Team Ukraine forged an even more impressive lead on the 2016 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Europe Division 2 leaderboard when securing victory for the second time in seven days at Odense (DEN) on Friday. This was a tough competition, with no double-clear performances as Bo Bak Andersen’s track took a real toll. But three fault-free runs helped secure the result for the winning side who finished with more than a fence in hand over the runners-up from The Netherlands.
Spain finished a close third, with Belgium and the host nation tied for fourth place ahead of Finland in sixth and Germany in seventh place.
A total of 13 nations lined out, and seven were chasing points towards the Furusiyya 2016 Final in Barcelona (ESP) in September.
The Ukrainians already looked confident when sharing the lead at the halfway stage with Belgium on a four-fault scoreline. Many of the team-managers were providing relative newcomers to this level of the sport with an opportunity to show what they could do, but Najib Chami’s Ukrainian selection was filled with experience. It was still no walk-in-the-park for the eventual winners, as the Dutch and Spanish piled on the pressure second time out.
Team Austria appeared to be lying in eighth place at the end of the first round, but when anchorman, Christian Romberg, was disqualified after leaving the arena with five faults, then his country’s tally of 28 was way too much to see them make the cut. And when, next in line, the Japanese team decided to withdraw, there was a seven-nation second round in prospect.
Finland’s chances disintegrated with the addition of 24 faults while the Germans also dropped away when putting 25 more on their score-card. The host nation rallied with a nine-fault total second time out, bolstered by a great clear from Linnea Ericsson-Carey and Quidam’s Flower. However the Belgians began to lose their grip on the lead when pathfinders Hendrik Denutte and Antigone Quality added 16 more faults to their first-round total of 24 for another drop score and then Fabienne Daigneux-Lange and the her lovely bright-chestnut stallion Venue D’Fees des Hazalles, who were foot-perfect on their first tour, hit the final oxer as well as picking up a time fault.
The time-allowed of 72 seconds proved problematic in both rounds, but while it didn’t affect the final two Belgians, the fences did - Wilm Vermeir and Gentiane de la Pomme picking up an early four faults at the oxer at fence two before also lowering the penultimate 1.60m vertical which proved particularly influential in the closing stages. And Constant van Paesschen lowered the second element of the troublesome double at fence four and then also the last with Carlow van de Helle so Belgian chances were fading fast.
The Spanish didn’t appear to be faring much better as their second round began with a 13-fault total for Diego Perez Bilbao and Corrada who had only a single time fault at their first effort. And when second-line rider, Armando Trapeze with Macao, posted a 12-fault result it seemed Spain’s day was all but done. However Laura Roquet Puignero rode to the rescue with a brilliant clear from her lovely stallion Sandi Puigroq who belied his youthful nine years of age by carrying his rider with the greatest care and attention to a fabulous clear. And when that was backed up by another zero score from the relative veteran, Manuel Anon Suarez, and Rackel Chavannaise it put them right back in the game with a final team total of 19 faults.
The Dutch, meanwhile, held steady, with Robbert Ehrens and Hisa coming home with just the last element of the Longines triple combination on the floor and Stefanie van der Brink very unlucky to pick up four faults at the open water with Baronescha. The latter were real eyecatchers, the 10-year-old mare showing fabulous technique and giving his fences plenty of air. The Dutch effort was hampered by elimination for Suzanne Tepper in the first round when Django VDL, at eight years of age the youngest horse in the competition, stopped twice at the Longines triple combination. But even though she decided not to return in the second round, Tepper’s side could still rely on World and European team gold medallist Jur Vrieling as anchorman. Riding the very exciting 10-year-old VDL Glasgow vh Merelsnest with which he contributed to last week’s victory at the Europe Division 1 leg at La Baule (FRA), Vrieling looked very likely to maintain the Dutch tally at a 13-fault scoreline, but when the first element of the double hit the ground on an otherwise copybook tour of the track, then it rose to 17.
That left the last man in for Ukraine with more than a fence in hand. But when Cassio Rivetti and Torgal de Virton tipped the vertical at fence three and Ulrich Kirchhoff’s Gabbiano put a foot in the water then Ferenc Szentirmai”s double-fault at the bogey Longines triple combination needed to be cut adrift. There wasn’t a lot of wriggle room for Rene Tebbel and Giljandro van den Bosrand as they set off, last to go, because a fence down and Ukraine would finish one fault ahead of The Netherlands, an additional time fault and they would be on level pegging, and two fences down and it was all over and the Dutch would come out the winners. There was no need to worry however, as Tebbel and the 10-year-old bay were soaring safely home to nail that final Ukrainian total at 12.
“It was very difficult for a 3-star,” Tebbel said of today’s competition, “it was really tough and I was glad the weather held because otherwise it would have been a lot harder - it was nearly a 4 or 5-Star course.” Team Ukraine are feeling pretty optimistic right now. “It’s very important for us to win this Division 2 and it’s looking good at the moment!” he added.
Europe Division 2 continues at Lisbon (POR) next Friday, but for Team Ukraine the next stop is Sopot in Poland in three weeks’ time. “We will have the same team there, but with our Olympic horses as a warm-up for Rio,” explained Cassio Rivetti.
Source: Press release from FEI // Picture © FEI/Ridehesten.com
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