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The Dutch light up the night in Barcelona with victory in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final

Sunday, 01 October 2017
CSIO5* Barcelona 2017

Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping The winning team: Michel Hendrix, Marc Houtzager, Harrie Smolders, Aniek Poels, Jur Vrieling and Rob Ehrens. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

After a tricky start to get the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona underway on Saturday night, the Dutch once again returned to the top of the podium to claim another big title.

With one of the lights in the main arena failing only minutes away from the start, the organizers where kept busy to try fixing the problem while horses and riders were waiting. After nearly two hours of delay and a try on a Plan B – moving the fences to the lighter parts of the ring – all the lights came on and the action could finally get underway. “We are in Spain after all,” Harrie Smolders joked after the class was finished. “The delay did not bother us – we wanted to win, now or later.” And win the Dutch did, but before it was all settled the fully packed stands at the Real Polo Club got to enjoy a full show of top sport.

With the eight best teams in the world at start and 1,250,000 Euro of prize money at stake, Spanish course designer Santiago Varela had set a tricky 1.60m course, which counted 13 obstacles and 16 efforts with a time allowed of 81 seconds.

Werner Muff started strong for the Swiss team, going clear with his only 9-year-old gelding Daimler (Canturano x Lupicor). Pieter Devos on the 13-year-old gelding Espoir (Surcouf de Revel x Laudanum) had two poles down, as did Henrik von Eckermann on the 11-year-old mare Mary Lou (Montendro x Portland L) giving Belgium and Sweden a rocky start.

Jur Vrieling on the 11-year-old stallion VDL Glasgow V. Merelsnest (Nabab de Reve x Darco) rode a picture perfect clear for the Dutch followed by a flawless round from USA’s Lauren Hough on the 13-year-old mare Ohlala (Orlando x Cardento). First to go for the French was Kevin Staut on the 16-year-old gelding Reveur de Hurtebise HDC (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Caprieux Des 6 Censes), having two fences down, while Germany’s Simone Blum on the 10-year-old mare DSP Alice (Askari x Landrebell) picked up one time penalty and Canada’s Yann Candele on the 10-year-old gelding Theodore Manciais (Kashmir van Schutterhof x Power Light) nine penalties – leaving the leader board all shook up after the first rotation of riders.

Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping. The Dutch celebrating their win in Barcelona. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

The second riders made sure things would not unfold too quickly. Switzerland’s Niklaus Rutschi on the 9-year-old gelding Cardano CH (Chameur x Apartigene V. Schlösslihof) had an early pole down at fence number two and trouble at the triple combination at fence number 12, picking eight penalties in total, while Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels on the 11-year-old mare Cas de Liberte (Cracky Z x Chellano Z) stumbled over fence number eight to add four faults to Belgium’s score board.

Douglas Lindelöw on the 12-year-old gelding Zacramento (Cardento x Cortus) gave a glimpse of hope to the Swedes with a brilliant clear round, and when Dutch rider Michel Hendrix on the 11-year-old gelding Baileys (Indoctro x Come On) rode a super round with one single time penalty it started to look good for Rob Ehrens’ men. USA’s Laura Kraut produced yet another steady round with the 10-year-old gelding Confu (Contact Me x Cambridge), only adding four faults to the team’s total while Penelope Leprevost on the 12-year-old stallion Vagabond de la Pomme (Vigo D’Arsouilles x For Pleasure) set the French hopes higher by only picking up one time penalty.

When both Germany’s Laura Klaphake on the 9-year-old mare Catch Me If You Can 21 (Catoki x Acordplus) and Canada’s Tiffany Foster on the 15-year-old stallion Tripple X III (Namelus R x Nissan Catango Z) had to see a pole fall in the penultimate triple combination, only one thing was certain – nothing had yet been decided.

