Division 1 League after the first leg at Lummen (BEL):
1. Switzerland - 100
2. France - 90
3. Belgium - 75
4. Spain - 55
5. Sweden - 50