The Italian team swept to a spectacular victory in the opening leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Europe Division 1 League at the Longines Spring Classic of Flanders in Lummen, Belgium today. Only promoted from Division 2 at the end of last season, Hans Horn’s side might have been expected to play it safe on their return to the premier level of the team sport. But instead they came out with all guns blazing to pin the host nation and Great Britain into joint-runner-up spot ahead of France in fourth.
Switzerland and The Netherlands shared fifth place while Sweden slotted into sixth ahead of the Irish, who finished last of the eight competing nations.
It was the perfect result for the Italians who have a renewed sense of purpose, and a master-plan that they hope will take them all the way to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Today they also collected the maximum 100 qualifying points on offer for the Furusiyya 2015 Final.
It looked like the French already had it in the bag at the halfway stage when leading on a zero score, but many of the younger horses appeared to fade a little second time out over Lucien Somer’s 12-fence course. Amongst the five nine-year-olds in action was Kevin Staut’s Ayade de Septon et HDC (Wandor van de Mispelaere x Belle d'Avril du Mazy) who, along with Penelope Leprevost’s 10-year-old Flora de Mariposa (For Pleasure x Powerlight) and Jerome Hurel’s 11-year-old Quartz Rouge (Ultimo van ter Noude x Qredo de Paulstra), made it look quite elementary at their first attempt.
The Longines triple combination at fence seven was influential from the outset, the opening oxer leading to a plank vertical and followed by another oxer. Time and again the middle element fell, and the following 1.60m vertical at fence eight also took its toll as did the double at fence 10.
When the second round got underway the fences at the end of the track hit the floor repeatedly, and the six-stride distance that seemed to come up so effortlessly between the penultimate 1.60m vertical and the final oxer proved more difficult for some to get.
French chances faltered when Leprevost’s mare hit the oxer after the water and the final fence on their second tour of the track. And when Staut also returned with an eight-fault tally the picture changed dramatically. But it was impossible to predict the final outcome until the very end.
The Italians were trailing the leaders with just two time penalties collected by Danielle Augusto Da Rios on For Passion (For Pleasure x Rio Branco) and Piergiorgio Bucci on Casallo Z (Casall x Carthago Z) after Lorenzo de Luca on Erco van't Roosakker (Darco x Kannan) kept a clean sheet first time out, and they were closely followed by the British carrying just four faults at the halfway stage. Belgium, The Netherlands and Sweden were next in line with eight faults apiece while Switzerland carried 12 and the Irish were already well out of it with a first-round total of 21.
The Belgians rallied strongly with clears from Pieter Devos on Dream of India Greenfield (Gem of India x Night and Day) and Niels Bruynseels whose lovely French-bred, Pommeau du Heup (Helios de la Cour II x Thurin), produced one of just two double-clear performances on the day, the other registered by French anchor, Hurel. Only third-line rider, Guy Williams on Titus (Lancelot x Rex Magna) went clear for Britain second time out, and when pathfinder Luca Moneta collected 20 faults with Neptune Brecourt (Cumano x Kayack) it seemed the Italians were about to take a nosedive. But when de Luca left just one on the ground and Da Rios produced a second spectacular round then it was “game on”, because Simone Delestre’s Qlassic Bois Margot (l'Arc de Triomphe x Galoubet A) had three fences down and there was now no way back for the French.
For Italian anchor, Piergiorgio Bucci, it was all to play for as he came into the arena with a fence in hand and his country now carrying six faults while the British and Belgians had rounded up their scores to 12 apiece. Keeping his nerve, and with Casallo Z again giving all the fences plenty of air, Bucci soared home to roars of delight from the Italian bench.
“It’s great to start the new season with a win again!” said Bucci, who was the hero of the victory on home ground at Arezzo that announced his country’s return to centre stage last autumn. The 39-year-old Dutch-based rider wasn’t altogether pleased with himself however. Explaining why he picked up a time fault in the first round today he said, “I wanted my horse see the far side of the skinny vertical at fence four which was very close to the spectators. But the bell suddenly rang, and this is a huge arena here in Lummen. By the time I got to the first fence the clock was already showing two seconds and I knew I was going to have time faults!” he said.
Lorenzo de Luca’s 11-year-old Belgian-bred, Erco van T Roosakker, was also really impressive today. “I’ve only had him since February, he was previously ridden by Daniel Deusser and I’ve only competed him a few times, notably here during the spring tour in April. I can’t believe how well he did today, and I am super happy!” said the 28-year-old athlete.
Daniele Augusto Da Rios described himself as “an outsider” when part of last September’s winning side. The 39-year-old certainly isn’t that anymore. He said modestly today, “I’ve been riding my horse for the last five years and I am over the moon to reach such results. Today is very special, and I am extremely proud and happy” he said.
Chef d’Equipe, Hans Horn, said, “this is a really good start, especially ahead of Rome in three weeks time where we will also be competing for points.” And it all falls nicely into the Italian master-plan which involves careful preparation for this summer’s European Championships with the goal of Olympic qualification, and a fighting chance at the Furusiyya 2015 Final.
1. Italy 6 faults: Neptune Brecourt (Luca Moneta) 4/20, Erco van T Roosakker (Lorenzo de Luca) 0/4, For Passion (Daniele Augusto Da Rios) 1/0, Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 1/0
2. Belgium 12 faults: Dream of India Greenfield (Pieter Devos) 12/0, Pommeau du Heup (Niels Bruynseels) 0/0, H&M Armstrong van de Kapel (Olivier Philippaerts) 4/4, Conrad de Hus (Gregory Wathelet) 4/4.
2. Great Britain 12 faults: Dougie Douglas (Holly Gillott) 0/4, Utmaro d'Ecaussines (Joe Clee) 0/4, Titus (Guy Williams) 4/0, Fandango (William Whitaker) 8/8.
4. France 16 faults: Flora de Mariposa (Penelope Leprevost) 0/8, Ayade de Septon et HDC (Kevin Staut) 0/8, Qlassic Bois Margot (Simon Delestre) 8/12, Quartz Rouge (Jerome Hurel) 0/0.
5. Switzerland 20 faults: Windsor XV (Niklaus Rutschi) 4/4, Aris CMS (Janika Sprunger) 8/8, Admirable (Marie Etter-Pellegrin) 8/0, Clooney 51 (Martin Fuchs) 0/4.
5. Netherlands 20 faults: Emerald (Harrie Smolders) 0/8, GK Quentin (Frank Schuttert) 0/12, Vignet (Johnny Pals) 12/4, Eldorado vd Zeshoek TN (Willem Greve) 8/0.
7. Sweden 28 faults: Udermus (Douglas Lindelow) 4/16, H&M Flip's Little Sparrow (Peder Fredricson) 0/12, Bonzai H (Helena Persson) 4/0, Jordan II (Angelie von Essen) 4/8.
8. Ireland 33 faults: Abbervail van het Dingeshof (Denis Lynch) 8/8, Living the Dream (Cameron Hanley) 9/4, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 4/0, Diaghilev (Billy Twomey) 9/12.
Source: Press release from FEI
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