There were big celebrations when the defending series champions from France clinched victory in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2014 competition on home ground at La Baule on Friday.
With just 99 days to go to the opening of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy it was the perfect result for the country that will play host to the equestrian world in just over three months’ time.
“It is always great to win in front of your home crowd, but this means even more,” said French Chef d’Equipe Philippe Guerdat. “This will help to motivate everyone – the riders, the public and everyone else – when they see that we in France are really strong and really competitive ahead of the WEG. I’m very happy with the way things went today.”
But before they earned their spot on the top step of the prize-winners podium, the French first had to quell a spirited performance from a strong Belgian side that eventually settled for runner-up spot in this second leg of the Europe Division 1 series. Ireland and Great Britain finished joint-third, while the Spanish rallied brilliantly to share fifth with Brazil and The Netherlands. For Switzerland it was complete contrast to their winning effort at Lummen, Belgium two weeks ago when they finished last at the end of a disappointing day.
French course designer Frederic Cottier set out a straight-forward track that jumped well all afternoon. Following the confinement of the winter indoor season, horses are now thriving in the great outdoors and many showed boundless enthusiasm as they took on the 12-fence challenge in the big, open grass arena. One of the most spectacular of all was the 12-year-old Oldenburg stallion Armitages Boy who cruised to a double-clear for Frenchman Aymeric de Ponnat – one of seven double-performances.
French team member Penelope Leprevost talked about the performance of her 11-year-old grey mare, Dame Blanche van Arenberg, who is quite the lady herself. “I’m very happy with my double-clear with her today. I have her one year now and I jumped her for the first time last year here in La Baule. We got her just one week beforehand and we did the smaller classes together. She didn’t have a lot of experience when I got her, but she competed in her first Grand Prix at Hickstead (GBR) and we finished fourth, and then she jumped double-clear in Calgary,” said the rider who has been flying the French flag with great success for some time now.
It was clear today that her “Dame” is not the easiest horse to ride as she pulled hard all the way around the track in both rounds.
Leprevost also talked about how important today’s result was for the French. “It is always important for us to have a good show here in front of our own crowd. It is important also for our country and our team thinking about the WEG,” she said, echoing her team manager’s sentiments.
1. France 4 faults: Dame Blanche van Arenberg (Penelope Leprevost) 0/0, Armitages Boy (Aymeric de Ponnat) 0/0, Quartz Rouge (Jerome Hurel) 4/0, Reveur de Hurtebise HDC (Kevin Staut) 8/DNS.
2. Belgium 8 faults: Polinska des Isles (Francois Mathy Jr) 12/8, Cabrio van de Heffinck (Olivier Philippaerts) 0/0, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 0/8, Sea Coast Forlap (Gregory Wathelet) 0/0.
3. Ireland 12 faults: All Star (Denis Lynch) 0/4, Antello Z (Cameron Hanley) 4/4, Quidam’s Cherie (Cian O’Connor) 4/0, Diaghilev (Billy Twomey) 8/0.
3. Great Britain 12 faults: Urico (Ben Maher) 4/0, Utamaro D’Ecaussines (Joe Clee) 0/4, Unex Chamberlain Z (Tim Gredley) Elim/Elim, Amai (Michael Whitaker) 4/0.
5. Spain 16 faults: Darius 2 (Manuel Saro) 8/4, Notre Star de la Nutria (Paola Amilibia) 8/12, Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot (Eduardo Aznar) 4/0, Carlo (Sergio Moya) 0/0.
5. Brazil 16 faults: Status (Rodrigo Pessoa) 12/0, First Devision (Yuri Mansur Guerios) 4/4, Quintol (Eduardo Menezes) 8/4, Ad Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) 0/0.
5. Netherlands 16 faults: Quinlan (Vincent Voorn) 8/0, Very Nice (Timothy Hendrix) 4/8, Avion (Willem Greve) 12/4, VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 0/0.
8. Switzerland 20 faults: Toulago (Pius Schwizer) 4/4, Pablo de Virion (Jane Richad Philips) 0/4, Concetto Son (Steve Guerdat) 20/4, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 4/4.
Standings in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2014 Europe Division 1 after Round 2:
1. France – 190.00
2. Belgium – 165.00
3. Switzerland – 150.00
4. Spain – 112.50
5. Ireland – 75.00
6. Sweden – 50.00