The Final of the Central European League at Warsaw in Poland last weekend brought another group of FEI World Cup Jumping 2013/2014 Leagues to a close.
Ales Opatrny from the Czech Republic came out on top at the Polish fixture ahead of Lithuania’s Andrius Petrovas, while Latvia’s Kristaps Neretnieks finished third.
Also completed are the Australian, New Zealand, South African and Caucasian Leagues, some of which began almost a year ago.
Australia and New Zealand
There were 11 competitions in the Australian series which kicked off in Sydney last March with victory for Sharon Slater. Jamie Kermond was runner-up here, and then came out on top at the second leg in Gatton, Queensland in August. With seven results to count, Kermond made sure almost every one of his eight efforts was a good one, consistently finishing at the top-end of the line-up and winning again at Wodonga in Victoria in November.
The Australian League also included legs at Caboolture in August, at Gawler, Adelaide and Melbourne in September, in Sydney again in November and, following Wodonga, at Shepperton and Sale in November before drawing to a close at Sydney in December.
Kermond, who originally hails from Warnambool in Victoria, now lives in Ebenezer, New South Wales, about 70 miles north-west of Sydney, and the 2013 season was a particularly good one for the 28-year-old rider. Apart from his significant success-rate in the FEI World Cup Jumping series, he crowned a great year by winning the Australian Jumping Championship in Werribee in September riding the relatively inexperienced grey stallion Caracas, who was only eight at the time. Emphasising the strength of his team, Kermond was also third on the 12-year-old stallion, Valhalla.
This is a man whose career is on an upward trajectory and, with his Certificate of Capability now secured, he is campaigning on the European circuit with a view to vying for a place on the Australian team for the forthcoming Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy. He has already produced some impressive placings at Dortmund (GER) and Lier (BEL) in recent weeks and has accepted the invitation to compete at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Lyon from 17 to 21 April.
Runner-up in the Australian series was Billy Raymont from Cooran in Queensland. The experienced 34-year-old is no stranger to success in the FEI World Cup Jumping regional series, and is always a close contender. He pinned 32-year-old Tim Clarke into third place on the leaderboard. A total of 58 athletes participated in the Australian League, with 51 of them collecting points.
Two super-talented lady riders, Samantha McIntosh and Katie McVean, battled it out for the New Zealand title at the regional final in Waitemata in January, with McIntosh coming out on top. There were six legs in this region beginning at Hastings last October and moving on to Kihikihi in November and Feilding and Taupo in December. Events at Dannevirke and Waitemata brought the New Zealand League to a close in January.
McIntosh made a big name for herself while competing under the Bulgarian flag during a 13-year stint in Europe. Riding Royal Discovery she represented Bulgaria at the Sydney 2000 Olympic Games and she also lined up at European and World Championship events, but in 2008 she opted to switch back to riding for her native New Zealand. Originally from Waikato, she is now based in Cambridge from where she operates a string of jumping horses and a coaching business.
McVean is a three-time FEI World Cup Jumping New Zealand League champion whose family is steeped in equestrian tradition. Her father, Jeff, was a triple Olympian and her mother, Vicki, competed in Nations Cups. Katie has competed across Europe and the USA and made a huge impact when finishing sixth with Dunstan Delphi at the FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Leipzig, Germany in 2011.
The New Zealand series 2013/2014 Final was staged at Woodhill Sands in Waitemata on 11 and 12 January 2014 and McVean selected Dunstan Kiwi Iron Mark as the horse with whom she would aim to collect her last FEI World Cup points of the season. However just three horse-and-rider combinations jumped clear in the opening round and Kiwi Iron Mark wasn’t one of them. Instead McVean went on to win with the only double-clear of the competition from her other ride, the big chestnut Dunstan Springfield. So while eight came back in round two and she eventually collected 26 points for third place with Kiwi Iron Mark, it was McIntosh, already heading the League table following a great run that included wins at both Feilding and Taupo, who triumphed at the head of the League table when filling runner-up spot with Estina.
McIntosh completed the series with a winning margin of nine points and, as winner of the New Zealand League, was offered the opportunity to compete at this year’s Final in Lyon, but she has declined, as she feels her horses don’t have enough experience just yet. “It is probably just a season too early for them,” she says.
