Germany galloped back into the game when claiming the honours in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ at Rotterdam, The Netherlands . In a tense cliff-hanger that went right down to the wire, it fell to Ludger Beerbaum to clinch it, and the man who has long been the linchpin of the German squad succeeded, but only by the narrowest of margins. His nail-biting last-to-go ride had spectators gripping the edges of their seats, but despite collecting two time penalties his side finished with a single-point advantage over the runners-up from the USA who put up a tremendous fight.
France slotted into third ahead of Great Britain in fourth and Switzerland in fifth. But it was a disappointing day for the host nation as they had to settle for joint-sixth along with Belgium, while the Spanish brought up the rear at the end of a day that just didn’t go their way.
Today’s victory collected 100 points for the German team, but they lie joint-last on the Europe Division 1 league table. So with only two more opportunities to gather those all-important qualifying points towards the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona, Spain in September, today’s winners will be under enormous pressure going into next week’s leg of the series on their home turf at Aachen.
On a Mission
The Germans were on a mission coming to Rotterdam. The team withdrew from the previous Europe Division 1 leg at St Gallen, Switzerland three weeks ago but was permitted to rejoin the series following a decision taken by the FEI Jumping Committee. “For sure we were one-hundred percent focused on today’s Nations Cup” said Beerbaum this evening. “We brought a very strong team because we knew after St Gallen that we needed to win the most points”.
They were already out in front at the halfway stage when counting just single time penalties from both second-line rider Hans-Dieter Dreher (Embassy ll) and anchorman Beerbaum with Chiara. Philipp Weishaupt’s clear with Monte Bellini ensured that pathfinder Christian Ahlmann’s single mistake with Taloubet Z at the vertical first element of the double at fence eight could be discounted.
The clever course was not over-complicated but was big and wide – “more technical than massive” according to Beerbaum afterwards. Course designer, The Netherlands’ Louis Konickx, laid out looping turns, and distances that demanded clear decision-making. It was easy to run up seconds on the clock while getting the fences lined up nicely, and although the triple combination at fence six and the double at eight played a significant role, the poles fell at every obstacle except the vertical at fence two.
The open water, just one from home on the 12-fence track and following on a bending right-hand line after a tricky vertical that claimed a good number of victims, provided its fair share of drama. It was here that America’s Laura Kraut made her only first-round error when her little grey gelding, Cedric, pulled hard left on landing over the vertical. Kraut had to grab him back and chase him down to the water, but they arrived on a long stride and made a splash before finishing without further incident.
The US team was lying second at the halfway point carrying just those four faults after lovely clears from both Lucy Davis (Barron) and Beezie Madden (Cortes C), Lauren Hough’s opening eight-fault effort with Quick Study providing the discard.
And three more teams were also snapping at the leader’s heels as Spain, France and Switzerland each carried just five faults into round two. Belgium was only a little further adrift with seven while Great Britain had 11 on the board as the second round got underway and the Dutch were bringing up the rear with 12. This was a surprising situation for the host nation who, along with the Swiss, Germans and Spanish, had nominated their home event for points-gathering. Each team in Europe Division 1 has nominated four of the eight legs of this series for points-gathering purposes.
Loosen their Grip
A clear second effort from Ahlmann, who continues to top the Longines Rankings, bolstered the German position, but when Dreher’s stallion lowered the oxer at fence three and the first element of the double at eight that seemed to loosen their grip. With less than a fence between the top five teams there was little room for any stumbling now, and while the Spanish fell away when adding 28 faults and the Swiss slipped when posting 17 more, the French and Americans stood their ground. Simon Delestre (Qlassic Bois Margot) and Aymeric de Ponnat (Armitages Boy) produced impressive clears for France while both Davis and Kraut followed suit for the USA. It was no surprise when 20-year-old Davis was presented with the Furusiyya Rider of the Day award. Her double-clear with the nine-year-old For Pleasure gelding, Barron, was little short of perfection and bodes so very well for this pair’s future in the sport.
