US riders may have been disappointed when failing to make the cut into tomorrow’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final decider when missing the cut by a few short seconds yesterday, but they were all smiles today when clinching the honours in the Consolation Competition. It was no walk in the park however, as they had to battle it out with the Swiss in a nerve-wracking jump-off that went right down to the wire and kept spectators on the edges of their seats.
The race against the clock was a real thriller, with the advantage changing at every turn. “Yesterday was very frustrating and I was a little melancholy afterwards, but that’s what sport is all about, the beauty of sport, it goes back and forth, and its about coming back and giving a better performance” said anchorman McLain Ward who clinched it for the US side this afternoon.
The first round track provided plenty of problems, and only eight clear rounds were recorded. Unlike yesterday however, the mistakes were registered all around the course even though the double at eight and the triple combination at 11 proved particularly influential.
The Saudi Arabian team was already assured of third place when finishing with six faults while Austria slotted into fourth when posting a total of 12. Elimination for Angelica Augustsson when her mare, Mic Mac du Tillard, decided to throw in the towel left the Swedish team exposed. So when they had to count double-errors from both Jens Fredricson (Lunatic) and his brother Peder (H&M Cash In), then not even a fabulous clear from Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and Casall Ask could rescue the situation and they lined up alongside Spain in equal-fifth place.
Qatar finished seventh with 18 faults, while Colombia and Japan shared eighth spot with 10, while the three-rider Australian team finished tenth and last on a scoreline of 30 faults.
The tussle between the Swiss and Americans unfolded as the last-line riders took their turn in the first round. A clear from Pius Schwizer would put huge pressure on American anchor Beezie Madden as the Swiss would then be on a zero score. But when the relatively inexperienced eight-year-old Toulago kicked out a pole in the middle of the penultimate triple combination then the best the Swiss could do was a first-round four-fault tally, leaving the door open for the USA.
Santiago Varela’s track however included a turn away from the entrance to the arena on the approach to the vertical at fence six, and many riders angled this to make up time. As Madden turned the corner with Simon however they lost their symmetry and the 14-year-old gelding jammed on the brakes in front of the fence. He cleared it at the second time of asking, but with two additional time faults this would have to be the drop score so the four collected by Katie Dinan and Nougat du Vallet were added to the clears recorded by McLain Ward (Rothchild) and Lucy Davis (Barron). A jump-off was assured, but nobody could have predicted what would happen next.
Under the new Furusiyya Final rules, just three riders from each team would come back into the jump-off, and Beat Mandli and his handsome young stallion, Croesus, led the way for Switzerland, lowering the first of the two remaining elements of the former triple combination to return a four-fault score in 39.88 seconds. The new rules also allow for the order of riders to be changed, so Madden was back in the ring again as American pathfinder this time, and she gave the US supporters yet another fright when Simon, turning towards exactly the same area of the arena where he had ground to a halt in the first round, suddenly hesitated, but then continued on to clear the finish line in 40.72 seconds.
Varela had all sorts of tricks up his sleeve though, and the sharp time-allowed of 41 seconds kept the pressure on all the way. Switzerland’s Paul Estermann and Castlefield Eclipse hit the vertical second fence to add four more to the Swiss tally before the USA’s Lucy Davis raised American temperatures even higher at the same fence. Starting out with plenty of pace, the lines of communication between horse and rider suddenly failed on the turn to the second fence. As Davis said afterwards, “we were both a bit tense because we wanted to go well”. Her check in front of the fence seemed to confuse the nine-year-old Barron, “and he started popping up and down!” she admitted. The gelding suddenly found his gears again and continued on, but left the plank at the vertical on the floor along with the original first fence, now three obstacles from home. And the lost time while they tried to regain their equilibrium early on the track added two seconds to see them register a 10-fault total, thus handing the advantage back to the Swiss.
