In one of the most exciting battles of the season so far, a determined British team pipped Spain by a single point to win the latest Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping leg at St Gallen in Switzerland on Friday.
The host country sent out a crack side that seemed destined to dominate in the fourth leg of the Europe Division 1 League, but in the final analysis they had to settle for fourth place behind Sweden and just ahead of the Ukrainians who slotted into fifth.
The Belgians, who have been on a roll over the past few weeks, lost their grip in the second round, dropping from third place at the halfway stage to finish sixth, while the defending series champions from France lined up seventh ahead of The Netherlands in eighth place.
From a starting field of eight nations there were five chasing points towards the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2014 Final which will take place in Barcelona, Spain in October. Belgium, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden and Ukraine were all on a points-gathering mission, and the result has promoted the Spanish to fourth place going into the next round at Rotterdam, The Netherlands on 20 June.
Swiss course designer, Gerard Lachat, set them a tough task, with the original time-allowed of 78 seconds increased to 80 seconds after the first three riders had completed the track. With big bold jumping required to clear the wide oxers on good but yielding ground it still remained difficult to make the time, and that proved highly influential as the competition evolved.
In the first round, 21 of the 32 starters collected time faults, but by the halfway stage that was all the British were carrying when they could drop an opening 12-fault result for Daniel Neilson and Varo M. Robert Whitaker jumped a superb clear with Catwalk IV and Guy Williams followed suit with Zaire so only the single time penalty collected by 21-year-old rookie, Spencer Roe with Wonder Why, had to be taken into account.
The British had it in the bag by the time third-line rider, Whitaker, left the arena for the second time. Neilson rallied with an opening clear this time out, so when 21-year-old Roe, who has the FEI European Young Rider Championship in his sights this summer, returned with just one more time fault and Whitaker followed suit they could not be beaten on a finishing score of three faults. Because the Spanish had also added two more time faults to their tally, so would have to finish on a total of four.
The British demonstrated their strength in depth by sending out a relatively untried side and defeating some mighty opposition. Robert Whitaker’s performance was as solid as a rock, one his father, John, would be very proud of because it mirrored so many of his own great moments in the sport. Neilson showed character by recovering from a difficult first round to show what he can really do, and Roe, 21, has the look of a future star.
“It was my first senior Nations Cup and to be part of this team, with riders like Rob (Whitaker) and Guy (Williams) and to share the experience with them, and learn from them, was something special!” Roe said.
He has had his horse, Wonder Why, since the gelding was a 5-year-old, “and now he’s 11, we know each other very well. He’s done everything for me including three European Championships – two in Junior and two Young Riders – and I’ll be taking him to my last Young Riders Championship in Arezzo this summer. I hope we can do well there.”
Roe has worked his way up in the sport in Britain, first under the stewardship of Andrew Saywell for two years and then with British senior team member Will Funnell for another two years. “I’m running my own yard since about a year ago,” said the rider from Lincolnshire in England. Asked about his ambitions for the remainder of this year, he said: “I’m hoping to get another shot at a senior Nations Cup because that would give me great confidence going to the (Young Rider) Europeans in Arezzo!”
1. Great Britain 3 faults: Varo M (Daniel Neilson) 12/0, Wonder Why (Spencer Roe) 1/1, Catwalk IV (Robert Whitaker) 0/1, Zaire (Guy Williams) 0/9.
2. Spain 4 faults: Darius (Manuel Fernandez Saro) 1/1, Prunella D’Ariel (Paola Amilibia) 6/5, Rico Revel (Eduardo Alvarez Aznar) 1/1, Zipper (Sergio Moya) 0/0.
3. Sweden 10 faults: Casello (Douglas Lindelow) 4/4, Titan (Emma Emanuelsson) 5/1, Caral (Niklas Jonsson) 10/0, H&M Sibon (Peder Fredricson) 0/0.
4. Switzerland 14 faults: Toulago (Pius Schwizer) 4/0, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) 5/8, Pablo de Virton (Jane Richard Philips) 8/0, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) 1/4.
5. Ukraine 16 faults: Vivant (Cassio Rivetti) 5/0, Charlie (Katharina Offel) 1/0, Chadino (Ferenc Szentirmai) 1/9, K Club Lady (Oleg Krasyuk) 8/9.
6. Belgium 19 faults: Loro Piana Once de Kreisker (Philippe Le Jeune) 1/9, Cabrio van de Heffinck (Olivier Philippaerts) 1/4, Domino (Jos Verlooy) 5/5, Cortez (Nicola Philippaerts) 4/4.
7. France 20 faults: Reveur de Hurtebise HDC (Kevin Staut) 8/0, Padock du Plessie HN (Timothee Anciaume) 4/0, Carlitto Van-T Zorgvliet (Anne Sophie Godart) 16/24, Qarat de la Loge (Julien Epaillard) 4/4.
8. Netherlands 31 faults: Vignet (Johnn Pals) 1/4, Alex (Maureen Bonder) 9/1, Dynamite V Hazelarenhoekje (Jody Van Gerwen) 11/5, Interline H (Robert Vos) 17/8.
Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2014 Europe Division 1 standing after Round 4:
1. France – 245.00
2. Switzerland – 220.00
2. Belgium – 220.00
4. Spain – 202.50
5. Sweden – 130.00
6. Ukraine – 120.00
7. Netherlands – 90.00
8. Germany – 80.00
9. Ireland – 75.00
10. Great Britain – 70.00