Italy has earned a place in next month’s Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2014 Final in Barcelona, Spain, following victory on home turf in the final round of the Europe Division 2 series.
As well as securing a spot in the final, the win has promoted Italy to Europe Division 1 for the 2015 season.
There was a whole lot riding on Friday’s event, with Norway heading the Division 2 standings as the day began. But, relegated to runner-up spot after the Italian triumph, the Norwegians must now go to the Barcelona Final knowing that only a finishing spot in the top eight there will see them join their Italian counterparts in the top league next year.
From the starting field of 13 nations, it was Sweden which lined up second while Denmark and Ireland shared third place. There were only two double-clear performances, and the one produced by pathfinders Andres Rodriguez and his lovely grey gelding Darlon van Groenhoeve helped Venezuela line up fifth ahead of Finland and Germany in equal-sixth while Poland slotted into eighth place.
Italy’s success owed much to the stunning double-clear produced by Piergiorgio Bucci and Casallo Z who gave their team the best possible start in both rounds. The chestnut gelding simply cruised around Uliano Vezzani’s track which proved a great deal more difficult than it initially appeared.
“When we walked the course we thought it was not so difficult, but Uliano knows how to make us make faults – he is amazing!” said Bucci as the home team relished success in front of their home crowd.
Uliano Vezzani’s reputation for excellent course design is second to none, and the Italian maestro said with a grin afterwards: “I’m delighted the Italian team has won, although I promise there is no bias involved when creating the course!”
There were only five teams chasing Furusiyya points – Denmark, Finland, Italy, Poland and Slovenia – and the biggest threat to Italy’s chances of taking the maximum 100 points on offer came from the Danes who, as the day began, were lying just 30 points behind them. But even though the Danish riders all dropped only a single fence each second time out to improve to joint-third place and collect 90 of those precious qualifying points, it wouldn’t be enough to move ahead of Norway and book their ticket to Barcelona.
It came down to a duel between the Swedes and the Italians, although the eventual winners used up much of their first-round advantage as the second round evolved.
Afterwards, Piergiorgio Bucci explained just how much this result, and promotion to Europe Division 1, means to the Italians. “It is so very important for us, because we want to prepare well for the European Championships in Aachen next year so we can get Olympic qualification, and it’s not so easy to prepare for this top level if you are not competing against the best horses and riders all the time,” he said.
“The last season we were in the Super League was 2009 and we won a medal at the European Championships in Windsor because we could prepare for our goal. We have good horses and good riders but we need to jump at the bigger shows so we are ready when the time comes,” he said.
He knows the challenge of the top league is not something to be taken lightly. “It will be difficult for us to stay in the top league next year, but it is important for us to get the chance to make our horses ready (for the Olympic qualification at the FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany). I’m quite positive about it actually. We know what we need to do,” he said with determination.
He was particularly pleased with the performance of his own horse. “I was really unlucky with Casallo Z last year, he was injured at the European Championships and then I lost a few months of competition with him. I took the opportunity to bring him back, but I didn’t want to do the World Championships because it was too early for him. Now I am very glad. He’s a really wonderful horse, and I am very lucky to have him,” said the 39-year-old Dutch-based rider.
Daniele Da Rios was thrilled with his result. “I am very happy to be a part of this wonderful team. In truth, I am a bit of an ‘outsider’, as I haven’t really competed at this level. I would like to thank Hans very much for the confidence he has entrusted me with today. Although I lack experience at this level, he also acknowledges that it is by performing in shows like these that I can get to the next level. I am very happy he has allowed me to take part in the team and compete in Arezzo,” Da Rios said.
For Italian Chef d’Equipe, Hans Horn, it was mission accomplished, and he sees the result as a major stepping-stone. “This will provide us with the platform to create more opportunities for growth within the Federation, and particularly the riders themselves. The less experienced ones who don’t have so many chances to take part at this level will be able to do so now. This is an outcome that has key strategic implications,” he added.
1. Italy 16 faults: Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 0/0, For Passion (Danielle da Rios) 8/8, Elky van het Indihof (Lorenzo de Luca) 4/8; Moka des Mescum (Juan Carlos Garcia) 0/4.
2. Sweden 20 faults: Lunatic (Jens Fredericson) 2/8, Bee Wonderful (Linda Heed) 4/4, Jordan ll (Angelie von Essen) 20/5, Caral (Niklas Jonsson) 5/0.
3. Denmark 24 faults: Lenardo der Kleine (Andreas Scho) 0/4, Never Say Never (Thomas Dresler) 12/4, Amarone (Thomas Sandgaard) 0/4, Tailormade Esperanza de Rebel) 23/4.
3. Ireland 24 faults: Isco de Amoranda (Mark McAuley) 12/4, Monastery Stud More Pleasure (Alexander Butler) 8/4, Mullaghbane (Capt Geoff Curran) 4/5, MHS Going Global (Greg Broderick) 0/4.
5. Venezuela 25 faults: Darlon van Groenhoeve (Andres Rodriguez) 0/0, Hardrock Z (Emanuel Andrade) 5/8, Indiana (Angel Karoly) 12/8, Antares (Pablo Barrios) 8/4.
6. Finland 32 faults: Cue Channa (Sebastian Numinen) 14/8, Agropoint Cassius (Kaarlo Kovas) 8/12, Lennox Luis (Henri Kovacs) 0/8, Fardon (Anna-Julia Kontio) 4/4.
6. Germany 32 faults: Queen Mary (Jan Wernke) 8/0, Quinaro (Henry Vaske) 8/8, Cashmoaker (Denis Nielsen) 0/8, Arrivederci (Lawrence Greene) 13/12.
8. Poland 37 faults: Crazy Quick (Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski) 4/8, Abigej (Marek Lewicki) 5/4, Emperio van’t Roosakker (Zuzana Gowin) 8/8, Zoewja (Krzysztof Ludwiczak) 12/Ret.
Final Standings after Round 8 of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Europe Division 2 League:
1. Italy – 370
2. Norway – 345
3. Denmark – 330
4. Poland – 300
5. Finland – 290
6. Slovakia – 245
7. Austria – 240
8. Turkey – 222.5
9. Hungary – 200
10. Czech Republic – 180
11. Portugal – 100
12. Russia – 65