It was the Dutch team that took home what is considered the most prestigious Nations Cup in the world on Friday night in Aachen. After amazing performances in round two by Rob Ehren’s fabulous four riders – Marc Houtzager, Leon Thijssen, Harrie Smolders and Gerco Schröder – Holland did just like they did here two years ago and could celebrate a win.
And it was exciting to the very, very bitter end as Belgium as the leading team could take one down from last-to-go Ludo Philippaerts and still take the number one spot – but when the anchor rider had an early fence down there were no margins for error left. As Ludo in an effort to avoid time faults came flying into the last vertical, out went Belgium’s chances of the win – as Challenge V. Begijnakker (Cellano Z x Palestro V. Begijnakker) took it down with him – dramatically leaving Belgium to second. The home team finished third, which maybe was not what they hoped for – the expectations were high for the German team to win on home soil.
The twelve fence track set by Frank Rothenberg in the big and imposing grass ring in Aachen was more than demanding enough. It included a combination consisting of a triple bar to a vertical at 5ab, and a difficult line from an oxer at 6 down to the open water at 7 which was followed by a related distance to a vertical-vertical line at 8 and 9 before the last challenges came including a triple combination at 11abc – which plenty of riders really had to ride to get out of as it got quite long to the final oxer that was the c-element. Faults spread out, but a lot of riders had to see poles fall in the second half of the course when the difficulties kept on coming non-stop. Two riders had serious struggle with the water fence; Gregory Wathelet in the first round and Tina Fletcher in the second – the latter had a really bad fall following the water jump, but luckily she could walk out of the ring on her own.
After the first round Belgium was in the lead after fantastic performances from Nicola Philippaerts on Cortez (Quick Star x Quitto de Baussy), Dirk Demeersman on Bufero van het Panishof (Parco x Polidiktus) and Ludo. All three left the course intact, with a single time penalty for Dirk as the only fault recorded. Poor Gregory Wathelet was not lucky and ended up with 20 faults after lots of problems, but these could be discharged. France followed close behind at seven penalties after both Patrice Delaveau and Eugenie Angot only had a time fault apiece as the two best on the French team, while Germany was third on eight faults with Holland following in fourth on fourteen penalties.
The second round saw mind blowing riding from the Dutch boys. After having two down in the first round, Marc Houtzager delivered an amazing clear on Sterrehof’s Tamino (Numero Uno x Farmer) and then Leon Thijssen followed up with another clear on the cat-like Tyson (Numero Uno x Voltaire). Harrie Smolders had two down and a time penalty on the wonderful stallion Emerald (Diamant de Semilly x Carthago) – who made is Nations Cup debut in Aachen when Maikel van der Vleuten’s Verdi was not fit to compete. This could be discharged though, when Gerco Schröder and the fantastic London (Nabab de Reve x Chin Chin) produced the sole double clear of the day in Aachen – leaving the team with a clear record in round two and a total of fourteen penalties.
The Belgian team came so, so close to the win – but in the end they had to settle for second. They had to battle it out with only three riders though, as Gregory could not ride when Desteny van het Dennehof (Andiamo x Burggraaf) was not totally fit after the first round. When Nicola had two down, the pressure was on for Dirk and Ludo. Dirk delivered though, and Bufero jumped absolutely fantastic under the floodlights in Aachen – and it was a very happy and emotional Dirk that crossed the finish line after just picking up one time penalty over the two extremely demanding rounds. It all came down to Ludo as the last rider to go, but it was not to be for him today and Kurt Gravemeier’s men ended second on seventeen penalties.
The German team was not spot on today, and with Christian Ahlmann and Codex One (Contendro I x Glueckspilz) producing the only clear for the team in the first round – there were simply a case of too many poles down – or in Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum’s case foots in the water – when they faults were all collected for Christian, Daniel Deusser, Meredith and Ludger Beerbaum. Twentyone penalties were still good enough for third though, and some valuable points for Otto Becker’s crew.
This photo has been added to your cart !Your shopping cart »