It was four proud Irish men who could climb the podium in La Baule Friday evening after two rounds full of surprises. The course built by Frédéric Cottier started off looking quite “easy”. It wasn’t too big and with nice distances and combinations. It included a double at 4a and b, a water jump at number 7 and the last line was a triple combination that started with a big oxer then short to a vertical and short to a vertical again before it was six strides to the last oxer at fence number 12. As the contest went on the course gave several riders, including the best ones, a struggle. The faults spread all over the course but especially the last line turned out to be crucial.
Germany was first to go with quite a strong team at start. Carsten-Otto Nagel went first on his wonderful grey mare Corradina (Corrado I x Sandro). They were a bit unlucky with one fence down as the mare ran off a little towards the combination. Then there was Great Britain’s Nick Skelton and his well jumping Contender-gelding Carlo. They had a great round and ended up as the first clear of the day.
The United States didn’t get the best start as Carlie Jayne and his little mare Athena (Toulon x Capital) had the two first fences down which ended them at eight faults. The next clear came with World Champion from Kentucky, Philippe Le Jeune, and his fantastic Nabab de Reve-stallion Vigo d’Arsouilles. The stallion was back in great shape and proved what a perfect outdoor horse he is as he made the jumps look small and easy.
This years newcomer Denmark had an unfortunate start with twelve faults for Torben Frandsen and Alcamo Vogt (A’kahn Z x Raimond). Then Florida-based Shane Sweetnam had a super round for Ireland with Amaretto Darco (by Darco). The fences stayed in place but they didn’t make the time and ended up with one time fault. The history repeated itself with the next rider. Pénélope Leprevost had a good round but also France had to see one time fault at the score board. Then Vincen Voorn and Audi’ Alpapillon-Armani gave the Dutch team the best start by clocking in a clear round.
The second rider for Germany was Philipp Weishaupt with Catoki (Cambridge x Silvester) who delivered a safe clear round. David Mc Pherson also had a good round with his quite unexperienced horse at this level, Chamberlain Z (Chellano Z x Peter Pan). The two had a little misunderstanding towards the water which made the horse take out one stride and ended up with one foot in the water.
USA kept on struggling a little. Ashlee Bond and Cadett 7 (Cor de la Bryere x Capitol) had three poles down while Dirk Demeersman and Bufero vh Panishof (Parco x Polidictus) ended up with four faults for Belgium. Danish rider Emilie Martinsen didn’t even get to start as her horse Caballero came down with colic earlier in the day.
The winner of last weekend’s Global Champions Tour Billy Twomey had one pole down aboard Romanov (Heartbreaker x Fedor) while Simon Delestre secured a clear round for France with Napoli Du Ry (Baloubet du Rouet x Silvio I). Eric van der Vleuten and Vdl Groep Utascha Sfn (Lux Z x Indoctro) had some difficulties and had two fences down for the Netherlands.
The first one to go of the third riders was Thomas Muhlbauer and Asti Spumante (Argentinus x Landfrieden) who had to add nine faults to the German result. Great Britain got their second clear round with Robert Smith and Talan (Concorde x Flyer) while Margie Engel and Indigo (by Indoctro) had one pole down for the USA. Judy-Ann Melchior and As Cold As Ice Z then delivered a great clear round for Belgium.
Thomas Sandgaard had a good round for Denmark with Rubber Ball but didn’t make the last line and had two poles down. Cian O’Connor and his Irish bred Larkhill Cruiser (Cruising x Dunadry Lady) had a good round but had to se one fence down, while Michel Robert and Kellemoi De Pepita (Voltaire x Pepita du Parc) almost jumped through the top poles at fences 6 and 9. Then Jur Vrieling gave the Netherlands the second clear of the day with his stallion Vdl Bubalu (Baloubet du Rouet x Nimmerdor).
Last rider for Germany was Marcus Ehning and the big lovely mare Noltes Küchengirl (by Lord Z) The two had safe round until the last fence where they had a careless mistake and the pole fell. Britain’s last rider Peter Charles had brought his quite inexperienced stallion Murka’s Nevada (Rosire x Eolienne). The two produced a really good round but had to see the first oxer in the triple combination down and also added a time fault to their total score.
Rich Fellers and Flexible (by Cruising) gave USA their first clear. Jos Lansink and Cavalor Valentina van’t Heike ( Nabab de reve x Lys de Darmen) had their first big show since Kentucky but didn’t get the best start as fence number 2 fell. Then the trouble really started. The chestnut mare is not the easiest ride and at 4a Valentina jumped way too big and Lansink pulled her away from the b-element. He then chose to retire as his result wouldn’t make any difference for the team at this point.
Henrik Gundersen and Bogegaardens Apollo (Accord II x Ronald) then added twelve points to the Danish score while Cameron Hanley secured the first clear for Ireland.
Then there was time for world number one Kevin Staut who gave everyone a big surprise as Silvana de Hus (Donate x Widor)got eliminated at the first fence in the triple combination. Marc Houtzager ended the first round with nine faults for the Netherlands together with his Polydor-stallion Sterrehof’s Opium who looked quite a handful throughout the entire course.
