Attacking from behind, it was the Irish team that won Friday’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup in St. Gallen. Tied in second after round one, Robert Splaine’s men came back strong for round two where three of the four riders on the team produced clear rounds – securing an important victory and the maximum points available for grabs in this leg of the Europe Division 1.
Following the first round, it was Germany that was in the lead. With only four penalties, Ludger Beerbaum, Janne Friederike Meyer, Marcus Ehning and Hansi Dreher had a rail in hand down to Ireland, USA and Switzerland that all were equal on eight faults ranking second. France were third on twelve penalties, and got company from Sweden after Rolf-Göran Bengtsson was disqualified due to a spur mark making all the other three results count for the team. Belgium was trailing behind on 16 penalties, and Czech Republic found themselves on 20 faults.
The course set by Gerard Lachat stood at 1.60m, and counted twelve fences. The open water came early on as jump no. four and was followed by either seven short or six forward strides to a vertical, and the line called for a careful horse. Many were caught out here, and among its victims in the first round were USA’s Lucy Davis and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy. Later on, a triple combination was set as 7abc with a vertical-oxer-vertical and quite a few had to see a rail on the b-element fall to the ground. The final line however also caused grief, as the penultimate white oxer build with a plank in front fell time and time again – among those who came in trouble here the first time around were home hero Steve Guerdat as well as 2013 European Champion Roger Yves Bost.
Coming into the second round of the competition, it was Sweden’s pathfinder Peder Fredricson that got his team off to the best possible start with a double clear round on H&M All In (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Andiamo Z) – that ended as runners-up in last weekend’s CSIO5* Grand Prix of Rome. It was just what Sweden needed, as they were down to three riders on the team. France’s Cedric Angot also pushed his team forwards with a clear on Saxo de la Cour (Dollar de la Pierre x Jalisco B), as did the following rider Lauren Hough who repeated her first clear round on the tiny rubber ball Ohlala (Orlando x Cardento) for USA. Ireland and Germany got started with four faults each, posted by Denis Lynch and Ludger Beerbaum respectively.
Belgium’s Jos Verlooy posted a superb second clear aboard the impressive Caracas (Casall x Colman), but that would unfortunately never help much as his team eventually ended second last on a total score of 28 faults after struggling in St. Gallen. After four faults in the first round – jumping through one of the oxers – Malin Baryard-Johnsson improved her score the second time in the ring with a clear round on H&M Cue Channa (Cardento x Robin Z), and things were looking a whole lot better for Sweden even without Bengtsson on board. The same went for France, when the rider carrying the discharge score from the first round – Fabrice Dumartin – went clear in the second round on Cannavaro (Con Cento x Quidam de Revel).
USA’s Lucy Davis joined in as well, and posted a fabulous clear on Barron (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve). For the American team, there were no points up for grabs in St. Gallen but the competition was no less important for the US riders as it served as one of the observation events for those on Robert Ridland’s short list for the Olympic Games. Davis was followed by Ireland’s Greg Broderick, who copied his first round to go clear again on MHS Going Global (Quidam Junior x Cavalier Royale) – posting the third double clear of the competition.
For the host nation things were not going as wished for on home soil. Like Bengtsson, Martin Fuchs was disqualified after the first round and the Swiss team was left with only three riders in round two – and when reigning Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat had four faults half-way the prospects did not look all that good. The German chances were also shrinking when their second rider Janne Friederike Meyer had four faults early on aboard Goja (Wandor v.d.Mispelaere x Palestro van de Begijnakker).
As the tension increased, so did the bad weather. Slowly, the rain hit St. Gallen harder and harder – making the performances more difficult for those to come. Out of the riders lined up third, only two managed to produce clear rounds. The first came from Ireland’s Bertram Allen who bounced back strong after a disappointing first round where Molly Malone V (Kannan x Cavalier) had the second part of the triple combination down after coming off the ground a bit too far to be able to reach over only to find it impossible to get out over the final element with her jockey pulling up and then clearing it all on the second attempt. This time around however, there were no hick-ups and Allen and the wonderful grey mare posted one of their trade mark clear rounds to push Ireland upwards and onwards. “Molly was brillIant, she didn’t want to knock a fence today. She slipped when trying to shorten in the combination but I’m delighted with her - it was just one of those things,” Allen said after the competition.
And, when Germany’s maestro Marcus Ehning rode another picture perfect clear on Pret A Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy) – the fourth double clean round of the day – three teams were sitting on eight faults ahead of the entrance of the anchor riders: USA, Ireland and Germany. The heat was on for the final riders, who had to cope with both pressure and pouring rain.
Despite lacking one of their best men, Sweden performed at their very best and when their final rider Helena Persson on Bonzai (Baloubet du Rouet x Caletto II) also posted a clear round Sylve Söderstrand’s team where left on a total of twelve faults. France joined them on an equal score a little later after a fabulous clear from Roger Yves Bost, and there was no margin of error for the teams sitting on eight faults.
The heat was on as USA’s Todd Minikus entered the ring, but unfortunately Babalou (Balou du Rouet x Silvio I) hit the front plank on the penultimate oxer leaving his team on a total of twelve faults too as thunder erupted over St. Gallen.
Ireland’s Cian O’Connor seized the opportunity as last to go for his team. Aboard Good Luck, O’Connor improved his four-fault score from the first round to go clear – putting his team on a total of eight faults and Germany under pressure to produce an error-free round. That was not to be however, as Hansi Dreher had the second fence down on Cool and Easy (Contender x Riverman) – that was clear the first time around – and as he could not improve his team’s score further Hansi wisely withdrew as the heavens had opened offering far from nice conditions for horses and riders. Victory and the maximum of points belonged to the Irish, while no less than four teams – Sweden, France, USA and Germany – shared the second step of the podium at the Swiss event.
"My horse jumped the only double clear here in St Gallen last year," said Irish hero Broderick afterwards. "I don’t go to a lot of five-star shows unless I’m well mounted, I produce a lot of young horses in Ireland because the only way to survive is to sell good young horses and that’s where Lee Kruger, (Canadian owner of MHS Going Global) comes in. I’m very grateful to her for keeping this horse for me, and for Ireland, he’s one of the best horses in the world!”
“A win at St Gallen historically doesn’t come with an easy tag on it. It has always been a top show and a tough show run by great people, but it’s not for the fainthearted. My guys were great and the team spirit is fantastic!” concluded Chef d'Equipe Robert Splaine.
Text © World of Showjumping (Source quotes: FEI press release // Pictures © Katja Stuppia/FEI
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