Kraut’s clear was a little more exciting as Cedric decided that he still wasn’t that keen about taking on the open water, and once again pulled left on landing over the previous fence. But his rider was ready for him this time, and as she gathered him up they arrived on a perfect stride to return with a clean sheet.
By now Weishaupt had registered the second part of his double-clear for the day, so as the competition drew to a close it would all be decided by the last few rounds. Kevin Staut’s mistake with Silvana at the water had to be counted because Roger Yves Bost (Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois) had picked up five faults at his second attempt, and this brought the French final tally to nine. But despite a double-error from Madden this time out, the US only had the additional one time penalty collected by Hough to bring their final total to five. So, as last man into the ring, Beerbaum, headed off for his second tour of the track it was all hanging in the balance. A fence down would bring the German total to six faults and leave them trailing the Americans by a single point. But he could afford a couple of time faults.
“I knew I could have two (time faults), but going to the last fence I suddenly thought I hope I don’t have three, because otherwise we might have to go into a jump-off and who knows what could happen then!” the German rider said afterwards. The Longines timing system showed just two time faults however, giving his side the slimmest of victories.
When asked about how closely his team was chased by the USA today, German Chef d’Equipe, Otto Becker, said “I’m not surprised at all. They’re a really good team and actually one of my favourites. They made it really hard for us to win today!”
Beerbaum said, “scores were very tight in the end. This was really exciting sport and any of the top three teams could have won. That definitely means the course was good”. The German maestro is already looking forward to next week’s event on home turf. “I should be one of the five on the German team at Aachen, and we are going to be under a lot of pressure there”, he pointed out.
Following today’s competition the Europe Division 1 leaderboard continues to be led by the Swiss who, with 250 points to date, have more than a 90-point lead over France in second while the Irish are just seven points further behind in third. Great Britain lies fourth with The Netherlands in fifth while Germany lies equal seventh with Ukraine.
The inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping season has certainly not been short of excitement so far. And when the action resumes on the hallowed ground of the Soers Arena in Aachen next Thursday evening the atmosphere is sure to be nothing short of electric.
1. Germany 4 faults: Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) 4/0, Embassy ll (Hans-Dieter Dreher) 1/9, Monte Bellini (Philipp Weishaupt) 0/0, Chiara (Ludger Beerbaum) 1/2.
2. USA 5 faults: Quick Study (Lauren Hough) 8/1, Barron (Lucy Davis) 0/0, Cedric (Laura Kraut) 4/0, Cortes C (Beezie Madden) 0/8.
3. France 9 faults: Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois (Roger Yves Bost) 4/5, Qlassic Bois Margot (Simon Delestre) 5/0, Armitages Boy (Aymeric de Ponnat) 1/0, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) 0/4.
4. Great Britain 19 faults: Oz de Breve (Laura Renwick) 1/8, Varo M (Daniel Neilson) 9/4, Winner (Louise Saywell) 5/0, Fandango (William Whitaker) 5/4.
5. Switzerland 22 faults: Picsou du Chene (Pius Schwizer) 9/9, Palloubet D’Halong (Janika Sprunger) 0/0, Albfuehren’s Paille (Alexandra Fricker) 4/8, Nino de Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) 1/9.
6. Netherlands 26 faults: VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 1/5, Carambole (Willem Greve) 6/5, Corona HS (Hendrik-Jan Schuttert) 21/5, Winchester HS (Frank Schuttert) 5/4.
6. Belgium 26 faults: Candy (Pieter Devos) 5/9, Calumet (Catherine Van Roosbroeck) 5/9, As Cold as Ice Z (Judy-Ann Melchior) 1/5, Wervel Wind (Jos Lansink) 1/5.
8. Spain 33 faults: Coriana van Klapscheut (Pilar Cordon) 9/17, Qlamp D’Ivraie (Manuel Anon) 1/15, Bonaire (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 4/9, Zipper (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 0/4.
Full result here