It was sweet success for Marco Fuste’s Spanish side today when they snatched victory from Sweden in the closing moments of the 2012 FEI Nations Cup™ Promotional League Final on home turf in Barcelona. Just twelve months ago the host nation had to settle for runner-up spot when newly-crowned FEI European Champion, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, gave Sweden the edge. But today the tables were turned, and it was the Spanish who were celebrating.
Italy finished third ahead of Canada in fourth, Poland in fifth and the Russian Federation in sixth, while the three-member Danish side retired in the second round. It was very much a two-nation affair however as Spain and Sweden were locked in close combat from the outset, leaving the rest to trail in their wake. And the only double-clear of the competition, produced by pathfinders Pilar Cordon and Nuage Bleu, along with the foot-perfect second round from anchor partnership Sergio Moya and Action-Breaker, helped swing it in Spain’s favour.
Spanish course designer, Javier Trenor, set a track that Moya described as “long but not too complicated, with places for mistakes all around the course”. That was borne out by the fact that even the first two fences hit the floor fairly regularly – an otherwise copybook performance from Sweden’s Daniel Zetterman and his gutsy little grey, Glory Days, spoiled by a mistake at the opening oxer second time out.
The roll-back to the water-tray oxer at fence four proved troublesome for some, as did a similar turn to another wide oxer at fence seven, while, in the opening round in particular, the triple combination at five and the double at eight were relatively trouble-free. However the last line from the wall at fence ten to the following open water and then the final oxer took its toll in both rounds. Most riders opted for six-stride distances between these fences, with only the most forward-going partnerships managing it in five, as Moya and Action-Breaker did.
The Swedes had a firm grip on the lead at the halfway stage with clears from Douglas Lindelow (Udermus), Zetterman (Glory Days) and Peder Fredricson (H&M Cash In) which allowed Angelica Augustsson’s opening eight-fault result with Quickdiamond to be the discard.
But they were just a fence ahead of the Spanish going into round two, after foot-perfect runs from both Cordon (Nuage Bleu) and Manuel Anon (Baldo DS), as Paolo Amilibia Puig (Prunella d’Ariel) and Moya (Action-Breaker) each had just a single fence down – in an odd coincidence both clear all the way until hitting the final oxer. Italy was next line but well in arrears with 12 faults while Poland was on 13, Russia on 16 and Canada on 17 faults. The Danes were already last with 20, and when Emilie Martinsen (Caballero) and Karina Rie Truelsen (Quite Quick) collected an additional 29 between them second time out, they decided to call it a day despite the fact that Linnea Ericsson (Damgaardens Extens) had been one of the eight to go clear in round one.
Another clear from Cordon put the pressure on the Swedes, and when Augustsson lowered the middle part of the triple combination, the oxer at seven and the last for 12 faults, and then Lindelow returned with four on the board after a mistake at the vertical at fence two, they were beginning to feel it.
Spanish second-line rider, Puig, hit the vertical at fence three, and when Anon faulted at the first element of the double at eight it seemed that the home team would be forced into runner-up spot yet again. But when the first fence fell for Zetterman then the window of opportunity opened once more. If Moya could stay clear then Spain would finish on eight faults, and last-line Swedish rider Fredricson would have to stay clear to force a jump-off.
Moya set off with a mixture of determination and concern. His 12 year old stallion, Action-Breaker, has had a long injury layoff, and he wasn’t sure he if he could improve on his first-round four-fault result. “He (Action-Breaker) has had almost a year off, and this was a long course and it has been really warm here for the last week so I felt he was a little tired. He’s not quite back to top fitness yet, so I knew I would have to give him a more active ride this time” he explained afterwards. And Action-Breaker responded with a perfect round that brought roars of approval from the crowd who now had victory in their sights. When Fredricson’s nine year old gelding hit the oxer at seven it was all over, and the Spanish celebrations began.
Moya said “I believed we could win, even if it came down to a jump-off”. He has had a long wait for Action-Breaker’s return, but is now looking forward to a busy time over the coming months with a strong string of horses that includes his latest acquisition, Carlo, the 11 year old Holsteiner that won two bronze medals for Britain’s Nick Skelton at the FEI European Jumping Championships in Madrid (ESP) last year. “I started jumping Carlo in a few small classes here at Barcelona. He is a horse that has won a lot and I’m trying to ride him in the way he likes and to get to know him. Nick has promised to help me when he can, which is great”, said the 27 year old rising star of Spanish jumping who is now aiming at qualification for the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 final in Gothenburg, Sweden next April.
Today’s success for the Spanish team comes at an interesting time as the sport of Nations Cup jumping is being restructured. The Swedish team competed in the FEI Top League this season but, finishing seventh of the eight competing nations, would, under normal circumstances, be relegated to the Promotional League in 2013. So they came to Barcelona to join the other nations determined to show that they continue to be a force to be reckoned with. As seventh-placed finishers in the Top League they were entitled to do that, but it was the Spanish who demonstrated a growing confidence and competence that won’t go unnoticed in future years.
1. Spain 8 faults: Nuage Bleu (Pilar Cordon) 0/0 2, Prunella d’Ariel (Paolo Amilibia Puig) 4/4, Baldo DS (Manuel Anon) 0/4, Action-Breaker (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 4/0.
2. Sweden 12 faults: Quickdiamond (Angelica Augustsson) 8/12, Udermus (Douglas Lindelow) 0/4, Glory Days (Daniel Zetterman) 0/4, H&M Cash In (Peder Fredricson) 0/4.
3. Italy 21 faults: Loro Piana Quinta Roo (Lucia Vizzini) 4/4, Lagerfeld (Roberto Arioldi) 8/5, Wivina (Luca Marziani) 0/8, Bonzai van de Warande (Juan Carlos Garcia) 8/0.
4. Canada 31 faults: Southwind VDL (Tiffany Foster) 9/8, Valetto (Courtney Vince) 12/1, Showgirl (Jonathan Asselin) 0/5, La Boom (Lisa Carlsen) 8/24.
5. Poland 33 faults: Bischof L (Andrzej Lemanski) 12/16, Osadkowski van Halen (Piotr Morsztyn) 4/0, Wavantos V Renvillehoeve (Lukasz Wasilewski) 4/12, Newton du Haut Bois (Jan Chrzanowski) 5/8.
6. Russian Federation 45 faults: Littlefoot (Vladimir Beletsky) 4/20, Pimlico (Anna Gromzina) 8/4, Aleqs (Olga Chechina) 20/17, Amarok (Vladimir Tuganov) 4/8.
7. Denmark Retired: Caballero (Emilie Martinsen) 4/12, Quite Quick (Karina Rie Truelsen) 16/17, Damgaardens Extens (Linnea Ericsson) 0/DNS.