Belgium came from behind, attacked and beat them all in what turned out to be somewhat a battle in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Europe Division 1 in Rome on Friday. With the 20 year old Constant van Paesschen, the soon-to-be 21 year old Nicola Philippaerts and the 30 year old Niels Bruynseels on the team in addition to the veteran Ludo – Nicola's father – it was a young team that stepped to the top of the podium in Rome. And it was the youngsters that provided the double clears as well with both Constant and Niels producing two clear rounds.
Already after the first round, Belgium was in a good position being tied with Germany in second with only four penalties. Great Britain was in the lead though with three of four riders going clear, and thus on a zero penalty score. In fourth, The Netherlands was breathing the top three teams in the neck having collected five penalties in the first rounds.
It was a big track that waited for the riders at Piazza di Siena – but as usual Uliano Vezzani had built a masterpiece, and although there were plenty of faults they spread well out. Quite a few was caught on the plank following the water or the oxer coming up afterwards on four tight strides or towards the very end in the penultimate combination where quite a few horses ran out of fuel. The final plank also fell to the ground quite a few times.
Despite two clear rounds from Penelope Leprevost on Flora di Mariposa (For Pleasure x Power Light), she could not help France repeat their success from La Baule – and the team eventually ended as number six on 25 penalties with Qatar and Italy behind them. Ukraine was fifth with a total penalty score of 23 after Ference Szentirmai and anchor rider Katharina Offel both were clear the second time around.
The battle was between the top four teams from round one though, but in the end it was Belgium that put up the best fight. It didn't open well though as the poles kept falling for their pathfinder Ludo Philippaerts and Challenge V. Begijnakker (Chellano Z x Palestro V. Begijnakker) putting him on a 24 penalty score in round two. And with The Netherland's Jeroen Dubbeldam going clear the second time around on his Nations Cup debutant Zenith SFN (Rash R x Fuego du Prelet) the pressure was on for Belgium. There was no luck for Daniel Deusser for Germany though – who ended on sixteen penalties and when Ben Maher had one down after a first clear on Cella (Cento x Chin Chin) the door was left slightly more open.
Maikel van der Vleuten did an amazing second clear for the Dutch team on VDL Groep Verdi NOP (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I), tightening the grip on the competition. When Niel Bruynseels – called in on the Belgium team in the last minute – and Pommeau du Heup (Helios de la Cour II x Thurin) went double clear after some impressive jumping it got even more exciting, especially as Marco Kutscher had one down after a first clear round on Liberty Son (Clooney x Lord Z) and Joe Clee recorded seventeen fault for Great Britain that was later discharged.
And Belgium kept on improving; Constant van Paesschen rode yet another great clear on Citizenguard Toscan de Sainte Hermelle (Surcouf de Revel x Bayac de Sainte Hermelle) – proving that he can take any kind of pressure despite his young age to make his team climb upwards. The same did not go for his competitors though as Jur Vrieling had two poles down on VDL Bubalu (Baloubet du Rouet x Nimmerdor ) after a first round with one single time penalty, while Hansi Dreher had one down on Embassy II (Silvio I x Escudo I) and Michael Whitaker had to see two poles fall on Viking (Jacomar x Almox Prints) after a first clear round.
Gerco Schröder almost made it for the Dutch team on Glock's London (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin), and had not the last top plank fell on fence twelve following what was a little bit of a race from Gerco on the last line the win could have been an orange one. With Gerco's four penalties the team had to settle on a total score of nine. Ludger Beerbaum was clear again on Chiara (Contender x Coronado), putting the German team on a total score of twelve. Then followed Belgium's last rider Nicola, and a lot rested on this young man's shoulder. A clear round Belgium would win, one down – still win – two down – behind The Netherlands.
And when Nicola's Forever D Arco Ter Linden (Darco x Tenor Mancias) hit a rail, everybody kept their breath to see if that would be it or if there would be one more. But, Nicola held it together and crossed the finish line on a four penalty score after a first clear round securing the win for Belgium. And when Scott Brash and Hello Sanctos ((Quasimodo vd Molendreef x Nabab de Reve) had an uncharacteristic eight penalties, third place went to Germany behind Belgium and The Netherlands.
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