Reigning FEI Nations Cup Eventing champions Britain scored a narrow victory over France in the second leg of the 2014 series, which was held for the first time at Ballindenisk in Ireland last weekend.
The French, successful on home ground last month at Fontainebleau, made the long trip across the Channel in the hope of maintaining their lead in the series.
They were welcome visitors at Ballindenisk, where they were enthusiastic about course designer Peter Fell’s galloping course on grass, an interesting contrast to the twisting, forested sandy tracks of Fontainebleau.
France still holds the top position on the leaderboard, by just one point from Britain, but, having led after dressage and jumping at Ballindenisk, they lost the chance to widen the gap when Maxime Livio and Pica D’Or had a cross country refusal at the penultimate fence, a double of banks across the avenue, and incurred several time penalties.
Britain, second after the first two phases, was the only team to have four clear cross country rounds. Izzy Taylor finished in eventual individual runner-up spot on Allercombe Ellie (behind Britain’s Oliver Townend on the Irish Sport Horse Cooley Master Class, who was not on the team) and squad newcomer Rosalind Canter was fifth on Zenshera.
The home team, Ireland, fielded a strong side but their chances of improving on third position evaporated when Sam Watson and Horseware Bushman were eliminated after a fall at fence 6, an open ditch and brush, on the cross country.
But Sarah Ennis finished sixth individually with Sugar Brown Babe, with Joseph Murphy and Electric Cruise in ninth and Camilla Speirs and Portersize Just a Jif in tenth place.
Reflecting on the British win, team manager Philip Surl said: “Today went right to the wire – the last team rider at the second to last fence, which meant we were able to claim the lead at the very last minute.”
“Our dressage scores were pleasing, but the French had the edge. However, Izzy was a total pro – she’s very much a team stalwart – and Ros [Canter] made a very pleasing debut. Lucy [Wiegersma] put up a strong performance and Nicky’s young horse, by far the least inexperienced of the four, was great across country. It was a great start to the season.”
This was the first time an FEI Nations Cup leg had been held at the popular County Cork venue, which is celebrating 40 years of eventing. The third leg in the series takes place on British soil at Houghton Hall on 22-25 May.
In the other classes at Ballindenisk, Ireland’s Elizabeth Power won the CIC2* on the Irish Sport Horse HHS Comporta Beach, with fellow Irish rider Alison Holden taking the CIC1* on Maximus Orielius.
1 Great Britain, 138.4
Izzy Taylor/Allercombe Ellie, 41.5; Rosalind Canter/Zenshera, 45.7; Lucy Wiegersma/Mr Chunky, 51.2 (Nicky Roncoroni/Stonedge 63.4)
2 France, 141.9
Geoffrey Soullez/Madiran Du Liot, 43.0; Pascal Leroy/Minos de Petra, 43.2; Thibaut Vallette Cne/Qing Du Briot Ene HN, 55.7 (Maxime Livio/Pica D’Or, 67.6)
3 Ireland, 155.7
Sarah Ennis/Sugar Brown Babe, 47.5; Joseph Murphy/Electric Cruise, 54.0; Camilla Speirs/Portersize Just A Jiff, 54.2 (Sam Watson/Horseware Bushman, EL Cross Country)
FEI Nations Cup Eventing Leaderboard (after 2 of 9 events)
1 France 20 points
2 Great Britain 19
3 Netherlands 9
4 Ireland 8
5 Italy 7
6 Spain 6
FEI Nations Cup Eventing 2014 calendar
1 Fontainebleau (FRA) 19-23 March
2 Ballindenisk (IRE) 11-14 April
3 Houghton Hall (GBR) 22-25 May
4 Strzegom (POL) 26-29 June
5 Aachen (GER) 15-20 July
6 Malmö (SWE) 1-3 August
7 Montelibretti (ITA) 19-21 September
8 Waregem (BEL) 25-28 September
9 Boekelo (NED) 9-12 October