France has won in a thrilling Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Final showdown in Barcelona, Spain, with Brazil second and Ireland third of the 18 teams who qualified.
And Canada’s Eric Lamaze and Britain’s Scott Brash shared the €200,000 bonus prize after they both went clear in Friday’s First Qualifier and also in Sunday’s Final at the Real Club de Polo.
The French team finished on an eight-fault total to win the Gold medal prize of €500,000. Brazil, which was one time penalty behind on nine, took home €300,000, while Ireland had 12 faults for third place, and collected €200,000.
The faultless run of Aymeric De Ponnat on Armitages Boy proved decisive, as it meant level pegging with the Brazilians. But a single time fault by Alvaro de Miranda meant the South Americans had to settle for the bronze position. De Ponnat was joined on the team by Patrice Delaveau (Orient Express Hdc), Simon Delestre (Qlassic Bois Margot) and Penelope Leprevost (Nayana).
After Ireland in third place followed The Netherlands, Belgium, Canada, Ukraine and Britain. The USA won Saturday’s consolation competition.
It was a surprising result for the British, as the 2012 Olympic and recently-crowned European Champions were expected to present formidable opposition. But things didn’t go their way from the outset, with William Funnell’s Billy Congo withdrawn on Friday morning after picking up an injury and Sunday’s 21-fault total leaving them well out of contention for the main honors.
Jeroen Dubbeldam won the Furusiyya Rider of the Final award. He was selected by a jury consisting of former world number two ranked professional tennis player, Conchita Martínez, and former Grand Prix motorcycle road racer, Àlex Crivillé.
Both judges recognised Dubbeldam’s disappointing retirement during Friday’s First Qualifier, followed by the Dutchman’s impressive clear round in Sunday’s Final aboard his mare, Utascha Sfn – a magnificent turn-around.
On sharing the €200,000 bonus prize, Lamaze said: “It shows how difficult it is, that there were only two people out of 18 nations sharing in that bonus money.”
Powerplay, a nine-year-old Holsteiner gelding (Casall x Limbus) was bought at the end of May, at the same time that team-mate Tiffany Foster’s mount, Verdi III, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Hors La Loi II x Cantus), was acquired by Artisan Farms. Both horses came from Pius Schwizer of Switzerland and have only had a couple of months to form a partnership with their new riders.
“It is really unexpected,” said Lamaze, 45. “Usually, you need time to get to know the horse to be able to compete at this level. To accomplish this is really something special. This was the best of the best.”
He was also more than pleased with Canada’s sixth place overall: “I think to finish sixth in this company without Ian Millar is a very good accomplishment. Sixth place we will gladly take. This was the top of the sport. The course designer is a brilliant man. No horses struggled to the point of injury or losing confidence. It was a World Championship or Olympic-type competition in a beautiful setting.”
Thirty-nine teams from around the world took part in the league, with 18 qualifying for the final.
Winning team-member, Simon Delestre, said “today was fantastic sport, and big congratulations to the course designer!”
Course designer Santiago Varela came in for a lot of praise. “I think throughout the week he did a great job. The horses all jumped well and the best team won and it was a great week of competition!” said Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa. Ireland’s Billy Twomey agreed – “I think he’s done a really good job this week. There were no catastrophes for the lesser nations who are new to this level. None of them had bad scores. He is encouraging them to keep going and keep improving, yet this was a tough course today and there were faults all over the course, but again no crashes or big disasters,” he said.
Team Ireland’s show jumping manager Robert Splaine said afterward it was “a truly fantastic day for Irish show jumping”.
“For Ireland to be on the podium at world championship level is a remarkable achievement, and I’d like to thank the owners, who made it possible, and the riders here today, who did a marvellous job in securing the Bronze medal. I’d also like to say a particular word of thanks to all the riders and all the owners who during the year helped us qualify for the Barcelona final.”
Canadian Chef d’Equipe Mark Laskin was hopeful about the country’s future in international competitions such as this Nations Cup. “In this company, sixth place is still a pretty good result.”
He highlighted that while Canada has a great talent pool of athletes, to win at this level the team requires greater horsepower.
“I hope we have some owners to step up and buy some horses, because we have some fantastic athletes in this country. If we can do that, we can be a big factor in the World Equestrian Games next year.”
Victorious Chef d’Equipe Philippe Guerdat said he initially was against the new Nations Cup concept. “I didn’t agree, and I had plenty of fighting with John Roche (FEI Director of Jumping), but in the end he was more right than me! Not just because we won today, I still think we can change a few small things, but have seen another side of the sport. It was like a World Championship this year, so next year I think it will be like the Olympic Games,” he said.
FEI President Princess Haya attended the final press conference. “I don’t think I need to say anything because the sport spoke for us all today,” she said. “My only job is to say thank you to the French team for giving us this fantastic day of sporting history. And to thank the participants, the public and our friends here in Barcelona. Also to thank Prince Faissal for giving us the chance to revive this competition.”
HRH Prince Faissal Faissal talked about the decision to sponsor the Furusiyya series through the Saudi Equestrian Fund. It all began “with my involvement with the FEI in 1994 when I was a member of the FEI. We were in Florence, and this was the main topic – how to find a way to expand the sport and improve participation in the sport. Since then we have all been talking about it, but Her Royal Highness (Princess Haya) has really enforced it, and all the talk has become a reality. Her Royal Highness is putting her imprint on what is happening,” he said.
He talked about “investing in the nature of the sport” and the “Arab love for this wonderful creature, the horse”. He continued, “this series can expand more, it is good for the industry and we can expand its base”.
• Dutch rider Maikel Van der Vleuten and VDL Eureka won Sunday’s opening class, the La Caixa Trophy, a Table A competition against the clock. He sped home in a time of 53.83, to beat Canadian Yann Candele and Brooklyn Blues on 54.34, and Irish rider Shane Breen with Zamita third on 54.42.
1. France 8 faults: Orient Express HDC (Patrice Delaveau) 4, Armitages Boy (Aymerica de Ponnat) 0, Classic B
ois Margot (Simon Delestre) 4, Nayana (Penelope Leprevost) Ret.
2. Brazil 9 faults: Citizenguard Cadjanine Z (Rodrigo Pessoa) 4, Calavda (Eduardo Menezes) 12, Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) 1, AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno (Alvaro de Miranda Neto) 4.
3. Ireland 12 faults, 234.16: Antello Z (Cameron Hanley) 5, Allstar (Denis Lynch) 4, Balloon (Shane Breen) 4, Tinka’s Serenade (Billy Twomey) 4.
4. Netherlands 12 faults, 235.37: VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 8, Carambole (Willem Greve) 8, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten) 4, Utascha (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 0.
5. Belgium 16 faults: Polinska des Isles (Francois Mathy Jr) 4, Candy (Pieter Devos) 8, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 8, Cortez (Nicola Philippaerts) 4.
6. Canada 17 faults: Showgirl (Jonathan Asselin) 17, Verdi lll (Tiffany Foster) 4, Amer van de Rostal (Mac Cone) 13, Powerplay (Eric Lamaze) 0.
7. Ukraine 20 faults: Vivant (Cassio Rivetti) 8, Carlina (Ulrich Kirchhoff) 4, Nobylis (Oleg Krasyuk) 8, Charlie (Katharina Offel) 8.
8. Great Britain 21 faults: Tripple X (Ben Maher) 12, Viking (Michael Whitaker) 9, Hello Winner (Louise Saywell) 12, Ursula (Scott Brash) 0.