It’s not often that a win for Germany comes as a surprise, but at Friday’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup event in Falsterbo, Sweden, even Otto Becker’s team could hardly believe it when they emerged victorious.
Lying fifth at the halfway stage of a competition that had the packed stadium of enthusiastic spectators sitting on the very edges of their seats from start to finish, the Germans produced a solid seven-fault final scoreline and then sat back and watched all those ahead of them lose their grip.
In the closing stages of the sixth leg of the nations Cup Jumping Europe Division 1 League it seemed to come down to a two-way tussle between the host nation and the Dutch who were amongst the five countries battling for qualifying points. But it fell apart for both of them, and it was all the more painful for the Swedish side when they had to settle for runner-up spot by just a single-fault margin. The Dutch dropped all the way fifth in the final analysis, behind the USA and Spain in joint-third place, while the British slotted into sixth, Switzerland finished seventh and Ukraine lined up eighth and last.
For Spain’s Marco Fuste it was a very satisfactory afternoon. On Thursday the popular Chef d’Equipe said he hoped his side would finish in the top three or, at worst, in fourth place in order to keep them in with a chance of taking one of the seven qualifying spots available to the 10 countries competing in Europe Division 1. Once again the Final will take place on his home turf in Barcelona in October and the hosts don’t want to rely on a wild-card to get there.
This was the Spanish side’s last points-chasing outing of the season, so for them it was down to the wire, but their result saw them pick up 80 valuable qualifying points to move into runner-up spot on the league table behind the leaders from France with just two further legs remaining.
The course was intriguing, Germany’s Christian Wiegand setting a test that was ridden mostly off holding strides while requiring plenty of pace. In the first round it seemed it may have been all too easy, with 14 clear rounds and seven horse-and-rider combinations posting just single time-penalties, but when the top pole was raised by just five centimetres on eight of the obstacles on the 12-fence track in round two, the picture changed dramatically. Just seven returned with a clean sheet this time out, although the USA’s Brianne Goutal and Nice de Prissey, Spain’s Sergio Moya and Zipper and The Netherlands’ Wout-Jan van der Schans with Capetown all posted double-clear performances at the end of the day.
The course reflected the sunny seaside surroundings of Falsterbo, with brightly-coloured fences and plenty of references to the nearby ocean.
It all came down to the last man on both sides, but when Peder Fredricson’s lovely grey, H&M Sibon, hit the first element of the triple combination that brought the Swedish total to eight and when Dutchman Jur Vrieling’s lovely grey, Zirocco Blue VDL, hit both the penultimate oxer and the first element of the final double it was all over. The Netherlands now had to count one of their nine-fault results, so they plummeted all the way down to fifth place.
The Germans weren’t points-chasing, but that didn’t stop Otto Becker from having a big smile on his face. “I am totally happy!” he said afterwards, grateful to the Organising Committee for inviting his country to compete at the Swedish fixture. “We didn’t select Falsterbo as a show for points but are happy to know that we can come again next year, despite beating the Swedish team! We had a young team today with young horses and I never expected to win here. The atmosphere and crowd was amazing, a full house! The class was exciting until the end. I am really happy with the result and proud of the team,” he said.
Meredith Michaels Beerbaum said her team colleagues “showed extra class. We had a hard fight in the second round to make it to first place, so thank you to them for puling through. The course today was very good, in the second round there were a couple of fences that were higher and you could see that, with more faults as a result. It was a great competition overall, very exciting” she said.
She talked about her new horse Fibonacci. “I am delighted to have this horse in my stable, we’ve been together for three months and have come along together incredibly well. This was his first Nations Cup and we saw how beautifully he jumped. He is a really sensitive horse but a delight to ride. He has an incredible ability to jump and a very positive attitude, very cool-headed as well. It was a different ambience for him today with a lot of pressure, but he coped brilliantly. We have high hopes for the future with him and it was a fantastic beginning” she pointed out.
With just two legs of the Europe Division 1 League remaining, the stage is set for another fine battle at Hickstead, Great Britain in three weeks. The host nation will have to pull out all the stops because, along with the Irish, they are lying last on the leaderboard, and the Germans also still have plenty more work to do as they are only one place further ahead. But all still have two more chances to make the cut as the 2014 Final draws closer.
1. Germany 7 faults: Fibonacci (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) 5/4, Conthendrix (Andre Thieme) 1/1, Lacan 2 (Patrick Stuhlmeyer) 0/4, Firth of Lone (Katrin Eckermann) 1/0.
2. Sweden 8 faults: Casello (Douglas Lindelow) 0/8, Cafino (Alexander Zettermann) 0/4, Unita ASK (Rolf-Gorgan Bengtsson) 8/0, H&M Sibon (Peder Fredricson) 0/4.
3. USA 9 faults: Chela LS (Ashlee Bond) 4/4, Bonanza van Paemel (Catherine Pasmore) 1/9, Juvina (Georgina Bloomberg) 0/4, Nice de Prissey (Brianne Goutal) 0/0.
3. Spain 9 faults: Darius 2 (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 24/8, Prunella D’Ariel (Paola Amilbia Puig) 1/4, Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) 0/4, Zipper (Sergio Alvarez Moya) 0/0.
5. Netherlands 13 faults: Capetown (Wout-Jan Van der Schans) 0/0, Emerald (Harrie Smolders) 1/9, Lord Sandro DDH (Bart Bles) 0/4, Zirocco Blue VDL (Jur Vrieling) 0/9.
6. Great Britain 18 faults: Utamaro D’Ecaussines (Joe Clee) 0/4, Wonder Why (Spencer Roe) 4/0, Catwalk IV (Robert Whitaker) 1/9, Murka’s Odie de Frevent (Peter Charles)9/DNS.
7. Switzerland 25 faults: Concetto Son (Steve Guerdat) 12/DNS, Rubina Vlll (Fabio Crotta) 1/4, Windsor XV (Niklaus Rutschi) 8/4, Quidam du Vivier (Pius Schwizer) 8/0.
8. Ukraine 28 faults: Vivant (Cassio Rivetti) 0/4 , Carlina (Oleksandr Onyshchenko) 12/12, Quinlan (Oleg Krasyuk) 4/13, Charlie (Katharina Offel) 0/8.
Standings after Round 6 of Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Europe Division 1 League:
1. France – 345
2. Spain – 282.5
3. Switzerland – 280
4. Netherlands – 250
5. Belgium – 220
5. Sweden – 220
7. Ukraine – 170
8. Germany – 160
9. Ireland – 130
9. Great Britain – 130