A total of 18 athletes participated in the New Zealand League, with 16 picking up points and the four best results for each rider taken into account.
South Africa and Caucasia
Jeanne Engela won the South African League following a committed campaign that took the 23-year-old rider to all six of the qualifying events. Beginning at Midrand last May, the series moved on to Shongweni in June, Polokwane in August, Dromdraai in October, Port Elizabeth in November and, finally, Capetown in late November. A win at the opening leg got Engela off to the perfect start, but she beat her nearest rival, Shaun Neill, by only single point at the end of the series, while Johan Kachelhoffer finished a close third.
Engela owes all of her success to her exceptional 12-year-old Chanel van de Zeshoek. The Holsteiner mare topped the line-up at the opening leg with the only double-clear of the class, while Nicola Sime and Sunny Park Connoisseur were runners-up ahead of Anne-Marie Esslinger and Alessio in third. Things didn’t go quite so well for Engela at the second leg in Shongweni with an opening round double-error, and it was 32-year-old Kachelhoffer who emerged to take maximum points here with Capital Shiraz ahead of Esslinger, who was second this time with Alessio while Sime and Sunny Park Connoisseur slotted into third. Germany’s Andreas Hollmann designed the courses at this leg for the fifth time, and commented on the improving standard of competition.
Less than a second separated Engela from third-round winners Grant Langley and Sissi van de Helle at Polokwane, while Jonathan Clarke and Rina were third, so Engela was now looking very strong. But Shaun Neill really got into his stride with victory with Clyde Z at Kroomdraai, where Jonathan Clarke and Rina lined up behind him and Liam Stevens and Wanda finished third. Engela was clear in the first round, but 13 faults second time out saw her having to settle for 10th place.
But she bounced back with a third-place finish at Port Elizabeth, where Lorette Knowles-Taylor and Watch Me P reigned supreme ahead of Bronwyn Meredith Short and Fountain of Love, and anything less than her eighth-place finish at the final round in Cape Town would have seen victory snatched by last-round winners Neill and Clyde Z. Neill also slotted Bariton P into second here while Kachelhoffer and Capital Shiraz finished third.
A total of 40 athletes competed in the South African League, with 33 collecting points.
The Caucasian League title went to Azerbaijan’s Jamal Rahimov with Georgia’s Shalva Gachechiladze and Tsotne Tavadze slotting into second and third. Riders collected points at three legs in their region, beginning with Tbilisi (GEO) last May and in Baku (AZE) last July and again in January 2014. They were also entitled to pick up points at the Western European League legs in Stuttgart (GER) in November and Mechelen (BEL) in December, and while Rahimov and fellow-countryman Patrick McEntee attempted to do so, neither succeeded. Instead Rahimov’s victory was achieved through good performances produced at the two events staged in the town in which he was born – Baku in Azerbaijan.
Rahimov didn’t start at the opening event in Tbilisi where Gachechiladze emerged victorious when running rings around the rest of the field with the only clear from his stallion, Saturn. Georgian riders claimed all three of the top places here with Gegi Metonidze filling second spot on Erosi and Tsotne Tavadze lining up third with Omut.
But Rahimov got into his stride when collecting his first FEI World Cup Jumping points for fourth place at the first of the Baku fixtures last July, when fellow-countryman Seyid Musayev came out on top with the German-bred Light Limerick. Rahimov was second here with Platin E, but this was not the horse he had nominated for points. His chosen ride, Woodie, was behind third-placed Aleksandra Lusina from Poland riding Tall Boy.
He transferred points-seeking responsibility to the 16-year-old Platin E for the next leg in January, and the decision paid off with a handsome victory. Only two managed to go clear in the first round of this qualifier and when his nearest rival, Gachechiladze from Georgia, was eliminated it was Rahimov who scooped those all-important maximum points.
Although only 26 years old, Rahimov has already represented his country twice at Olympic Games – at Beijing 2008 partnering Ionesca de Brekka and at London 2012 riding Warrior. He was the first Jumping rider ever to represent Azerbaijan at Olympic level.
