Belgium Take Finals of The FEI Nations Cup in a Tense Competition
The show jumping finals of the FEI Nations Cup was staged at Barcelona in Spain with fourteen teams competing for the prestigious title and generous prize money available. It ended being a close contest for the top three places. There were fourteen nations with teams to qualify for these finals.
In the first of three rounds, Santiago Varela from Spain set a course of 540 meters requiring seventeen jumping efforts in a time allowed of 81 seconds. There were two water jumps as well as the usual double and treble for each combination to negotiate. As with all Nations Cup rounds, there were four riders to each team and the scores of the three best riders of each team added together – the worst round of the team was the discard score. The teams were mostly from Europe, but Canada, Brazil, Argentina and Mexico also qualified for the finals in earlier
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rounds. No team for the United States which was rather a surprise? France took the lead by winning the first round as they were the only team to get all their four riders round the course with no faults whatsoever. The discard score for the French was Julien Epaillard, and only because he was the slowest round of the French riders. The others in the team were Simon Delestre, Gregory Cottard and Kevin Staut. The second team after round one was from Ireland with just 4 faults. The discard score with 8 faults was Mark McAuley. Other members of the team were Andrew Bourne, the 4 faulter and Trevor Breen and Jack Ryan, both who went clear. Finally, claiming their place on the podium at this stage were the team from Spain. They ended the round with 5 faults. Their first team member to go was Manuel Ferdandez-Saro who collected just one time fault. The next two for Spain had jumps down, Alberto Marquez Galobardes with 12 faults who was the discard score and Mariano Matinez-Bastida who had one pole down. The final Spanish rider went clear – Eduardo Alvarez Aznar. The Belgian Team came next, also with just 5 faults, but as they were slower all told than the Spanish team, they held 4th place on the leader board.
For the second round, the course was changed with the treble at fence 5 and the double at fence 12, making a course of 16 jumping efforts with one water jump less than round one. The top height and spread was 1.60m and there was a time allowed of 85 seconds.. Following the first round, of fourteen nations, the worst performing team, Canada, was eliminated from the finals. This was the competition for the next worst performers in round one, the bottom five after the elimination – The Challenge Cup. The rules regarding the team numbers and the discard scores was the same as the first round. The winners of the Challenge Cup was Mexico, who co-incidentally, were the first team to go in each round. They finished the one round competition with a total of just 1 fault. The discard score was from Andres Azcarraga who knocked one fence down and collected 2 for time. Nicolas Pizzaro got just 1 time fault and both Fernando Martinez-Sommer and Manuel Gonzalez- Dufraine went clear. The second on the podium for this Challenge Cup was the all-female team from Sweden. Evelina Tovek was the discard score, she had five fences down. Both Stephanie Holmen and Linda Heed went clear leaving the Swedish final score of 4 faults after their final rider Wilma Hellstrom had one down. Finally, the podium was filled with the team from Brazil. They finished with 7 faults, just ahead of Argentina who ended with 8 faults. Only Marlon Modolo Zanotelli went clear for the Brazilian team. Jose Mesquita Musa got 7 faults which was the discard score and the other two riders collectively got 7 faults. Norway, the final of the five teams in this Challenge Cup ended with a total of 10 faults.
The final for the Nations Cup had the final eight top teams. The course set by Santiago Varela of Spain was the same as the Challenge Cup course. In the final analysis, what happened to Ireland, who were so well up with the leaders, was a mystery as they ended the day last with 20 faults after the discard score. The first team to go in each round of the four riders was Great Britain with Ellen Whitaker taking the stage. She left with 4 faults. All the team members collected more faults and the team ended in 5th place with a total of 16 faults. Both Spain and Germany also ended with a total 16 faults but in a slower time than Great Britain when all the rider’s times were added together. The Netherlands finished with a final score of 8 faults, leaving them just off the podium in fourth place. Only their final rider, Harrie Smolders went clear with Maikel Van der Vleuten and Jur Vreiling getting 4 faults each and the discard score of 8 faults was with Marc Houtzanger. The Bronze medal went to Switzerland with a final score of just 4 faults. Both Edouard Schmitz and Steve Guerdat went clear for the team with Martin Fuchs collecting 4 faults as did Pius Schweizer who was the discard score as he was the slowest of the quartet. The silver medal was won by the team from France, who had been at the top of the leader board after the first round. They ended with 4 faults as well but in a total time of 241.32 seconds. The Swiss team went round for all their riders in 244,00 seconds. Both Kevin Staut and Simon Delestre went clear and Gregory Cottard and Julien Epaillard collected 4 faults each with the latter’s score as the discard.
The winners Belgium must have been on tenterhooks as they were third last to go in the round of teams. Although Koen Vereecke riding Kasanova de la Pomme went clear; their second rider got 4 faults, Gregory Wathelet riding Iron Man van de Paddenborre. The third Belgian rider, Gilles Thomas riding Calleryama also went clear. Therefore, to keep Belgium as the winners with no faults after the discard score, and with no chance of a jump off with France to decide the winner, Jerome Guery riding Quel Homme de Hus would have to go clear. He could afford a couple of time faults, but that was it. In the event, he went clear giving the Belgians a clear Gold Medal finishing with a clean sheet and no faults. The win here automatically gives Belgium qualification for the Olympic Games in Pairs in 2024.
The winners earned over 400,000 euros for their victory with the second earning just over 250,000 euros and third collected 167,000 euros. All the finalists did get prize money for qualifying for these finals down to 50,000 euros.
The editor Bernard Simpson has been involved with horses and the industry for over 40 years. Together with his wife, he bred many flat racehorses including some which were Royal Ascot winners. He is also experienced in equine media using video, photography and journalism. Bernard currently lives in Wiltshire. He and guest authors now present this blog and hope you like our articles.
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