On a day full of surprises, the Czech Republic pipped Norway for pole position in the fifth leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Europe Division 2 League at Budapest in Hungary. The 13 teams in the first round were whittled down to just eight by a challenging track designed by Germany's Werner Deeg, and the Norwegians and Czechs slogged it out when going into the second round as joint-leaders.
There was drama right to the end, with big scores for the second-line riders on both sides threatening their chances and only a single fence separating the two teams in the final analysis. And there was great joy in the Czech camp as they celebrated their first-ever Nations Cup victory. "We are so very happy!" said Czech pathfinder Zuzanna Zelinkova whose double-clear with the fabulous stallion Caleri ll was pivotal to the result. "Today was a big and special day for us, it is historic because it is the very first win for a Nations Cup team from Czech Republic and we are all very proud!" she added.
Today was also another great example of the success of this newly-designed series which proved such a winner in it's inaugural 2013 season. Many nations were testing promising newcomers, and once again relatively unknown horse-and-rider combinations rose to the occasion in great style. Another team that demonstrated the unique spirit of determination that epitomises the sport of Nations Cup Jumping was the Slovak side who, lying joint-fifth at the halfway point, stood firm while others around them fell by the wayside and improved to finish fourth behind a good Belgian foursome.
Denmark finished fifth ahead of Germany in sixth, Argentina in seventh and Austria in eighth place.
From the 13 nations, there were seven in the hunt for points towards the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final 2014 in October, but Hungary and Turkey missed their chances when failing to make the cut into the second round along with Italy, Hong Kong and Slovenia. The Turkish team, convincing winners at the previous Europe Division 2 leg in Sopot, Poland last month, were in trouble from the outset when their star partnership of Derin Demirsoy and Harry K opened with 16 faults, and despite a clear from Husnu Dinc (Chellachic Z) they couldn't recover and finished ninth.
Werner Deeg's track was uncompromising, with many fences approached off corners and complete concentration required from start to finish. The Budapest fixture takes place in the Nemzeti Lovarda, the Hungarian National Riding School which is located in the heart of the beautiful city, and some horses seemed distracted by their surroundings, while the intense heat added to the intensity of the occasion.
The first four fences presented little difficulty in the first round but, second time out, the triple-bar at fence three saw the second-line riders for both Czech Republic and Norway both grind to a halt in front of it. It was followed by a wall and then riders took a short left-hand turn to the double at five before running left-handed again to the 3.80m wide open water.
Deeg's questions were all about control, and the next three fences really tested that as riders had to collect their horses after another left-hand bend to tackle the 1.60m vertical at fence seven and then take a sharp right-handed turnback to the oxer at eight and vertical at nine which were complicated by their proximity to the hospitality area and entry-gate as well as by the fact that they were off-set from each other. Continuing right-handed the triple combination was next and this proved highly influential before riders turned right-handed again down the final line of a 1.60m vertical to a big 1.50m-high oxer that had a 1.80m spread.
Czech Republic's Zelinkova described the principle challenges on the track. "Fences 7, 8 and 9 were difficult mainly because, after the water which was really wide, it was difficult to get horses back and then there was a really short turn from the vertical (fence 7) to the oxer (fence 8) which was close to the tribune and the exit - a lot of horses lost their concentration there" she explained.
Her 11-year-old Holsteiner stallion made it all look like a walk in the park however and when last-line Czech rider, Ales Opatrny, also stayed clear with VDL Fakir then only one of the eight faults collected by Ondrej Zvara (Carmen Arcus) and Emma Augier de Moussac (Danthe RDPF) had to be counted at the end of round one.
The Norwegians were also on eight faults at the halfway point, discounting the eight picked up by Margrethe Hartmann (Laeticia) and counting just single errors from both pathfinder Ole Kristoffer Meland (CC Top) and anchorman Dag Ove Kingsroed (Dimaro vd Looise Heide) when Therese Henriksen and the big bay, Alimero van't Roth, were footperfect.
Belgium and Denmark went into round two carrying 12 faults each while Germany and Slovakia carried 16 and Austria and Argentina carried 20. But the real battle for supremacy was played out between the two leading nations, and it was a mighty one.
Zelinkova's second clear boosted Czech chances but that was followed by 17 from Zvara whose stop at fence three was followed by a pole off the double at five and mistakes at both the vertical at nine and the penultimate vertical too. Norway opened round two with a double-error from Meland and when Hartmann then racked up a huge tally of 44 faults on a nightmare tour of the track with Laeticia it seemed their day was done.
