The British recorded their first victory in 24 years at St Gallen, Switzerland where the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ was disrupted by appalling weather conditions. However good sport won through, and despite the fact that the second round was bypassed in favour of a four-way jump-off between one representative from each of the leading countries, it was a thrilling contest to the very end.
The initial start-list read like a “who’s who” of the sport, but, as the heavy overnight rain failed to stop, the star-studded German team decided to withdraw even though this was their first nominated event for points-gathering in the 2013 Furusiyya series. And other sides opted for alternative horse-power, notably the Dutch who had sent their full London 2012 Olympic bronze-medal-winning side but who fielded a completely different quartet of horses on the day.
It was a tough challenge from the outset as the remaining seven countries battled it out over the rain-sodden track, but Laura Renwick and the aptly-named Oz de Breve sealed it in style for Great Britain with the quickest run against the clock. Even that was fraught with drama however.
For Swiss course designer, Gerard Lachat, it was a testing day in every sense. He modified his original course by removing the open water at fence six and replacing it with a double, and also by changing the triple combination at fence nine into a double instead. In fact the course included three doubles in total when taking into account the Longines oxer and vertical at fence four. As it turned out, the replacement double at fence six proved the bogey of the day, coming on a bending line from the previous water-tray oxer and asking for a long single stride between its two elements. Of the 28 horse-and-rider combinations in the first round, 13 faulted here and often when they didn’t seem to have quite enough impulsion on take-off, leaving them with a very long stretch to the second element.
Renwick was one of five to complete the course free of faults in the opening round, Swiss pathfinder and first man into the ring, Pius Schwizer, doing likewise with Picsou du Chene along with Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts (Cortez), Italy’s Luca Moneta (Neptune Brecourt) and Ireland’s Cian O’Connor, who borrowed his Olympic individual bronze medal winning ride, Blue Loyd, from new owner, Canada’s Nicola Walker, for the day. And those clears proved pivotal for the Irish, Belgian, Swiss and British teams as they all completed round one with an eight-fault total to share the lead at what should have been the halfway stage.
With 12 points on the board, the Italians and French were next in line. while the Dutch brought up the rear with a 16-fault scoreline.
With the temperature now down to 3 degrees, the rain getting heavier and dark clouds dimming the light even though it was still only late afternoon on what should have been a summery Swiss day, there were discussions between the chefs d’equipe, the Ground Jury and the FEI at the end of the first round which led to a decision to bring the competition to a swift conclusion. All seven of the chefs d’equipe requested that there should be no second round and that one rider from each of the four teams sharing the lead would go into a jump-off to decide the result. And there were still more surprises in store.
Set the Pace
Olympic champion Steve Guerdat was the choice of Swiss Chef d’Equipe, Urs Groenig, and he set the pace with a strong clear from the 12-year-old grey mare, Nasa, who broke the beam in 43.94 seconds to put it up to the rest of them. Next out was Renwick, but when a pole fell at the second element of the Longines double, which was still the fourth fence on the track, it seemed her better time of 43.38 seconds was in vain.
Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet and Desteny van het Dennehof also dropped a pole here in the slower time of 43.70, but by the time last man in, Ireland’s Shane Breen, set off with Balloon on his four-fault run, it was already confirmed that Renwick had been clear. A pole had indeed hit the floor, but as it was a lower one and it didn’t affect the height of the fence. She had clinched it for the British for the first time since 1989 and would stand on the podium alongside Brash Scott (Hello Whisky Mac) and Guy Williams (Titus), who had both fallen victim to the second element of the bogey double at fence six, and Joe Clee (Utamaro D’Ecaussines), who had provided Britain’s first-round discard score of 18.
Renwick said immediately afterwards that she thought the mysterious falling pole may have been dislodged when her horse lost a shoe in the jump-off, and video replay proved her absolutely right. The shoe flicked forward and pushed the lower pole out of its cup, but Oz de Breve never touched the fence.
Proud and Delighted
“I’m very proud of my horse, and delighted for the team” said Renwick, who also claimed the Furusiyya Rider of the Day award. “My horse felt great in the first round, the conditions didn’t seem to bother him in the slightest and he was great second time out too, he just jumped like he normally would,” she said.
