The Americans scored a sensational back-to-back double when following their win in Rome last Friday with another superb victory in the third leg of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series at St Gallen, Switzerland today. The 2009 season has already turned into the perfect celebration of the 100-year history of Nations Cup jumping as, once again, the result was only decided after a thrilling two-way third-round jump-off against the clock in which Richard Spooner clinched it for the USA ahead of Germany.
The hot favourite home-team shared third place with Belgium, while The Netherlands and Great Britain divided fifth. Italy claimed seventh spot ahead of Ireland in eighth and France and Sweden failed to make it into the second round. As the series moves on to Rotterdam in two weeks time however, it is the Irish and Italians who continue to struggle at the bottom of the leaderboard - the Irish now lying last.
NO EASY TASK
It was quickly clear that Swiss course designer, Rolf Ludi, had set them no easy task with his 12-fence track creating plenty of drama. Fourth into the ring, British veteran Nick Skelton was catapulted out of the saddle when getting into a muddle with Nemo at the double at fence six which claimed a number of victims throughout the day. Two of the Irish stopped here too, Cian O'Connor and Complete permanently halted when the 12 year old gelding refused and Denis Lynch's Lantinus seemingly taken by surprise, but jumping it effortlessly at the second time of asking.
France and Sweden both finished round one with a total of 16 faults - none of the French managing to leave the course intact but Sweden's new recruit, Henrik Von Eckermann, producing a clear from Marco Kutscher's Montender which he will compete for the next few months while the German rider recovers from a broken shoulder. His fault-free performance was not enough to save the Swedes from the sidelines however as only the top eight teams went into round two.
The USA, Germany, Switzerland and Belgium were all on a zero score as the second round began while the Dutch and British were next in line carrying eight faults each. Italy had nine on the board while the Irish had 11.
The bogey fence of the day was the triple combination at fence 10 and American pathfinders, Christine McCrea and Vegas, were eliminated here second time out. "That was a classic test - oxer, oxer, vertical - its never easy to ride and should never be neglected during training" said American Chef d'Equipe and consummate horseman George Morris afterwards. "In the first round a lot of horses 'put down' at the second element" he added.
Swiss fans were delighted when their hero Markus Fuchs, competing in his final and record-breaking 145th Nations Cup competition, was clear first time out. However four fences down in round two left his side vulnerable and, despite a clear from anchorman Steve Guerdat and Jalisca Solier, the Swiss lost their grip with four faults from both Christina Liebherr (No Mercy) and Daniel Etter (Peu a Peu). Belgium's Philippe Le Jeune and Vigo D'Arsouilles produced one of six double-clears, but when his fellow team-members all left poles on the floor they too began to slip from the reckoning as it turned into a two-way contest.
Both Ashlee Bond (Cadett) and Richard Spooner (Cristallo) completed double-clears - Bond sensationally making it a hat-trick of double-zeros in the series - so when Laura Kraut and Cedric hit just one this time out the USA was now carrying just four faults despite McCrea's elimination. And when German anchorman Franke Sloothaak (Aquino) retired because he could not improve on the four faults collected by Marcus Ehning after double-clears from both Carsten-Otto Nagel (Corradina) and Philipp Weisaupt (Souvenir) a jump-off was on the cards once again. At La Baule last month it was the Swiss against the Swedes, this time it was the USA against Germany and Ehning would take on Spooner to decide the result.
Spooner's horses have been showing exceptional form over the past few weeks, and the American known as "The Master of Faster" wasted no time in setting a tough target for his German rival but he left a fence on the floor as he stopped the clock in 40.72 seconds. It was clear from the outset that Ehning was going for a careful round with Plot Blue, and it seemed the gamble would pay off until, with just the slightest rub, the front bar of the very last fence was dislodged and when the clock showed 53.26 seconds the game was up.
"Marcus is so accurate and smooth and fast that Richard just had to go for it - he took a risk and had one down but we were very lucky that Marcus decided to play safe!" said George Morris afterwards. "I'm really excited" said Spooner. "Marcus and I are good friends - when I was going in there I thought 'there is no-one else I would like to beat more, and no-one else I'd prefer to be beaten by!" he added.
1. USA - 4 faults (won with 4 flts in 40.72 in third-round jump-off): Vegas (Christine McCrea) 4/Elim, Cadett (Ashlee Bond) 0/0, Cedric (Laura Kraut) 0/4, Cristallo (Richard Spooner) 0/0/4(40.72).
2. GERMANY - 4 faults (second place after 5 faults in 53.26 in third-round jump-off: Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) 0/4/5(53.26), Corradina (Carsten-Otto Nagel) 0/0, Souvenir (Philipp Weishaupt) 0/0, Aquino (Franke Sloothaak) 0/Ret.
EQ 3. SWITZERLAND - 8 faults: LB No Mercy (Christina Liebherr) 0/4, La Toya (Markus Fuchs) 0/16, Peu a Peu (Daniel Etter) 0/4, Jalisca Solier (Steve Guerdat) NS/0.
EQ 3. BELGIUM - 8 faults: Vigo D'Arsouilles (Philippe Le Jeune) 0/0, Aluna (Niels Bruynseels) 0/4, Kassini Jac (Ludo Philippaerts) 16/4, Spender S (Jos Lansink) 0/4.