Third in the line-up, Martin Fuchs on 11-year-old gelding Clooney 51 (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo) had a fence down in the double at fence five that followed right after the open water for the Swiss adding another four faults to their score. Jerome Guery on the 11-year-old gelding Grand Cru van de Rozenberg (Malito de Reve x Heartbreaker) rode a clear round, opening the door a tiny bit wider for the Belgians while Evelina Tovek on the 9-year-old gelding Castello (Cristallo x Lifestyle) struggled – making it clear for the Swedes that their anchor would need to deliver.

Marc Houtzager on the 10-year-old gelding Sterrehof’s Calimero (Quidam de Revel x Libero H) also put pressure on the last pair in the ring for the Netherlands, when he had an unfortunate pole down. With Beezie Madden on the 9-year-old Darry Lou (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Nabab de Reve), Olivier Robert on the 13-year-old gelding Eros (Querlybet Hero x Froever), Chris Pratt on the 10-year-old gelding Concorde (Vaillant x Concorde) as well as Andreas Kreuzer on the 10-year-old gelding Calvilot (Calvaro Z x Quilot) all adding penalties to USA, France, Canada and Germany’s respective score board, the Dutch had howver quietly taken the lead with a possibility to finish on a team total of one single penalty. 

Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping. Lap of honour for the Dutch in Barcelona. Photo (c) Nanna Nieminen for World of Showjumping.

As Swiss anchor rider, Steve Guerdat on the 11-year-old mare Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento), saw a pole fall on fence number five leaving his team with a total of eight penalties. Gregory Wathelet on the other hand went clear for Team Belgium on the 11-year-old mare Coree (Cornet Obolensky x Liberty Life), helping them finish on a team total of four faults. Peder Fredricson on the 10-year-old gelding Christian K (Namelus R x Calvados) saved the day for the Swedes with a clear round, and the European team silver medallists ended with a team total of eight penalties and in fifth place overall as the Swiss were a fraction faster finishing fourth.

As Harrie Smolders and the stunning 13-year-old stallion Don VHP Z (Diamant de Semilly x Voltaire) entered the ring, there was a lot of pressure on: Go clear, and give the Dutch the win. Or the alternative, have one down – put the team on five penalties, handing over to Belgium and USA a chance to tie on four faults. The ever so consistent Smolders however delivered once again for the Netherlands, leaving all poles intact and securing the orange team their second victory in the Nations Cup Final.

USA’s anchor rider McLain Ward on the 11-year-old mare HH Azur (Thunder v. Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui v. Zuuthoeve) also went clear, helping his team to finish second with four faults as they were fractions quicker than the Belgians who took the third spot on the podium.

When Roger-Yves Bost (FRA) on the 11-year-old mare Sydney Une Prince (Balubet du Rouet x Alfa D’Elle) retired, Team France ended up with 13 penalties pushing them all the way down to rank seven. A surprising one down from Marcus Ehning on the 14-year-old gelding Pret A Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy) left the Germans with a team total of nine penalties and the sixth spot, while Eric Lamaze on the 12-year-old stallion Coco Bongo (Caretino x Calido) was the last to go and even though his round did little to help improve the Canadian’s team total of 13 penalties he was one of the six double clear pairs of the final that would share an extra bonus of 100,000 Euro.

Dutch Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens – who was showered in champagne at the prize giving ceremony – gave all the credit to his riders: “I only achieve this with my riders, who are really focused on riding Nations Cups – it is an important series to have. I have a very easy job with a team like this,” he told the press.

Jur Vrieling praised his horse VDL Glasgow V. Merelsnest: “First I want to thank the organizers, that they went on with the class even if there was a little delay,” Vrieling said before continuing “Glasgow jumped great, and I am very happy that his owners and breeders were here today.”

Harrie Smolders, who has gone from one major victory to another this year, thanked his team mates and his incredible horse: ”I hope it continues for another 20 years like this,” he laughed. “It was a fantastic effort from the whole team today – we had a great feeling the whole week. I must give all the credit to my horse Don VHP Z. What he has achieved this year is outstanding and I am very happy to be able to ride this horse. He is so consistent, but you have to ride it first – the result is never there before you have done it. He is outstanding.”


Text and pictures © World of Showjumping by Nanna Nieminen

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