But when Steve Guerdat’s Nasa had two fences down it was left to McLain Ward to snatch it back, and he had a fence in hand coming into the ring. The American opted for a careful clear, picking up two time faults to clinch it. “Obviously I knew the situation and was aware the time-allowed was tight - that’s an excellent decision (the time-allowed) because it makes it exciting to the very end. When I jumped the Longines oxer I knew if I had one down we would still win, but I have a horse that doesn’t want to knock fences down!” he said afterwards.
There were mixed emotions in the US camp after the prize-giving ceremony. Their victory today was bitter-sweet. Chef d’Equipe, Robert Ridland said “obviously we are very excited to win but, to be honest, we wanted to be on that podium tomorrow. Yesterday was an amazing competition, it couldn’t have been more than the Organising Committee, the FEI and Furusiyya could have wished - so many top teams finishing so close together. We got the short end of the stick, but even so it was a great competition!”
His team wasn’t for giving up without a fight however. “This morning we got up and it was a new day, a new competition and I believe we just won the largest prizemoney ever for a team competition in the history of the sport - at least for the next 24 hours anyway!” he pointed out. There was €300,000 up for grabs today, but it pales into insignificance compared to the €1,500,000 on offer in tomorrow afternoon’s historic finale.
Ridland talked about his strategy for the jump-off. “We worked that out beforehand, I had the form filled out in three different ways, Beezie and McLain were always boxed in with one of the other two to be the middle one. It was a tight choice, but this has always been a team effort, ever since winning the qualifier at Wellington, and Reed (Kessler, who didn’t compete in the jump-off) jumped double-clear that day”.
Madden talked about her performance with Simon. “In the first round (the stop at fence six) wasn’t expected and he (Simon) got a bit rattled but he was fine by the end of the course and good for the jump-off”.
Davis talked about her glitch in the jump-off with Barron - “I’m not sure how to explain it, and it wasn’t what I was planning or hoping for! I certainly didn’t want to put the pressure on McLain like that. My horse and I are a little green still, but we are working things out, hopefully we will work it out and progress as time goes on”.
The new five-rider format for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final has very definitely received the seal of approval this weekend. Robert Ridland said, “I think it’s fabulous....it makes for good strategic moves and makes it a bit like of game of chess, plus the jump-off option as well makes it team sport the way we always hoped it would be. It’s the model for the future and everyone is very excited to see what will happen tomorrow”.
Ward agreed. “The format is very exciting and I noticed people gave 110 percent for the team competition here. In these days of huge prize-money for Grand Prix competitions that has faded, but it is at the core of the sport, and the generous prizemoney got people focused and the love of the sport won through” he added.
FEI President, HRH Princess Haya, held a press conference at the Real Club de Polo today and expressed her delight at the success of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping series and the Final. She also talked about her memories of competing in Barcelona herself. "It feels like coming back to my roots. I competed here for three years with my father's horses, so it feels like coming home! This is an historic occasion, and it is an honour to be part of it together with the FEI, Furusiyya and Barcelona.
It's been an incredible road for us, to take our oldest product, together as a family, and revamp and restructure it. We owe our thanks to the vision of HRH Prince Faisal and the Saudi Equestrian Fund, and their patience and belief in the product. We have worked with all the stakeholders, committees, riders, people at the heart of the sport including the media, everyone with strong feelings about the sport, to create a truly global product that will see us through another 100 years with a lot of strength” she said.
Asked if the Spanish city will play host to this Final in future years she replied, “I would be happy to have the event again here in Barcelona, but the nature of the Nations Cup series is that it is truly global in its essence. I hope it travels all around the world, and the final may travel too, but I'm sure it will come back to Barcelona” she said.
The inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final is far from over yet however. Tomorrow brings the eight top nations back for one more round and, possibly, another jump-off. If the action so far is anything to go by, another afternoon of spectacular sport lies ahead. It gets underway at 15.30 local time, so don’t miss a hoofbeat....