After the first round the Belgium was in the lead on 4 faults, followed by Great Britian (5), Ireland (5), Germany (8), Netherlands (8), France (9), USA (12) and Denmark (33).
For the second round the course was the same but that obviously didn’t make it any easier. As Denmark only had three riders to start, USA went first with a good four-fault-round from Charlie Jayne. Both Pénélope Leprevost and Carsten-Otto Nagel had four faults as well. Vincent Voorn’s horse seemed to have taken out everything he had in the first round and ended up with sixteen faults.
Nick Skelton who went through a big hip-surgery last year, proved that this hasn’t affected his riding abilities. Skelton and Carlo had a good round but unfortunately the horse ran itself a little bit into fence number 5 and the pole fell. Shane Sweetnam also had to see one pole fall and then there was time for some action;
Vigo d'Arsouilles and Philippe Le Jeune had another wonderful round but at fence number 10 the horse either misunderstood the rider or it might have misjudged the fence because of the shadows in front of it. The two seemed to have a perfect stride but the horse suddenly took off one stride too early and jumped through the fence. The judges then made Le Jeune do the fence over again which gave them three time faults to add to their total score which ended up at seven faults.
Torben Frandsen was the first to go of the second riders. After a pole fell in the middle of the course the rider chose to retire. Then there were three riders on four faults; Ashlee Bond, Simon Delestre and Philipp Weishaupt. Eric van der Vleuten used his experience to make up for his bad first round and crossed the finish line with a clean sheet.
David Mc Pherson almost had one foot in the water again but miraculously made it over. Then they made a bad jump over 11a which made the distance too far down to 11b. The horse lost its confidence and wouldn’t jump the b-element at their second shot either and the two were out. Then both Billy Twomey and Dirk Demeersman had another round with four faults each.
Third rider for USA Margie Engel rode a good clear round and sent their team further up the list. Michel Robert had five faults on a surprisingly bad French day. Thomas Muhlbauer had eight faults for Germany and he left it up to Marcus Ehning as the last rider to try and save the German pride so to say.
Jur Vrieling had one fence down for the Netherlands and Robert Smith ended up with the same result for Britain. Cian O’Connor had a perfect clear round with Larkhill Cruiser and Judy-Ann Melchior was then the first one that made a double clear in the most brilliant way. Melchior and As Cold As Ice Z made the course look easy and although they touched the last fence they crossed the finish line on a clean sheet.
There was a lot at stake for several teams with the last riders to go. Rich Fellers could make USA make an even bigger climb up the list but he had one fence down with a well jumping Flexible. Silvana de Hus was not at her usual self today and with two fences down Kevin Staut decided to retire before the triple combination which got them eliminated in the first round. Marcus Ehning finally had everything in place and secured Germany the third place on a total of sixteen faults after a clear round on Noltes Küchengirl. Netherlands who had a good first round wasn’t able to keep it up and with eight faults for Marc Houtzager they ended up at a total of twenty faults which earned them fifth place.
Peter Charles was really unlucky and had the last fence down which pushed Britain down from second to fourth place with a total of 18 faults. Cameron Hanley could have secured Ireland their victory even before the last Belgian rider had entered the ring, but Hanley ended up at sixteen faults and a total of thirteen faults for Ireland.
The pressure was now on former World Champion Jos Lansink and his hot chestnut mare who didn’t even finish the first round. They could afford one pole down but not as much as a time fault more as that would put them behind Ireland. Lansink did a heroic job with his mare and with only the last line left they were still clear. But the two short distances in the triple combination became too short and both 11b and c fell, pushing the Belgium team down to a second place with a total of fifteen faults.
"The course was tough but fair" Ireland's Billy Twomey afterwards. "Cameron's clear in the first round kept us in the shake-up and Cian's second-round clear helped us clinch it, but my horse had just four faults in both rounds and that's not bad for his very first Nations Cup!" he pointed out.
O'Connor was equally delighted with his gelding who won 14 national Grand Prix competitions in Ireland before being sold to the County Meath rider. "Larkhill Cruiser has a heart of gold!" he said. "He's an old-fashioned type of Irish horse and most of his experience has been at no bigger than 1.50m level, but he tries his heart out for you and he showed just what he can do today".
"It's a very proud day for Ireland" Irish Chef d'Equipe Robert Splaine said. "We won today - but we are horse people and we know we can lose tomorrow, so you have to enjoy it when it happens!" His target for the year is to guide his team to Olympic qualification through a good result at the forthcoming FEI European Championships in Madrid in September - "that's our ultimate priority - but today, well today has put us just where we need to be and I'm delighted with the whole team effort. These are great guys, and it’s a pleasure to work with them. They went out today to do a job, and they could hardly have done it better!" he concluded.
1. Ireland (13)
2. Belgium ( 15)
3. Germany (16)
4. Great Britain (18)
5. USA (20)
5. Netherlands (20)
6. France (22)
For full results go here
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