Italy won a tough opening contest for the opening leg of the 2012 FEI Nations Cup Promotional League in Lummen, Belgium, on Friday.
Fourteen nations started and nine went through to the second round, with Belgium and Canada sharing the lead carrying just four faults each at the halfway stage, while Italy, Germany, Mexico, Spain and Switzerland carried eight and Denmark carried 14. But as the leaders faltered, the Italians stood firm, and it was second-round clears from Juan Carlos Garcia (Bonzai van de Warande), Francesca Capponi (Stallone) and Natale Chiaudani (Almero 12) that clinched it for Stefano Scaccabarozzi’s side that also included Luca Marziani (Wivina).
Twin brothers Nicola (Carlos VHPZ) and Olivier Philippaerts (Cabrio van de Heffinck), sons of Belgian star Ludo Philippaerts, were joined by Donaal Brondeel (Dreemeersen Adorado) and Niels Bruynseels (Castelino van de Helle) to secure joint-runner-up spot for the host nation led by Chef d’Equipe Philippe Guerdat. They shared second place with Canada’s Yann Candele, Tiffany Foster, Jill Henselwood and Ian Millar when each side added just four faults to bring their final tally to 12.
As the lead-off rider, Candele, 41, rode Carlotta Singular la Magnifica, a 12-year-old Hanoverian Warmblood mare, to a clear first round and an eight fault second round. Riding Victor, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Torrey Pines Stable and Artisan Farms LLC, Tiffany Foster, 27, had 12 faults in the first round and four faults in the second. 2008 Olympic team silver medalist Jill Henselwood, 49, rode George, a 10-year-old Hanoverian gelding owned by Brian Gingras. The pair had four faults in both the first and second rounds. Nine-time Canadian Olympian Ian Millar, 65, and Star Power, Team Works’ 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, posted Canada’s best score with two clear rounds.
“To tie for second with Belgium out of 14 teams is very exciting,” said Terrance Millar, chef d’équipe of the Canadian Show Jumping Team, who is being aided on the European Tour by stable manager Lori Green. “It was a strong field of teams and not an easy course. Some of our horse rider combinations are new to this level, and I am very pleased with our results today.”
And there was a three-way divide for fourth place, as Mexico’s Alberto Michan Halbinger (Rosalia La Silla), Federico Fernandez (Victoria), Jaime Azcarrage (Gangster) and Jaime Guerra Piedra (Omega Star) shared a 16-fault final score with Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher (Magnus Romeo), Thomas Voss (Carinjo), Lars Nieberg (Balounito) and Rene Tebbel (Light On), and Spain’s Pilar Cordon (Panama Tame), Paola Amilbia (Prunella d’Ariel), Carlos Catalan (Carlos) and Manuel Anon (Rackel Chavannaise).
Switzerland finished seventh (20 faults) ahead of Great Britain (21 faults) in eighth while Denmark lined up in ninth place with a 54-fault total. Italy’s Francesca Cappone, Canada’s Ian Millar and Great Britain’s William Funnell (Billy Angelo) all produced double-clear performances.
The Irish quartet of Dermott Lennon, Alexander Butler, Edward Doyle and Shane Breen failed to make the cut for the second round, finishing on a team total of 16 faults after their first outing.
Lennon and Loughview Lou Lou had one fence down as the opening combination of the entire competition, with Butler following as the discard score of 17. Doyle and Samgemgee faulted once, but anchorman Shane Breen and Cos I Can couldn’t improve Ireland’s position when dropping two poles.
Team Ireland Equestrian show jumping manager Robert Splaine said after the first round: “While we like to fly the flag all over the world and win wherever we can, we were on a slightly different mission to most of the teams at this Nations’ Cup, which for me was a fact-finding exercise.
“We have a Superleague show coming up next week at La Baule, and today’s team was made up of combinations that I wanted to look at as possible candidates for the Super League later in the year. In that respect today was highly informative for me.”
The FEI Promotional League embraces three separate series, and the European circuit includes five fixtures with the next taking place in Linz-Ebelsberg, Austria next week followed by Copenhagen, Denmark later in the month and Drammen in Norway in June. These events are all rated 4-Star, but the last show in this league is the CSIO 5-Star at Gijon, Spain which will be staged in early September.
The Challengers League series visits Minsk in Belarus, Bojourishte in Bulgaria and Lisbon in Portugal this month before moving on to Drammen in Norway and Riga in Latvia in June. Sopot in Poland is the venue in early July followed by Budapest in Hungary and then Bratislava in Slovakia, while the last two legs will be held in Vazgaikiemis, Lithuania and in Moscow, Russia, the latter staging the only 5-Star CSIO in this league at the end of August.
There are four events in the North and South American League which draws to a close this weekend at CSIO 4-Star Porto Alegre, Brazil following rounds at CSIO 5-Star Calgary, Canada last September, CSIO 2-Star in Buenos Aires, Argentina in November and CSIO 4-Star in Wellington, USA in March. Canada is well out in front on the leaderboard after gaining maximum points at all three events to date, while the USA lies second ahead of Mexico in third.
Once again, Barcelona will host the FEI Nations Cup Promotional League Final at the popular 5-Star Spanish fixture which takes place from September 13 to 16.