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The French are fastest in a four-team jump-off to win the CSIO5* 1.60m Henders and Hazel Nations Cup at Knokke Hippique

Friday, 08 July 2022
CSIO5* Knokke Hippique 2022

Photo © Mackenzie Clark Julien Epaillard posted a triple clear for the winning French team with Caracole de La Roque, to secure the victory. Photo © MacKenzie Clark.


Text © World of Showjumping



In a four-team jump-off, the French were the fastest in today’s CSIO5* 1.60m Henders and Hazel Nations Cup at Knokke Hippique, in Knokke, Belgium. The much-anticipated Nations Cup, the first at this venue, had nine teams at start, and with brilliant performances from horses and riders the spectators were kept on their toes to the very end. 

It was a beautiful day at Knokke Hippique with sun and blue skies, and the Belgians had met up in large numbers to watch their home heroes compete – it’s been five years since the last time Belgium hosted a five-star Nations Cup. 

After the first round of jumping, Sweden, Belgium and France were leading the way on four penalties, followed by USA and the Netherlands on eight. Ireland was sitting 6th on nine penalties, then followed Germany and Brazil on twelve. Italy did not make the cut and had to watch round two from the side-line. 

The Dutch came back strong in round two and with three of their four horse-and-rider combinations jumping clear – Maikel van der Vleuten and Beauville Z (Bustique x Jumpy des Fontaines), Willem Greve and Grandorado TN (Eldorado Vd Zeshoek x Carolus II), as well as Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Dante (Canturano x Phin-Phin) – the team could drop Michael Greeve's four faults, and added nothing to their score – suddenly breathing the French, Belgians and Swedes in the neck as the anchors entered the ring. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. The French won today’s CSIO5* 1.60m Henders and Hazels Nations Cup at Knokke Hippique. Photo © MacKenzie Clark.

For the French, Simon Delestre had improved his score from round one to only have a rail down in round two – like so many others Tinka’s Hero Z (Tinka's Boy x Caretino) had a pole on the last gold oxer down, which caught out several pairs in today’s Nations Cup. When Mathieu Bilot and the big-jumping Quel Filou 13 (Quidam's Rubin x Cascavelle) delivered a clear the second time out, and Julien Epaillard posted the team’s only double clear with Caracole de La Roque (Zandor Z x Kannan*Gfe), it looked very good for Henk Nooren’s men. However, as last to go, Kevin Staut and Scuderia 1918 Viking d’La Rousserie (Quaprice Bois Margot x Apache d'Adriers) could not repeat their clear from round one, and after discharging four of their faults, the team was left on eight penalties – equal with the Dutch. 

All Belgium and Sweden now had to do to end up ahead, was to deliver one more clear. Belgium had seen Olivier Philippaerts’ Le Blue Diamond vt Ruytershof (Plot Blue x Diamant de Semilly) have the back pole on the last oxer down, followed by double clears from Jos Verlooy on Igor (Emerald x Nabab de Reve) and Niels Bruynseels on Delux Van T&L (Toulon x Landetto). Now it was down to their anchor rider Pieter Devos, but unfortunately Claire Z (Clearway x Coronado) splashed into the open water and with poles on the two following oxers falling, the Belgian opted to retire his mare – leaving Belgium on eight faults, tied with the Dutch and the French. 

The Swedes looked strong throughout the competition, with double clears from their Olympic gold medallists Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward (Edward 28 x Feo) as well as Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Indiana (Kashmir Van Schuttershof x Animo's Hallo). But with one down from Petronella Andersson and Halita O (Eldorado Vd Zeshoek x Heartbreaker) in round two, and another unlucky rail for Peder Fredricson and Catch Me Not S (Cardento 933 x Ramiro's Son), the Swedes ended up in a four-team jump-off to decide the podium. 

Photo © Mackenzie Clark. In a four-team jump-off, Julien Epaillard and Caracole de La Roque sealed the deal in favour of the French. Photo © MacKenzie Clark.

Houtzager opened the jump-off for the Dutch, but two rails fell – which left the door open for those to come. As second man out, Julien Epaillard showed why his competitors always fear him against the clock. The speed merchant raced around the shortened track, not once pulling back – stopping the clock at an incredible time of 33.89 seconds. In the pursuit of Epaillard’s time, a rail fell on the Audi upright for Verlooy and Igor, and when Fredricson could not match the time to beat with his 34.62 seconds, Sweden had to settle for second and Belgium for third, while the French could celebrate a Nations Cup victory in Knokke. 

“A few pieces in the puzzle were still missing for us ahead of the selections for the World Championship in Herning,” French Chef d’Equipe Henk Nooren explained about the importance of today’s Nations Cup. 

“We desperately wanted Julien Epaillard to join our team, he has not done many Nations Cups over the last years, but with Caracole de La Roque he really has the horse for it. Luckily, he wanted to join us, direction Paris, and it was just great that he went in and won it for France today!” Nooren said about Epaillard’s triple clear performance. 

“I am very happy with what I saw today, and I hope we can announce our team for the World Championship shortly,” Nooren continued.  

“On behalf of the whole jumping world, I would say that we were all deadly happy to have a five-star Nations Cup back in Belgium – that also has so many strong horse-and-rider combinations at top level. Today we saw top sport under the very best conditions possible, and it was great to have a Nations Cup at this fantastic venue,” Nooren said.

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