Talking about her neat-bodied 11-year-old French gelding she pointed out, “he’s always quick, he has a lot of blood about him”. They enjoyed the biggest success of their career together recently, “when we won the Kings Cup at Madrid 5*, previous to that he won the 3* Grand Prix at Hardelot and we were third in the 5* Grand Prix in Gijon last year.” She said she was happy to jump the course today – “the ground was wet and a bit sloppy but the track was modified enough to be sure it was safe to jump and anyway for us Irish and English riders, we are well used to going on ground like this!”
Based in Essex, England, Renwick spends a lot of time on the road travelling to shows, “but this was my first top league Nations Cup” she said. She is hoping to be selected for further teams later in the year, and after today’s performance, British team manager Rob Hoekstra will surely have been impressed. Oz de Breve seemed unflappable and jumped clean and clear. “He’s a cheeky chappie for sure!” Renwick said of her little horse, “he’s only pocket-sized but he’s really brave and he thinks he’s a really big guy!”
Rob Hoekstra, described today as “ a weird day but a good day – for us it was the right decision to go into a jump-off, which was exciting; we took a chance and came up trumps which is great. We’re stealing a few points away from others, which helps. It was the same for us in Rome last week, where we didn’t have a good result and others took the results, so we’re happy,” he said.
And Olympic champion Steve Guerdat put it in perspective when he said “the first run, I was the last rider so Nasa was struggling to get over the fence; the ground started to give up a little bit and it made it hard. The jump-off was ok as it was only four horses – I think it was the right decision to take – I would have preferred to win but sometimes you have to accept when the others are better!”
FEI Jumping Director, John Roche, said “everything that was done today was done in consultation with the Chef d’Equipes and every decision taken was done with the welfare of the horse in mind”. According to the rules of the series, Germany cannot now qualify for the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Final in Barcelona, Spain in September as the team cannot fulfill the qualification criteria.
With three of the eight legs of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Europe Division 1 series now completed, the leaderboard is currently headed by Switzerland carrying 180 points, with France lying second on 157.67 points and Ireland in third with 150.67.
Only six of the eight teams in Division 1 will make it through to the Final, but there are still five more events to go in this top league, and further opportunities for the remaining countries to collect those all-important points at the four qualifying events selected for this purpose. Under the new format introduced this season, countries in both Europe Division 1 and Europe Division 2 have nominated the specific events at which they will be aiming for points. Details of those events can be found as follows:
Allocation of teams to Division 1 Events Europe – here
Allocation of teams to Division 2 Events Europe – here
The next leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2013 series takes place in Lisbon, Portugal next Friday, June 7th
1. Great Britain 8 faults, 0/43.38 seconds in Jump-Off: Oz de Breve (Laura Renwick) 0/0 43.78, Hello Whisky Mac (Brash Scott) 4, Utamaro D’Ecaussines (Joe Clee) 18, Titus (Guy Williams) 4.
2. Switzerland 8 faults, 0/43.94 seconds in Jump-Off: Picsou du Chene (Pius Schwizer) 0, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 4, Uptown Boy (Janika Sprunger) 9, Nasa (Steve Guerdat) 4/0 43.94.
3. Belgium 8 faults, 4/43.70 in Jump-Off: Desteny van het Dennehof (Gregory Wathelet) 4/4 43.70, Cortez (Nicola Philippaerts) 0, As Cold as ice Z (Judy-Ann Melchior) 8, Challenge v Begijnakker (Ludo Philippaerts) 4.
4. Ireland 8 faults, 4/43.72 seconds in Jump-Off: Blue Loyd (Cian O’Connor) 0, Annestown (Michael Kelly) 4, Ballymore Eustace (Shane Carey) 12, Balloon (Shane Breen) 4/4 43.72.
5. France 12 faults in first round: Topinambour (Penelope Leprevost) 4, Ohm de Ponthual (Jerome Hurel) 4, Myself de Breve (Marie Hecart) 4, Armitages Boy (Aymeric de Ponnat) Ret.
5. Italy 12 faults: Neptune Brecourt (Luca Maria Moneta) 0, Loro Piana Carlino (Lucia Vizzini) 4, Silverstras (Giovanni Consorti) 8, Loro Piana Lagerfeld (Roberto Arioldi) 21.
6. Netherlands 16 faults: Haerthago (Leon Thijssen) 4, Seoul (Gerco Schroder) 4, Sterrehof’s Opium (Marc Houtzager) 8, VDL Emmerton (Jur Vrieling) 12