The Swedish team gave the home crowds value for their ticket money when they won their first Top League leg of the season on home soil in Falsterbo. After two exciting rounds, Sweden went into the jump-off together with Great Britain and France – where in-form Jens Fredricson and his fabulous little Lunatic made his competitors bite the dust in the grass ring surrounded with wildly enthusiastic Swedish fans.
After the first round France was in the lead on a zero penalty score. Jerome Hurel/Ohm De Ponthual, Aymeric De Ponnant/Armitages Boy and anchor rider Penelope Leprevost on Topinambour all rode clear rounds, and made sure that Marc Dilasser’s four faults could be discharged. Then followed Great Britain on a four penalty score, tied together with Switzerland and Sweden.
The track caused enough headaches for the riders. The twelve fence course – build by Christian Wiegand – consisted of twelve fences, and included a triple combination at 8a, b and c with an oxer-vertical-vertical and a combination with a vertical-oxer at 11a and b. Many riders experienced problems in the triple combination that was placed where the ring goes a little downhill, and also on the final line that started with a vertical at fence ten with six strides to the combination followed by another seven or eight strides to the huge final oxer at fence telve.
Ireland – who is at the bottom of the Top League standings – had to struggle today as well. Although they ended third in Aachen, it was back to the bottom today. The team ended with a total of 34 penalties, but could at least smile about the clear from Shane Carey and Ballymore Eustace in the first round and the two clears from Shane Breen and Clement Mc Mahon in the second round. Breen’s Cos I Can really improved in round two, and jumped much better the second time around.
The Netherlands did not have a great day at work either, and ended seventh with 28 penalties. Mathijs van Asten’s ride VDL Groep Credenze Z was a nice addition on the Dutch team though, and had only one fence down in each round. Jeroen Dubbeldam’s ride BMC Quality Time did a good Top League debut and finished on four faults after a first clear round. Belgium had a four fault-day so to speak, and finished sixth – while Germany ended fifth after only one clear round which came from Jörg Naeve on the lovely JK Horsetruck’s Commanchi.
The Swiss team had to see poles down for each of their three riding team members in the second round. Martin Fuchs did not ride, so all of their scores counted and they had to settle for fourth on a total score of sixteen penalties over the two rounds. Christina Liebherr was really unlucky though, as she had the final fence down on L.B. Callas Sitte Z.
Great Britain, Sweden and France managed to hold it together though. The three teams really made sure that the Swedish crowds got to see some exciting sport when they secured a jump-off after all ending on a twelve penalty score. Great Britain’s William Funnel did fantastic for the Brits and rode a second clear on Billy Angelo – one of only three double clears of the day. Robert Smith also managed to ride a clear on Voila after having one down in the first round, while Tina Fletcher had two down after being clear in the first on Ursula XII and these had to count as Alexandra Thornton’s score had to be discharged.
Sweden had a good day at work, and the best day at the office belonged to Jens Fredricson. Jens and his tiny, but brave, partner Lunatic rode their second clear of the day – proving that their Olympic selection has been spot on. The Swedes’ got even more to cheer about, but that was after Malin Baryard-Johnsson had two down on the first-time clear H&M Tornesch and Henrik von Eckermann also experienced two poles falling to the ground. It was Rolf-Göran Bengtsson who made the home audience go even crazier when he went clear on the Guidam-gelding Ninja La Silla – who just jumped better and better the longer he got into the competition.
After another clear from Jeroen Hurel – the third of the day, France looked like they would keep up their form from Aachen. When Aymeric had two down, and Marc three – the two put a tremendous pressure on last-to-go Penelope who had to be clear if France was to win. But unlike in Aachen, Penelope did not produce another clear. Instead she had the oxer at 8a down, and France had to face Great Britain and Sweden in a jump-off.
William Funnel opened the show for the British team. The experienced rider did a controlled, but fast round on 40.75 seconds and it was enough to put the pressure on the rest on the remaining two riders. Jens was not up for losing it for Sweden though, and went in the ring totally sharpened together with Lunatic. Jens raced around the shortened track, and really put everything at stake for the home crowds – crossing the finish line on an amazing time: 37.62 seconds. When Jerome Hurel had the first fence down for France; that was it! The Swedish crowds could not help them self and started an early celebration with the French rider still in the ring – but hey, who could blame them with a home win in Falsterbo?
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