Watch all the action LIVE on www.feitv.org
The inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final is taking place at Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain from 26-29 September 2013. For all information on the Spanish fixture go to the event website www.csiobarcelona.com or contact Press Officer Isabel Suter at email email@example.com or telephone +34 760 258 222.
1. USA 12 faults IN JUMP-OFF: Simon (Beezie Madden) 6/0, Barron (Lucy Davis) 0/10, Rochchild (McLain Ward (0/2) Nougat du Vallet (Katherine Dinan) 4/-.
2. Switzerland 16 faults IN JUMP-OFF : Croesus (Beat Mandli) 0/4, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 0/4, Nasa (Steve Guerdat) 4/8, Toulago (Pius Schwizer) 4.
3. Saudi Arabia 6 faults: Al Capone (Ramzy Hamad Al Duhami) 0, Davis (HRH Prince Abdullah Bin Miteb Al Saud) 1, Talan (Prince Faisal Al Shalan) 5, Noblesse des Tess (Kamal Abdullah Bahamdan) 12.
4. Austria 12 faults: Glock's Prince de Vaud (Dieter Kofler) 20, The Sixth Sense (Thomas Fruhmann) 8, Sterrehof's Ushi (Julia Kayser) 4, Chilli van Dijk NRW (Stefan Eder) 0.
5. Sweden 16 faults: Lunatic (Jens Fredricson 8, Mic Mac du Tillard (Angelica Augustsson) Elim, H&M Cash In (Peder Fredricson) 8, Casall Ask (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) 0.
5. Spain 16 faults: Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 9, Conington (Carlos Lopez-Fanjul) 4, Notre Star de la Nutria (Paolo Amilibia Puig) 8, Quinai des Chayottes (Julio Arias) 4.
7. Qatar 18 faults: Cantaro (Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani) 4, Castiglione L (Mubarak Yousuf Al Rumaihi) 23, Rosalia la Silla (Bassem Hassan Mohammed) 9, Ravenna (Ali Yousef Al Raumaihi) 5.
8. Colombia 19 faults: Sancha LA (Daniel Bluman) 5, Woklahoma (Roberto Teran Tafur) 13, For Rosa's Pleasure (Rodrigo Diaz) 2, Eldorado van het Nijverhof (Dayro Aroyave) 12.
8. Japan 19 faults: Avenzio (Taizo Sugitani) 0, Corrito (Toshiki Masui) 20, Ulano (Satoshi Hirao) 19, Fine Fleur du Marais (Eiken Sato) 0.
10. Australia 30 faults: Vedor (Julia Hargreaves) 11, Yirrkala Cortina (William James Passy) 18, Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) 1.
Facts and Figures:
Today's Consolation Competition was open to the 10 teams that failed to qualify for tomorrow's second round of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final.
The competition came down to a jump-off between the USA and Switzerland when both finished the first round on a four-fault total.
Three riders from each team jumped a new track against the clock and the USA came out on top despite collecting 12 more faults when Switzerland added 16 to their tally.
A total of 18 teams lined out in yesterday's first round.
Brazil placed first in yesterday's first round of the Final, but all teams start on a zero score tomorrow when the closing stages of the Final gets underway.
The teams in today's Consolation Competition started in reverse order of merit based on their finishing places in yesterday's first round.
Santiago Varela, course designer: “Congratulations to the US team, they did a great job. Today from my perspective we had nice sport and at the end the better teams came out on top. The jump-off and the new systems were quite complicated for the riders but it worked out well”.
Asked if things had gone the way he had expected in the jump-off he replied “that certainly wasn’t our strategy,but made it made it exciting for TV! There were great riders on both teams, and we just had to make the best of it.
McLain Ward, USA, when asked about competing alongside three lady riders - “the US has a long tradition of predominately female competitors. Maybe we could bring a few top male riders next time so I have someone to hang out with!”
Beezie Madden, USA, talking about the first-round refusal with Simon - “I think he made a big effort at the vertical before and he was a touch behind me on the run but it was the last thing I expected. It rattled him for sure.”