The American team will be first into the ring for tomorrow's third leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup™ at St Gallen, Switzerland. A total of nine nations will compete, as the Swiss, who were relegated at the end of last season, join the eight Top League countries for a guest appearance on their home ground.
And the host nation looks strong, with Steve Guerdat (Jalisca Solier), Werner Muff (Kiamon), Jannike Sprunger (Uptown Boy) and Pius Schwizer (Carlina) ready to show that their country is still a force to be reckoned with. The teams will start the first round of the competition in the following order: 1, USA; 2, Denmark; 3, Germany; 4, The Netherlands; 5, Ireland; 6, Belgium; 7, France; 8, Switzerland; 9, Great Britain.
The generous dimensions of the St Gallen arena helps create a big atmosphere and tremendous competition at this popular annual fixture, and, as Dutch Chef d'Equipe, Rob Ehrens, said last week after leading his team to victory in Rome (ITA) "it will be great to be back jumping on grass again at St Gallen. When the footing is good on grass, then there's nothing better!".
He has already named his side of Piet Raymakers Jr (Van Schijndel's Rascin), Leon Thijssen (Tyson) and father-and-son Eric and Maikel van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Utascha SFN and VDL Groep Verdi) who go into battle lying third on the leaderboard.
The French, defending series champions and winners at St Gallen in 2010, have had a surprisingly poor start this year, but Chef d'Equipe Henk Nooren's confidence should be bolstered by the knowledge that Kevin Staut's great horse, Kraque Boom, will be back in action tomorrow. The remainder of the his team are Penelope Leprevost, Olivier Guillon and Simon Delestre.
Denmark will be hoping to make some progress from the bottom of the league table, so it will be another tough challenge for newcomers Torben Frandsen, Charlotte Lund, Emilie Martinsen, Thomas Sandgaard and Andreas Schou, but the Americans will also be inspired to put in a big effort. They are lying third-last, with just six points on the board after two rounds, so George Morris will be applying plenty of pressure on the four he selects from Ashlee Bond, Rich Fellers, Charlie Jayne, Christine McCrea and the on-form Margie Engle. The USA last won the Nations Cup at St Gallen in 2009.
Great Britain's Rob Hoekstra has a massive amount of experience to rely on in the shape of Nick Skelton, Robert Smith and Tim Stockdale along with Ben Maher and Scott Brash. The British are lying mid-field on the leaderboard, just one point behind Germany whose team for tomorrow will emerge from Eva Bitter, Jorg Oppermannn, Heiko Schmidt, Jan Sprehe and Holger Wulschner.
Trailing the Irish
At the top end of the table, the Belgians are trailing the Irish by just two points, and tomorrow's competition could turn into a real tussle between these two sides. The Belgians have really hit the ground running on their return to the Top League this season, and with two World Champions - Phiippe Le Jeune and Jos Lansink - lining out again alongside Dirk Demeersman and Rik Hemeryck they may well find themselves in pole position by tomorrow evening.
Irish team manager, Robert Splaine, has some less-experienced partnerships included in his squad. For 23 year old Alexander Butler and his horse Will Wimble this will be a big step-up in class if selected, but Butler is one of the many talented young riders continuing to emerge from the vibrant national circuit in Ireland, and with a Grand Prix win at Lummen already under his belt he can be relied upon to give a good account of himself. Splaine was still undecided about his final four earlier today - he also has American-based Jennifer Crooks and Shane Sweetnam to choose from along with Cameron Hanley and Jessica Kuerten.
It is the Swiss that Splaine is tipping for top-spot tomorrow. "I'm very proud of my own team this season and I'm hoping for another good day tomorrow but it's always good when the home team wins and I think the Swiss will do well" he pointed out. FEI Jumping Director, John Roche, agreed. "I'm sure we will see a spirited and determined performance from the Swiss tomorrow in front of their home crowd" he pointed out, " and I'm sure we can look forward to another tremendous day of top sport and great horsemanship" he added.
The action gets underway at 13.30 local time and you can watch it all, LIVE on FEI TV.
For further information on the third leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup™ series in St Gallen (SUI) go to website www.csio.ch or contact Press Officer Peter Wyrsch, Email email@example.com, Tel +41 794065207.
FEI Nations Cup 2011 - Standings after Round 2 in Rome (ITA):
1. Ireland - 16.0
2. Belgium - 14.0
3. Netherlands - 13.5
4. Germany - 10.0
5. Great Britain - 9.0
6. France - 6.0
7. USA - 5.5
8. Denmark - 2.0
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.
FEI TV: Enjoy LIVE programming, highlights, interviews and archive footage at www.feitv.org
Photo Caption: Pictured during the draw for the third leg of the 2011 FEI Nations Cup™ series at St Gallen, Switzerland today were: L to R - Peter Stossel, President CSIO St Gallen, John Roche, FEI Jumping Director and Henk Nooren, Chef d'Equipe for the French team. Photo: FEI/Katja Stuppia.