Belgium has atoned for last year’s last-gasp defeat in the Mercedes-Benz Nations’ Cup at Aachen, finishing on six faults to win from the USA, with The Netherlands third and Canada fourth.
Kurt Gravemeier’s team of Pieter Devos with Dream of India Greenfield, Olivier Philippaerts with Cabrio Van De Heffinck, Jos Verlooy with Domino and Gregory Wathelet with Conrad De Hus only picked up six faults after two rounds over the Frank Rothenberger course.
Wathelet, who jumped clear twice laid the foundation for the team’s success. Gravemeier said he was very pleased with his young team. “I am incredibly proud of the lads and I am delighted. With the World Equestrian Games in mind, we will continue working in a focused manner, but first of all we want to celebrate this victory this evening,” he said.
The US team of Lucy Davis with Barron, who also jumped double clear, Reed Kessler with Cylana, Lauren Hough with Ohlala and Kent Farrington with Willow, finished on eight faults, followed by last year’s winners from the Netherlands on 10 faults.
The German team, who performed brilliantly in the first round – all riders jumped clear, in the second round Marcus Ehning with Plot Blue, Daniel Deusser with Cornet D’amour and Ludger Beerbaum with Chiara, each picked up four faults, which meant a final score of 12 faults. Katrin Eckermann, who competed in a Nations’ Cup for the first time in Aachen, made a mistake at the water ditch, which ended in a catastrophe. Just after landing, the 24-year-old took a fall with Firth Of Lorne. The accident led to the pair being disqualified, but neither were seriously injured.
Nevertheless, it did put an end to the dream of victory for the host nation and trainer Otto Becker. “The most important thing is that Katrin didn’t injure herself,” he said. “We had a fantastic first round. People already started congratulating us, but then we had some bad luck with a lot of unfortunate mistakes,” he added.
Last week in Falsterbo, Sweden, his team managed to move up into first place after a moderate first round. This time it went the other way. “Of course, it would have been much better if we had succeeded in winning in Aachen. But, we didn’t manage to carry it off in the end. We will have to live with that. But overall the overriding impression is that all of the horses jumped well,” Becker saidd. He added “Next year, we will give it another crack.” Germany last won on home ground at the CHIO in 2008.
Candele and 14-year-old Selle Francais mare Showgirl were the stars of the day for Canada, completing both rounds without incurring a single fault.
“It was so exciting to have a chance to compete at Aachen with the Canadian Team,” Candele said.
“It has been impossible to get to Aachen in the past and we have to thank Rolex and Eric (Lamaze) who put it together for us to have a chance to compete at the most prestigious horse show. This exposure gives all of the Canadians great confidence and we should be showing in more major events like this one.”
France finished sixth, and Ireland finished seventh, 11 points ahead of eighth-placed Switzerland. The event was not part of Ireland’s 2014 Furusiyya Nations Cup campaign, and team manager Robert Splaine took the opportunity to field three new combinations at five-star team level – Darragh Kenny with Imothep, Shane Breen on Golden Hawk, and Cameron Hanley with Living The Dream. Denis Lynch was anchorman with All Inclusive NRW.
Splaine said afterwards: “Three new combinations have emerged in recent times and it was great that the chance to compete at Aachen arose as this was a good opportunity for them to show their skills at such a high level of team jumping. It was a very tough course, so much so that the German team could only manage a fourth place on their home ground.
“Darragh Kenny and Imothep came over from the US and delivered two very good rounds on the big stage, while Cameron Hanley had an excellent first round with Living the Dream, picking up just one time fault, and Shane Breen and Golden Hawk had a marked improvement in the second round, with just one fence down and two time faults.”