It was a great day of sport as round one of the European Championships kicked off in Aachen today, with France’s Penelope Leprevost winning after a flawless performance on Flora de Mariposa (For Pleasure x Powerlight) and host nation Germany taking the lead in the team competition. As usual it was a speed and handiness class that kicked off the championships, and it took a clever tactic to win without taking too much out of the horses ahead of tomorrow’s test - that will demand a lot more of the horses than was the case today.
With faults being converted into additional time over the 1.50 track, it was possible to go fast, take risk and have one down - and still end on the upper part of the result list - and many riders went for this option. Faults spread out over Frank Rothenberger’s thirteen fence course, but many suffered towards the end of it as the speed took it’s toll and the horses became too flat. It was especially the combination at 8ab followed by a Rolex plank at 9, and the combination at 12ab that fell frequently - but there was no major drama apart from when Czech Republic’s Zuzana Zalinkova had to bite the dust after fence nine sliding off to the right side of her horse as she landed. There was one more elimination as well, but that was it.
France’s first lady Leprevost took an early lead on the ten year old chestnut mare Flora de Mariposa as seventh to go. Penelope rides fluent, light and used Flora’s natural fast pace to move forwards - producing a beautiful clear round that saw the clock stop at 67.67 seconds. For somebody that almost ruled out the Europeans for herself and her horse - Flora was out of action at the beginning of the summer and Penelope at one point doubted she would make it to Aachen - it was a very good start to the championships.
A little over twenty horses later, Great Britain’s Ben Maher rode a quick and clear round on Diva II (Kannan x Berlioz) for Great Britain - slotting into second place on 70.78 seconds. As always, Bertram Allen proved to be dangerous against the clock as he ten riders later rode a blistering fast round. Allen’s light riding is a joy to watch, and like Leprevost the 20 year old Irishman has a natural fast horse in Molly Malone V (Kannan x Cavalier) - which definitely was an advantage over today’s track and stopping the clock on 69.79 seconds he took over the runner-up position. It did not last for long though, as home hero Ludger Beerbaum did a very gutsy clear round on Chiara 222 (Contender x Coronado) a few riders later which saw him slotting into second with a time of 69.17 seconds - much to the joy of the German crowds.
Towards the end, a few strong contenders challenged the three on top. Joe Clee came in as number 77 on Utamaro d’Ecaussines (Diamond de Sexily x Quidam de Revel), and jumped an outstanding round - and delivered another clear for Great Britain to slot into third with a time of 69.67 seconds. Another safe card also proved to be worth his anchor position, as Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet did a fabulous performance on the stunner Conrad de Hus (Con Air x Locato) to finish fourth with a time of 69.75 seconds leaving Bertram Allen to the fifth position.
Team wise it was a very good start for the hosts, who must be considered one of the favourites for the medals. All the German horses jumped strong rounds, with Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Fibonacci (For Feeling x Corland) impressing with a clear as first out and then the 15 year old Taloubet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor) looking very fresh as he jumped clean with Christian Ahlmann in the saddle - in addition to Ludger’s spot-on performance. Although Daniel Deusser and Cornet d’Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Damiani) had one down at fence six as last to go for the Germans, it looked like there is a lot more to come from these two the next days and a medal should absolutely be within reach for these four.
Germany finished on a score of 4.40, and close behind after day one is France on 5.70. Although Simon Delestre on Ryan des Hayettes (Hugo Gesmeray x Ryon des Anzex) had one down and Kevin Staut on Reveur de Hurtebise HDC two (Kashmir Van't Schuttershof x Capricieux des Six Censes) - they both had fast times, and when anchor rider Jerome Hurel went clear in a good time at 73.74 on Quartz Rouge (Ultimo van Ter Moude x Qredo de Paulstra) it made the French riders good enough for runner-up position. With three of four riders clear and fast, Great Britain secured the third place after day one on a score of 6.99. Spain lies fourth on 7.58 and the Netherlands fifth on 7.82 - so it is less than a pole down separating the top five teams, keeping it exciting and close ahead of tomorrow’s team competition.
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