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Belgium are best in nail biting Mercedes-Benz Nations Cup in Aachen

Thursday, 17 July 2014

The Belgian team celebrating their Nations Cup win in Aachen. Photos by Jenny Abrahamsson.After two rounds that included every ingredient needed for a Nations Cup thriller – with unexpected twists and turns – Belgium stood as winners in Aachen. The Belgian boys – Pieter Devos, Olivier Philippaerts, Jos Verlooy and Gregory Wathelet – were unbeatable, and held everything together in the second round after leaving the first round on a clean sheet tying on top of the score board with Germany.

It was tight up in the top though. The Netherlands were breathing Belgium and Germany in the neck only a single time penalty behind, while the American team followed on eight penalties, Canada on ten, Ireland on eleven while France and Swizerland were last on twelve.

Germany really showed their class in the first round, with all four riders on the team clear: Marcus Ehning on Plot Blue (Mr. Blue x Pilot), Katrin Eckermann on Firth of Lorne (For Pleasure x Stakkato), Daniel Deusser on Cornet D'Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Damiani) and Ludger Beerbaum on Chiara 222 (Contender x Coronado). For Belgium it was only Olivier Philippaerts having faults – he had two rails down towards the end – and the eight penalties were discharged leaving the team on a clean sheet.

Gregory Wathelet and Conrad de Hus were outstanding for Belgium with a double clear round. The track was as expected in Aachen, and for some of the horses two rounds took out a lot – and some ran empty of fuel the second time in the ring. A combination at 5ab followed by a vertical that then led to the open water jump proved to cause a lot of faults, as did the final line with a triple combination consisting of a oxer-vertical-vertical followed by a line to an oxer and then a final skinny white vertical as the final twelfth jump. The most faults occurred in these two parts of the course, and in round two ¾ of the German team had one down in the combination at 5a and b. In the end there were only three double clears, courtesy of Gregory Wathelet on Conrad de Hus (Con Air x Locato), Lucy Davis on Barron (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve) and Yann Candele on Showgirl (Gold De Becourt x Elf III).

Things took an unexpected turn in round two though. After the first round the German team looked nearly untouchable, and it smelled like a home win. But, when first rider Marcus Ehning had a one down in the combination and Belgium's Pieter Devos only recorded a time penalty on Dream of India Greenfield (Gem of India x Night and Day) after a first-round-clear the Belgians tightened the grip. And with another clear from USA's Lucy Davis, things brightened for the Stars and Stripes fans – while Dutch hopes sunk as Jeroen Dubbeldam had two down on Zenith SFN (Rash R x Fuego de Prelet) after a clear first round.

Pieter Devos and Dream of India Greenfield had only a time penalty recorded over the two rounds for Belgium.After one down in the first round, Reed Kessler and Cylana (Skippy II x Darco) returned strong for the US team in round two producing a great clear to make things look even brighter. And with another two down for the Dutch team, as Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P. (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) had the first in the double down and then the vertical at six – the score board saw a lot of changes.

What nobody expected happened next; Katrin Eckermann got off to a good start but coming over the water jump Firth of Lorne could not reach over and as he landed in it he lost his balance - falling bad and hard to the ground with Katrin rocketing off him. It looked terrible, but luckily both left the ring on their feet. And with Olivier Philippaerts and Cabrio van de Heffinck (Cassini I x Calato) having one down in the combination it all of a sudden looked like anything could happen.

And so it did: After the two last fences down in the first round, Lauren Hough and the tiny Ohlala (Orlando x Cardento) returned to ride an incredible clear – leaving the US team on a score of eight as Kent Farrington and Willow (Guidam x Little Rock) could not improve anything for the team with their anchor ride. The pressure was on for those to come, and the temperature rose in an already very warm and sold-out Aachen that had 50.000 visitors today.

Double clear for the US team: Lucy Davis and Barron impressed.Frank Schuttert did not feel the heat though, and stayed cool as ice on the opinionated Winchester HS (Numero Uno x Nimmerdor) – who even was unsure if he wanted to go in to the ring at all – to produce a second clear after having a foot in the water in the first round. It suddenly looked a bit better for Rob Ehrens' men. Things did not go so well for Belgium though, as first-round-clear Jos Verlooy and Domino had to see two poles fall to the ground. But when Daniel Deusser and Cornet D'Amour had the a-element of the combination down, Belgium was in the lead with USA and Germany two penalties behind as the last riders entered the ring – with USA not being able to improve with anchor rider Farrington's round.

The question was now; would Belgium and Germany be able to keep it together? Considering they jumped a clear round without the bridle on in Paris a few weeks ago, nothing really seems to face Gregory Wathelet and Conrad de Hus – and Belgium's super man did not disappoint this time either. A strong performance from this incredible rider gave Belgium that final clear needed and Gregory could raise his arms to the sky as he crossed the finish line to secure the win for Belgium in Aachen.

Gerco Schröder and Glock's London N.O.P. contributed to the Dutch third place with only a single time penalty over the two rounds.For Germany it fell apart though. Ludger Beerbaum could not deliver a second clear, and had the b-element out of the combination down – and with Eckermann's score discharged they were left on twelve faults and had to slot in on fourth behind America in second and the Netherlands in third who climbed up after Gerco Schröder rode with only a time penalty on Glock's London N.O.P. (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin) after a first clear – leaving the Dutch team on a total of ten penalties and with the final podium place.

Click here for full results.

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