However one score always has to be discounted so when Czech Republic's Augier de Moussac double-faulted the window of opportunity seemed to re-open for the Norwegians once more. If Henriksen could stay clear then they would be back on level-pegging with their rivals. She didn't quite manage to do that, leaving the vertical at nine on the floor, but still the pressure was on Opatrny when last to go for the Czech side. If he went clear then victory was in the bag because his side would complete on 16 faults while the Norwegians were already on 20, but the second element of the double at five hit the sand to leave Czech Republic on a final total of 20.
As Norway's Dag Ove Kingsroed returned to the ring as last man to go he knew a clear would force a jump-off, but it wasn't to be when Dimaro vd Looise Heide hit the vertical after the water. It would the Czech Republic's day today.
Zelinkova talked afterwards about her show-stealing ride, Caleri ll. For her today was extraordinary on many levels, as this is a horse she knew as a youngster and who found his way back into her career just a year ago.
"It's a little bit amazing!" said the 30-year-old Czech rider who is based in Bratislavia, Slovakia and whose equestrian career began when she rode a pony at a circus when she was just five years old.
"Calleri came to Slovakia when he was two-and-a-half years old, he was bought at an auction and I rode him as a four and five-year-old, he was in my stables but was sold. Then I was working for another owner and I got him 14 months ago when he was a 10-year-old. We started out again together, first competing in 1.30m classes and immediately we were happy together again - he was fantastic and we jumped in Herning (Denmark) last year in the 3-Star classes. He's so scopey and so calm and quiet - it's just like he is playing when you are riding him around the course - it's just great fun!" she said.
Today's impressive result will not be enough for her country to earn a place at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 Final because Czech Republic has only one further opportunity to collect points when the series visits Zelinkova's home-town of Bratislava next month. But it has been a hugely encouraging experience for the riders and team connections.
"This is our team for the World Equestrian Games, so everyone is very happy with how things went today" Zelinkova said. "Now we can really look forward to Normandy!"
For further information on round 14 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 series at Budapest, Hungary go to website www.csiobudapest.hu or contact Press Officer Nora Zajonskovsky, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com or Tel +36 20 956 3737. The next leg to take place is Round 6 of the Europe Division 1 series at Falsterbo, Sweden on Friday 11 July. For all information on the Swedish fixture go to website www.falsterbohorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Malin Fredriksson, Email firstname.lastname@example.org.
1. Czech Republic 20 faults: Caleri ll (Zuzanna Zelinkova) 0/0, Carmen Arcus (Ondrej Zvara) 8/17, Danthe RDPF (Emma Augier de Moussac) 8/8, VDL Fakir (Ales Opatrny) 0/4.
2. Norway 24 faults: CC Top (Ole Kristoffer) 4/8, Laeticia (Margrethe Hartmann) 8/44, Calimero van't Roth (Therese Henriksen) 0/4, Dimaro vd Looise Heide (Dag Ove Kingsroed) 4/4.
3. Belgium 25 faults: Zirano (Michael van den Bosch) 16/9, Fames van T Poezelhof (Quinten Bradt) 4/16, Green Sleeps Orage (Hendrik Denutte) 0/0, Anthony (Pieter Clemens) 8/4.
4. Slovakia 28 faults: Badarco (Marian Stangl) 12/8, Quinto (Radovan Sillo) 12/0, Pinoccio (Monika Stanglova) 0/4, Cento (Andrej Holly) 4/8.
5. Denmark 32 faults: Solos Consept (Torben Frandsen) 0/4, Never Say Never (Thomas Dresler) 4/12, Chopin van het Moleneind (Thomas Velin) 8/12, Tailermade Chaloubet (Soren Pedersen) 8/4.
6. Germany 36 faults: Fenia van Klapscheut (Marcel Marschall) 4/4, Deauville (Hendrik Dowe) 8/8, Charis (Frederick Troschke) 4/10, Czerny (Gerrit Schepers) 10/8.
7. Argentina 37 faults: Abunola H (Luis Pedro Biraben) 4/4, Winbishi Caloudina (Martin Federico Moschini) 8/8, Remonta Parforce Cooper (Alexis Trosch) 12/5, Cabrera Z (Martin Dopazo) 8/8.
8. Austria 38 faults: Texas 1 (Markus Saurugg) 4/16, Poorboy (Roland Engelbrecht) 8/6, Wodka Lime (Alice Janout) 8/8, Chilli van Dijk NRW (Stefan Eder) 8/4.
Source: Press release from Louise Parkes/FEI.org.
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