Team Sweden Gallop into the lead; While France Tops Individual Rankings
Wednesday, August 10, 2022
Posted by Louise Parkes
The reigning Olympic champions from Sweden lived up to expectations when taking the early lead on the exciting first day of the Agria FEI World Jumping Championship 2022 presented by Helgstrand at the ECCO FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark today. However, Frenchman Julien Epaillard and 10-year-old mare Caracole de la Roque were quickest around the track in the opening Speed event, so go into tomorrow’s second competition at the top of the individual leaderboard.
Epaillard’s performance proved critical for France when their anchor partnership of Kevin Staut and Scuderia 1918 Viking d’la Rousserie parted company at the second element of the rustic double at fence five on the 14-obstacle track. Such was the solidity of their team effort however, with more great rides from both Simon Delestre partnering the fizzy Cayman Jolly Jumper and Gregory Cottard and the ever-reliable Bibici, that they lie just 1.75 points behind the Swedes and fractionally ahead of Team Belgium in third place.
After today’s results were converted into points, just over four points separate the top six teams - Sweden, France, Belgium, Great Britain, Switzerland and Germany in that order. And just over six points separate the top 10 nations, with Brazil lying seventh, The Netherlands in eighth, USA in ninth and Italy in tenth place.
On the individual leaderboard Tokyo 2020 individual Olympic champion, Great Britain’s Ben Maher, lies tenth with Faltic HB but only 1.72 points separate him from Epaillard at the head of affairs. A hair’s breadth separates all the major contenders at this early stage.
Jens Fredricson and Markan Cosmopolit were first out for Sweden, posting a clear round in just over 84 seconds. The pair were 25th of the 103 starters from 34 nations to take on the 14-fence track set by The Netherlands’ Louis Konickx that included three doubles, the last of which proved one of the bogeys of the day as many horses clipped the first-element triple-bar when just three fences from home.
The second Swedish pair of Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana were one of the victims at this one, having already put a foot in the water two fences earlier. But fellow Tokyo gold medallists Henrik von Eckermann with King Edward and Peder Fredricson with H&M All In both flew around the track, Fredricson slotting into fourth and von Eckermann into fifth individually to give their country a marginal lead going into tomorrow’s next round.
It was a great opening run from Nicola Philippaerts and the always-speedy Katanga vh Dingeshof that set the Belgians up for the day. And when Jos Verlooy and Igor, Jerome Guery with Quel Homme de Hus and Gregory Wathelet with Nevados S each gave a good account of themselves they secured that third-place advantage over Britain’s Maher, Joseph Stockdale with Equine America Cacharel, Harry Charles and Romeo and Scott Brash with Hello Jefferson.
Brash was super-fast, slotting into runner-up spot behind Epaillard at the end of the day. The British rider has his eyes on the prize after his great start.
"He has all the attributes to win, he’s in great shape, he was really good in Aachen (last month) and I feel he’s still on top of his game" - Scott Brash (GBR) talking about his horse Hello Jefferson he said.
Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs lies individually third with Leone Jei, the horse he steered to individual silver and team gold at last year’s FEI European Championships. Fuchs, who has just been ousted from the world number one position by Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, won the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title with Chaplin and The Sinner in April and he’s hungry to add the World Championship title to his long list of recent successes.
He clearly made a plan before coming to Herning with Leone Jei. “Sometimes he gets a bit over-motivated which is why I’ve been showing him so much in the last few weeks. I felt every Grand Prix this year when I had a rail down he was always a bit too fresh, so I had to do something different. I used to save him for this or that Grand Prix but now I said OK I must get going and we jumped Aachen (GER), Knokke (BEL) and Dinard (FRA) and he feels really good now”, the Swiss star said confidently.
Tour of the Track
Fifth-placed von Eckermann reckoned he lost a half-second between the second and third fences on his tour of the track today, and he’s ambitious for King Edward this week. This is the horse that never touched a pole on the road to that team gold medal in Tokyo last summer.
“He’s the whole package, he’s so clever, he’s careful and so brave and such a sweet horse. I’m more used to the feisty mares but he’s a once-in-a-lifetime horse!”, he said today.
Overnight individual leader, Julien Epaillard, was modest in his appraisal of his own performance today with his brilliant mare. He said they were a bit lucky at that tricky triple bar.
“It’s a good way to start and I had a good feeling with my her, she was very focused. I hope I didn’t ask her for too much speed but she jumped really good until the end. I had a little bit of luck on the triple-bar where I took a little risk. I trusted her scope and it worked. I think I did my job today and I hope it will be the same tomorrow and on Friday for Team France”, he said.
But there’s a long way to go before the team medals are presented on Friday night and a new individual world champion is crowned next Sunday. As the Frenchman wisely pointed out, "this is only the beginning, the most difficult part is still to come...".