The newly-crowned world champions from Holland stamped their authority all over the first round of the 2014 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona, Spain today when coming out on top with a zero score. In a competition during which the formbook was otherwise completely turned on its head, it was Sweden that lined up second while Belgium, Canada and Germany finished joint-third.
Only eight nations could qualify for next Saturday night’s final competition, and there was a gasp of near-disbelief when the defending Furusiyya champions from France, who claimed team silver behind The Netherlands at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy last month, failed to make the cut into the closing stages along with the WEG bronze medallists from the USA.
Instead it is Italy, Brazil and Great Britain who will complete Saturday night’s line-up which is set to bring the 2014 Furusiyya series to a spectacular conclusion.
Course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, set them a big bold track, and as Dutchman Jeroen Dubbeldam said afterwards the last line of fences was “very technical”. Clears from the first two riders into the ring – Italy’s Luca Moneta with Neptune Brecourt and Sweden’s Peder Fredricson with H&M Simon – suggested the test was not over-strong. But that was very deceptive, because many of the world’s biggest stars couldn’t match those performances.
The opening vertical and following oxer were followed by a right-hand turn to a double – vertical to oxer – at fence three and a big water-tray oxer at fence four. There was then a left-rein turn-back to a big vertical at five which regularly hit the floor, and then a six-stride distance to the following oxer before bending right to the open water which was quickly followed by another sharp vertical at fence eight.
The degree of difficulty now increased even more with every fence, the tall red vertical at nine followed on four strides by a narrow oxer at 10 before turning left-handed down the final line. This was testing every inch of the way. Varela set the last three obstacles on an unusually-shaped snaking line, so having negotiated the tricky triple combination that began with a triple bar, riders had to quickly adjust left towards the penultimate oxer and then immediately pull right-handed again for the final vertical. What was required were horses that were not on the forehand and who were still listening to every instruction coming from on top.
“You needed a balanced horse at the end of the course, that was the important thing” Varela explained.
Impossible to predict
And it was impossible to predict the top-eight qualified teams until the very end. Drawn fourth to go, the Americans got off to an unsteady start when McLain Ward’s Rothchild hit the middle element of the triple combination and the penultimate oxer at 12 for eight faults. And when Kent Farrington and Voyeur returned with 12 on the board then the four-fault results from both Lauren Hough (Ohlala) and WEG individual bronze medallist Beezie Madden (Cortes C) left them on a final tally of eight which proved too expensive.
But if American supporters were disappointed then the French were in shock, because Simon Delestre’s 12 faults with the hard-pulling Qlassic Bois Margot were followed by five from Penelope Leprevost with Nayana and 11 from Jerome Hurel whose stallion, Quartz Rouge, got into such a muddle after lowering the penultimate oxer that he ground to a halt at the last. The big chestnut’s round had begun with sensational jumping, but, like so many others, things unravelled at the end of the course.
So when Kevin Staut’s Estoy Aqui de Muze hit the last two fences, the game was up for the French who finished third-last of the 14 competing nations.
Well in contention
While things were going badly for some of the favourites however, clears from pathfinder Peder Fredricson (H&M Simon) and anchorman Henrik von Eckermann (Cantinero) kept the Swedes well in contention as they only had to add a single error from Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Tornesch and that proved plenty good enough for runner-up spot.
A foot-perfect run from Olivier Philippaerts (Cabrio van de Heffinck) got the Belgians off to a great start, and despite a blip when Dirk Demeersman collected a massive 20 faults, they pulled it right back to just single errors from Niels Bruynseels and the lovely stallion Pommeau de Heup and their anchor partnership of Pieter Devos with Dylano for a final total of eight.
This was matched by the Canadians who could drop the eight collected by Eric Lamaze (Zigali) because Yann Candele’s opening clear with Showgirl was followed by four-fault runs from both Tiffany Foster (Tripple X) and Ben Asselin (Makavoy).
Meanwhile Christian Ahlmann and Codex One opened the German account with one down, and when that was followed by an uncharacteristic double-error from Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue the team began to look a little vulnerable. But reigning Longines FEI World World Cup™ Jumping champions Daniel Deusser and Cornet D’Amour produced arguably the best round of the day to put his side right back on track, and when Ludger Beerbaum and Chiara left just the middle element of the triple combination on the floor, then Germany also shared that eight-fault scoreline.
Nine clear rounds
There were only nine clear rounds throughout the whole competition, and the Dutch secured top spot by recording three of these. Dubbeldam’s team and individual world title winning partner, the 10-year-old Zenith SFN, got their effort off to a shaky start when hitting the oxer at fence six and then putting a foot in the water. But that was only a minor detail when Maikel van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Verdi), Jur Vrieling (VDL Bubalu) and Gerco Schroder (Glock’s London) all kept a clean sheet. In the end they were untouchable.
