The Dutch team delivered in the beautiful surroundings in Rome, when they climbed up to take the win in the second leg of the FEI Nations Cup Top League. Belgium was runner-up, after great rounds from what must be two of the best horses in the world; Vigo d’Arsouilles and Cavalor Valentina van’t Heike. Ireland finished third.
After the first round, France was in the lead with two penalties and Belgium followed on five. USA had eight penalties, and both Holland and Great Britain nine. The course was hard enough, and consisted of twelve fences which included a combination at 7a and b with a following line down to the water – as well as a triple combination at 11a, b and c. Only two riders managed to produce double clears; Billy Twomey and Tinka’s Serenade (Tinka’s Boy x African Drum xx) and Philippe Le Jenue and Vigo d’Arsouilles (Nabab de Reve x Fleurie de Manoir). Philipp Weishaupt aboard Monte Bellini (Montender x Ramiro) had just one penalty, and Jos Lansink/Cavalor Valentina van’t Heike (Nabab de Reve x Lys de Darmen) as well as Gerco Schröder/Eurocommerce New Orleans (Colbert x Carthago)had only two penalties each.
The first to go clear in the second round was Ludger Beerbaum, who produced a great round on the Goldfever-daughter Gotha. With Germany on a total of seventeen faults, it was at least something to help. Shane Sweetnam and Amaretto Darco (Darco x Tenor Manciais)had a foot in the water, while Eric van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Utascha SFN (Lux Z x Indoctro) made a big improvement from eight faults in the first round to go clear in the second – it was a lovely round. Nick Skelton and the impressive grey Carlo (Contender x Cascavelle) suffered the same faith as Sweetnam.
Vigo d’Arsouilles is certainly something; the powerful stallion jumped amazing in the second round as well – giving his great rider Le Jeune something to smile about as they left the course. Penelope Leprevost and Mylord Carthago (Carthago x Jalisco B) missed it at the water, while Harrie Smolders rode a fighting round on his Rex Z-mare Regina Z – which is not the easiest horse in the world. Ben Maher had the Longines oxer down on his home-bred Tripple X (Namelus R x Catango Z), while Simon Delestre could not continue his success from the first round when he had two down on his wonderful stallion Couletto (Couleur Rubin x Caletto I).
Philipp Weishaupt on the other hand rode a very nice round on Monte Bellini – which is certainly a rising star for the German rider. Gerco continued his good riding and could cross the finish line with only one time fault after Eurocommerce New Orleans popped around the course – making the fences look a lot smaller than they were. Margie Engel had the first element in the triple combination down on her Indoctro-son Indigo – but this horse carries great hope for the future of the American team.
Judy-Ann Melchior was excellent in the first leg of the Top League in La Baule, and continued her good riding today. Melchior and As Cold As Ice Z (Artos x Carthago) had two down in the second round, but it was nevertheless a nice one. Kevin Staut has not been lucky in the Top League so far, and had another two fences down in the second round on the Argentinus-gelding Banda de Hus – including the first element of the triple combination. Marcus Ehning improved on Plot Blue (Mr. Blue x Pilot) though; the pair had an uncharacteristic 17 faults in round one, but in round two it was only a foot in the water and one time fault that kept them away of a clear round.
Billy Twomey is on brilliant form these days, and delivered his second clear of the day aboard Tinka’s Serenade. Roberts Smith’s Talan (Concorde x Burgraaf) was clear in the first round, but looked tired going into the second one and has a total of 17 faults.
Jeroen Dubbeldam – who rode a beautiful clear in the first round on BMC Van Grunsven Simon (Mr. Blue x Polydox) – didn’t have to ride the second round, as the Dutch team was already secured the win.
Jos Lansink went in to fight for Belgium though, and man did he deliver on Cavalor Valentina van’t Heike. This Nabab de Reve-daughter has scope to burn, and left the fences with an impressive amount of air. The scope takes its toll though, and the pair was left with a single time fault. It was nevertheless good enough to take the second ahead of Ireland, while France fell all the way down to what must feel like a disappointing fourth.
The Danish team finished last, but it should be mentioned that their riding is nothing to be ashamed of – all riders rode well, and Andreas Schou produced a great clear in the first round on Uno’s Safier (Numero Uno x Amor).
Van der Vleuten compared Friday’s win with that of the Dutch team in Rome back in 2004. "Over the years one of the things that has changed in the sport is that the courses are more difficult now. It is not just the height - they are more technical - and the course designer has to find different things to catch the riders. You have to grow with this sport or you get left behind" he pointed out.
Chef d'Equipe, Rob Ehrens, said; "I always try to be optimistic, if you are not optimistic then you can never win and today my team did a great job" he pointed out. "I am looking forward to a good season. Last year was difficult but this year we have enough horses, enough brilliant riders and we have our sights set on the European Championships at Madrid later in the season. Our target is to get as many points as possible during the first three FEI Nations Cup shows, so we are doing well so far!" he added.
For full results click here.
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