His family moved to Istanbul, Turkey when he was three years of age and it was there his riding career began in 1998. Now based in Belgium, he has accepted the invitation to compete at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping 2014 Final in Lyon with his top ride, the aptly-named 11-year-old chestnut stallion, Warrior.
The vast expanse of Central Europe, where equestrian sport has been developing at a very rapid rate in recent years, was once again divided into two regions for the 2013/2014 FEI World Cup Jumping qualifying season. A total of 107 athletes competed in the Northern Sub-league, and 46 in the Southern Sub-league, before the Central European League Final took place in Warsaw last weekend.
The Northern Sub-league consisted of 10 qualifiers, with further opportunities to pick up points at four other fixtures. The action began last May at Vazgaikiemis in Lithuania followed by Moscow (RUS) in June and St Petersburg (RUS) in July. Round four returned to Lithuania again for the leg at Zagare and then it was on to Riga in Latvia, Bratislava and Pezinok in Slovakia and then Tallinn in Estonia where the event took place in October. Leszno and Poznan in Poland played host in November and December. Events at Lipica (SLO) last June, Budapest (HUN) in July, Celje (SLO) in November and Budapest (HUN) again in December also presented points-gaining potential.
Russia’s Vladimir Beletskiy topped the Northern Sub-league, thanks in no small part to wins for the 42-year-old rider on home turf in Moscow and then at Tallinn (EST) along with second place at St Petersburg (RUS). Runner-up in the Northern Sub-league was 31-year-old Tilt Kivisild from Estonia, while 41-year-old Andrius Petrovas from Lithuania finished third.
In the Southern Sub-league riders were eligible to pick up points beginning in Bojouristhe (BUL) last May, at Lipica (SLO) in June, at Budapest (HUN) in July, at Celje (SLO) in November and Budapest (HUN) again in December. Bratislava (SVK) in August, Pezinok (SVK) in September, Tallinn (EST) in October, Leszno (POL) in November and Poznan (POL) in December were also qualifying events.
Turkey’s Omar Karaevli came out on top here by a long margin. Runner-up was 21-year-old Monika Martini from Greece, with Bulgaria’s Angel Niagolov finishing third.
For 26-year-old Karaevli, it was his victory at Leszno in November that ensured a big 35-point advantage at the head of the table at the end of the day. And he did well again at Warsaw last weekend when finishing fifth in the Central European League 2013/2014 Final.
A total of 34 horse-and-rider combinations lined up in the deciding Grand Prix at the Polish fixture last Sunday, with Beletskiy suffering elimination on the experienced Mats Up de Plessis while six others retired. There were only two clear performances in the first round, from Czech Republic’s Als Opatrny and Zandiro and Dutch rider Jody van Gerwen with Acord, while Poland’s Lukasz Appel and Zarco collected only a single time penalty.
The real contenders of course were the regional riders who battled it out over three separate competitions in the lead-up to this final test, and Opatrny’s Grand Prix victory left the result in no doubt on the final afternoon, with Lithuania’s Andrius Petrovas filling second spot on the leaderboard ahead of Latvia’s Kristaps Neretnieks.
All of the top three riders are eligible to compete in Lyon, and to date both Petrovas and Neretnieks have confirmed they will attend.
FEI World Cup Jumping Australian League 2013/2014 - 1, Jamie Kermond (AUS) 121; 2, Billy Raymont (AUS) 95; 3, Tim Clarke (AUS) 92.
FEI World Cup Jumping New Zealand League 2013/2014 – 1, Samantha McIntosh (NZL) 87; 2, Katie McVean (NZL) 78; 3, Susan Hayward (NZL) 67.
FEI World Cup Jumping South Africa League 2013/2014 – 1, Jeanne Engela (RSA) 64; 2, Shaun Neill (RSA) 63; 3, Johan Kachelhoffer (RSA) 59.
FEI World Cup Jumping Caucasian League 2013/2014 -1, Jamal Rahimov (AZE) 20; 2, Shalva Gachechiladze (GEO) 14; 3, Tsotne Tavadze (GEO) 8.
FEI World Cup Jumping Central European League 2013/2014 - 1, Ales Opatrny (CZE) 120; 2, Andrius Petrovas (LTU) 113; 3, Kristaps Neretnieks (LAT) 100.