On a day of ever-changing fortunes for many of the other sides, a crack foursome from the Czech Republic took the lead at the halfway stage and held on to secure a convincing victory in the opening leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup 2015 Europe Division 2 League at Linz in Austria. Zuzana Zelinkova, Emma Augier de Moussac, Ondrej Zvara and Ales Opatrny finished on a final tally of just two faults to leave them well ahead of the runners-up from Ukraine who completed with eight. Team Germany lined up third ahead of Poland in fourth, while the exciting young side from Luxembourg slotted into fifth ahead of Finland in sixth place.
There was great joy in the Czech camp in the aftermath, and a sense that they have really arrived. Success in Europe Division 2 of the Furusiyya series is not entirely new to them as they also came out on top in Budapest, Hungary last season. But today’s result, which earned them the maximum 100 points towards qualification for the Furusiyya 2015 Final, suggests a significant strengthening of their position, backed up by a brilliant performance from their second-line partnership of 23 year old Augier de Moussac and her 10 year old gelding Charly Brown (Diamant de Semilly x Burggraaf), who produced the only double-clear of the competition.
Franz Madl’s 12 fence track was pitched at just the right level, with less-experienced riders gaining valuable experience while the more seasoned campaigners were still well tested. A double - vertical to oxer - preceded the big 4-metre-wide open water which claimed a large number of victims in both rounds and that was followed off a wide right-handed sweeping turn to a 1.60m wall that represented the Austrian national flag and crest.
Meanwhile the end of the course presented plenty of questions, with the penultimate triple combination taking a heavy toll. Augier de Moussac commented afterwards; “It was partly difficult because it was at the end of the track and the time was short. If you over-rode to the triple bar going in, then it was easy to have the vertical down or meet the last oxer on a bad stride” she explained. And talking about the open water she added, “I’m lucky I have such a good jumper because I hate water, I always add a stride going in and Charly was brilliant in both rounds!”
The maximum permitted quota of 13 teams was reduced to eight for the second round, but the real battle was played out between the Ukrainians who carried eight into round two, the Germans, Poles and Hungarians carrying just four faults each and the Czechs out in front on a zero score.
Hungarian chances were dashed by the addition of 28 to see them plummet down the order, and Poland moved on to a 16-fault scoreline despite a last-to-go clear from Marek Lewicki. Jörne Sprehe’s clear with Luna (L’Avian x Leader M), that included a breath-taking leap over the water, ensured Germany only had to add nine to their tally, but three clears from the Ukraine pinned the Germans back to third spot, with Katharina Offel on Quebracho Semilly (Le Tot de Semilly x Eyken des Fontenis), Cassio Rivetti on Forlap (Querlybet Hero x Heartbreaker) and Rene Tebbel on Cooper 75 (Colman x Limbus) never putting a foot wrong.
The Czechs however had it in the bag after third-line rider, Zvara, returned with five faults when his grey stallion, Cento Lano (Cento Lano x Eoghan du Mervaux), hit the oxer at fence six and was a little late through the timers. Zusana Zelinkova and her fabulous and flashy stallion Caleri ll (Calido I x Leonid), whose only mistake first time out was at the wall, returned with just a single time penalty and when Augier de Moussac posted a second clear then Zvara’s error only moved their running total onto an unbeatable six faults. So when Ales Opatrny and Acovaro (Acodetto I x Calvaro) set off it was cosmetic, his single time fault in another brilliant tour of the track negating Zvara’s five and increasing the winning margin by a full six faults.
“We have great team spirit, we support each other a lot” said Augier de Moussac who competed on last year’s winning Czech team at Budapest and at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy with her other top ride, Danthe. “Charly Brown is a new horse for me, my sister broke her wrist last year and he was only jumping up to 1.35m until last summer with her. He’s come a long way in a very short time!” explained the talented French-born rider who has been based with her trainer, Vincent Voorn, in Eindhoven, Holland for the last 18 months.
“I believed we could hold on!” she said, when asked about her team being in the lead at the halfway stage. “Our horses all jumped grand, but it’s only my second time in a Nations Cup and I didn’t know what to expect exactly. My horse stayed very calm in both rounds though.”
And Martin Ohnheiser, who made his debut as Czech Chef d’Equipe today, could hardly believe how things worked out. “I’m absolutely over the moon; what a great feeling!” he said.
Source: Press release from FEI/Text by Louise Parkes
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