EQ 5. THE NETHERLANDS - 12 faults: Blauwendraad's O'Brien (Angelique Hoorn) 4/0, Opium VS (Marc Houtzager) 4/4, Sam (Albert Zoer) 12/12, Heechhiem's Springtime (Nathalie Van der Mei) 0/0.
EQ 5. GREAT BRITAIN - 12 faults: Nemo (Nick Skelton) Elim/5, Vangelis (Robert Smith) 8/0, Murkas Pom D'Ami (Peter Charles) 0/4, Robin Hood W (Ben Maher) 0/0.
7. ITALY - 18 faults: Landzau (Giuseppe D'Onofrio) 1/0, Loro Piana Ct (Giulia Martinengo) 9/5, Jericho de la Vie (Giuseppe Rolli) 4/13, Da Zara Kanebo (Piergiorgio Bucci) 4/4.
8. IRELAND - 21 faults: Je T'Aime Flamenco (Billy Twomey) 4/1, Amaretto D'Arco (Shane Sweetnam) 0/9, Complete (Cian O'Connor) Elim/NS, Lantinus (Denis Lynch) 7/0.
EQ 9. FRANCE - 16 faults: Kellemoi De Pepita (Michel Robert) 8/, Lamm De Fetan (Timothee Anciaume) 4/, Ideal de la Loge (Roger-Yves Bost) 4/, Le Prestige St Lois (Kevin Staut) 9/.
EQ 9. SWEDEN - 16 faults: H&M Actrice (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) 8/, Isaac (Alexander Zetterman) 8/, Magic Dream (Erica Lickhammer) 13/, Montender (Henrik Von Eckermann) 0/.
George Morris, US Chef d'Equipe. when asked what he thought of his side winning three times in a row - "I'm completely staggered! My team was fantastic!"
George Morris - when asked about Ashlee Bond's sensational third double-clear performance in the series - "Ashlee has a great attitude - that is her strength. She is a great rider and she has a great horse, but it is her attitude that makes her a winner".
US rider Richard Spooner when asked what he did when Germany's Marcus Ehning had the last fence down- "the crowd went OOOH and I went AAAH!"
US rider Ashlee Bond when asked about her sensational third consecutive double-clear performance with Cadett - "I am in awe of m horse and I am so lucky to be able to ride him. Here today I was trying to duplicate what I have been doing for the last few weeks. This is a sport with a lot of ups and downs - I want to enjoy it while I'm up!"
Ashlee Bond - "Im going to Rotterdam and Aachen as the fifth rider, and I'm there if I am needed".
Ashlee Bond - "My horse is a jumping machine and I got him exactly one year ago today! My Dad is my coach but he had to go home on Monday because my brother was graduating High School. I think he'll be happy how it went!"
Richard Spooner - "I have fantastic horses and a great crew. My wife does a lot of the work with Cristallo and I owe a lot to Hugo Simon who helped me last year - I'm reaping the rewards of that now".
FACTS AND FIGURES
Ashlee Bond (USA) produced a sensational third consecutive double-clear performance in the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ series today
There was a total of 6 double clear rounds in today's competition
There were 3 eliminations - 2 in the first round and 1 in the second round
1 rider had a fall which resulted in elimination - Britain's Nick Skelton (Nemo) in round one
The bogey fence was the triple combination at fence 10
4 teams - Belgium, Switzerland, Germany and USA - were drawn on a zero score at the end of the first round
2 teams - USA and Germany - went into the third-round jump-off against the clock
There were 9 lady riders in the starting field of 40
The American team last won the Swiss Nations Cup at St Gallen in 1997
Today's victory was the 7th win for the USA in the 82-year history of the Swiss Nations Cup
MEYDAN FEI NATIONS CUP™ - STANDINGS AFTER THIRD LEG AT ST GALLEN:
1. USA - 22.0
2. Switzerland - 21.0
3. Germany - 16.5
4. The Netherlands - 11.5
5. France - 11.0
6. Great Britain - 9.0
7. Belgium - 8.5
8. Sweden - 7.0
9. Italy - 4.0
10. Ireland - 3.5
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 season the team with the highest points wins the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ and the two teams with the lowest points are relegated to the FEI Nations Cup series (Promotional League). The two best placed teams of that series following the Promotional League Final join the Meydan FEI Nations Cup™ for the following year.
The World ’s Best Ten Teams: Belgium, France, Germany, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Ireland, USA, Switzerland, Sweden, and Italy
The World’s Best Eight Venues
La Baule (FRA); Friday 15 May; http://www.labaule-cheval.com/2009/pages/accueil.html
Rome (ITA); Friday 29 May; http://www.piazzadisiena.com/
St. Gallen (SUI); Friday 5 June; http://www.csio.ch/
Rotterdam (NED); Friday 19 June; http://www.chio.nl/
Aachen (GER); Thursday 2 July; http://www.chioaachen.de/
Falsterbo (SWE); Friday 17 July; http://falsterbohorseshow.se/se/valkommen/hem/
Hickstead (GBR); Friday 24 July; http://www.hickstead.co.uk/
Dublin (IRL); Friday 7 August; http://www.dublinhorseshow.com/
The complete rules, latest news, results, standings and photos are on www.meydanfeinationscup.org
About the FEI: To learn more about the FEI, www.fei.org
About Meydan: To learn more about Meydan, the title sponsor of the Meydan FEI Nations Cup, please click www.meydan.ae