It was the US team consisting of Laura Kraut, Kirsten Coe, Lucy Davis and Beezie Madden that secured the win in the 100th Nations Cup of Germany in Mannheim today. The victory did not come easy for the four girls though, as the Americans had to battle it out in a jump-off against Belgium and host nation Germany after two hard rounds over the track build by Christa Jung.
It was a fair course, but with a tough end as the open water waited on the final line followed by an oxer on six forward or seven supporting strides. It was especially the triple combination at 8bc and the following oxer on a curved line that caused trouble, as did the water jump where several horses had faults. In the end only three riders produced double clear rounds; Pieter Devos for Belgium, Paul Estermann for Switzerland and Ludger Beerbaum for Germany. Ireland´s Conor Swail was also clear in the first round, and then with only one time penalty in the second.
And it started so well for Robert Splaine´s men. After the first round they were in the lead following clear rounds from Shane Breen and Swail - and with only one time penalty from Shane Sweetnam they could discharge the score of Kevin Babington. Germany followed close behind on four penalties, and then France, USA, Belgium and Switzerland were on a score of eight.
The Irish team could not keep onto their lead though. With three down for Breen, eighteen faults for Babington and thirteen for Sweetnam it was game over - and Conor Swail`s brilliant last round on Grand Cru V. Vijf Eiken (Contact vd Heffinczk x Heartbreaker) did not help at this point.
It opened well for USA and Belgium though. Laura Kraut, who had one fence down in the first round, did a brilliant clear on Nouvelle (Solitaire x Contango) - while Pieter Devos again produced a fantastic clear round on Dylano (Cento Lano x Athlete Z). The same went for Switzerland that had another clear from Estermann on Castlefield Eclipse (Obos Quality x Furisto). When Christian Ahlmann had one down after a first fantastic clear on his veteran Taoulbet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor), the pressure on the hosts increased.
USA´s second rider Kirsten Coe copied Kraut, and produced a great clear on Baronez (Skippy II x Heartbreaker) and things looked good for the Americans. Unfortunately for Belgium´s Judy-Ann Melchior, the final oxer fell to the ground for her and the wonderful As Cold As Ice Z (Artos Y x Cassini I) - that had jumped an outstanding first clear. Nadja Peter Steiner had to record four faults for Switzerland, and when Germany´s Hans-Dieter Dreher had eight faults on Embassy II (Escudo I x Silvio I) things were shaking up.
After a first clear round, hopes were up for another one from Lucy Davis and Barron (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve) - but the second fence and the b-element in the combination at six fell and eight faults were recorded. Belgium´s Jerome Query made up for his eight faults in the first round though, by going clear in the second on Papillon Z (Perhaps x Cassini I) - that keeps on impressing. Switzerland was out of the game with another eight faults, while Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum put Germany back in contest with a clear round on Fibonacci (For Feeling x Corland) - causing the crowds to go wild.
It was as even as it could be ahead of the anchor riders, and with a clear round from USA´s leading lady Beezie Madden who showed off a class act on Cortes C (Randel Z x Darco) - the pressure was on for Belgium and Germany. There was no room for mistakes.
But with living legends Jos Lansink and Ludger Beerbaum as last to go, nothing was left to coincidence in this very special celebrational Nations Cup. And both champions delivered; Lansink going clear on Ensor de Litrange LXII (Nabab de Reve x Mr Blue) and Ludger on Chiara (Contender x Coronado) - and the stadium exploded. There was a three-team jump-off to come.
Beezie opened up with another amazing clear on Cortes C, with the tightest of turns and a blistering fast end as she raced down to the final over without a second of hesitation. The clock showed 32.72 seconds, and it looked hard to beat. Devos was next for Belgium, and it looked like Dylano´s huge canter would help him to take the lead - but when he crossed the finish line he was behind on 34.14 seconds. It was all down to Ahlmann and Taloubet Z; would he do it for Germany? It looked so good, and Ahlmann was lifted forwards by the crowds but he had to take all the risk to catch Beezie and in his efforts the final oxer fell and the win in the 100th Nations Cup of Germany went to America.
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