Possibly one of the biggest surprise results of the day was the joint-sixth place finish for Italy which was underpinned by a brilliant clear from the first pair into the ring today, Luca Moneta and Neptune Brecourt. The Brazilians always looked rock solid, also finishing on 12 faults when all four riders made only a single mistake on course.
The British meanwhile made the cut by a margin of just two faults over the Americans when completing with 14 on the board.
Talking about his ride today, winning team-member and reigning world champion Jeroen Dubbeldam said “I was pleased with the way my horse jumped, he gave me a good feeling. The first fault was a “line” fault, and the fault at the water was a bit unusual because he’s normally good at that. I might have sat too quiet there and trusted him a little too much, but he gave me a good feeling anyway, and maybe I just wanted to see with my result today how sharp the other boys were going to be – it worked out ok in the end!” he joked.
Dutch Chef d’Equipe, Rob Ehrens, was asked how he managed to come out, just a month after the world championships, with such a fresh side. “I think it’s a matter of having four riders at this table who are extremely good and who take good care of the welfare of their horses. They have left out shows in which they might have liked to compete for their own benefit and for the benefit of their team and their country. They work with each other, they help each other and, if I can, I want to keep this team together for the next two years” he said, clearly now targeting Olympic glory in 2016.
And asked what is the recipe for the sporting success of a small country like Holland, Jeroen Dubbeldam replied, “we have a fantastic structure from Juniors all the way up to Seniors, in all sports. They work hard with talented young people” he said. And he pointed out that attitude also counts for a lot. “The mentality in Holland is about not standing on top of the table when we win and not standing under the table when we lose!” he said. Keeping a level head does indeed seem to be a strong Dutch trait.
Talking about what their horses have been doing since their glorious performances in Normandy, Dubbeldam explained that this was his horse’s first show since then. “It was tough there, so Zenith had some soft time after we came home. Then I started working him a little again and the week before Barcelona we spent getting him fit and ready for the Furusiyya Final – but this is the first time we have been back in the ring since Caen” he explained.
Maikel van der Vleuten gave Verdi an easy few weeks too. “He was off for a week, then I started working him lightly, going in the woods and letting him get his mind settled and happy before making a plan about coming here to Barcelona. The only time we’ve competed (since the WEG) was in the warm-up yesterday” he pointed out.
Gerco Schroder took Glock’s London went to Vienna, and Jur Vrieling explained that VDL Bubalu went to one show but only jumped in two classes. “He had some time off before the championships (in Normandy)” Vrieling explained, and his stallion certainly looked strong and full of running today.
The Dutch will now certainly be the ones to beat in Saturday night’s gala final, but with all teams starting out again on level pegging the result is still far from decided yet. And after today’s competition during which so many of the main contenders fell by the wayside it seems just about anything could happen before one team holds that coveted Furusiyya trophy aloft.
1. Netherlands 0 faults: Zenith SFN (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 8, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten) 0, VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 0, Glock’s London (Gerco Schroder) 0.
2. Sweden 4 faults: H&M Simon (Peder Fredricson) 0, Cafino (Alexander Zettermann) 8, H&M Tornesch (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) 4, Cantinero (Henrik von Eckermann) 0.
3. Belgium 8 faults: Cabrio van de Heffinck (Olivier Philippaerts) 0, STB Fleuri van de Koekelberg (Dirk Demeersman) 20, Pommeau du Heup (Niels Bruynseels) 4, Dylano (Pieter Devos) 4.
3. Canada 8 faults: Showgirl (Yann Candele) 0, Tripple X (Tiffany Foster) 4, Makkkavoy (Ben Asselin) 4, Zigali PS (Eric Lamaze) 8.
3. Germany 8 faults: Codex one (Christian Ahlmann) 4, Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) 8, Cornet D’Amour (Daniel Deusser) 0, Chiara (Ludger Beerbaum) 4.
6. Italy 12 faults: Neptune Brecourt (Luca Moneta) 0, Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 4, Elky van het Indihof (Lorenzo de Luca) 8, Bonzai van de Warande (Juan Carlos Garcia) 9.
6. Brazil 12 faults: AD Rahmannshofs Bogeno (Doda de Miranda) 4, Quabri de L’Isle (Pedro Veniss) 4, AD Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) 4, Status (Rodrigo Pessoa) 4.
8. Great Britain 14 faults: Fandango (William Whitaker) 12, Utamaro D’Ecaussines (Joe Clee) 4, Wonder Why (Spencer Roe) 4, Cassionato (Michael Whitaker) 6.
Full result here