The reigning world champions from The Netherlands stormed to victory at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2014 Final at Real Club de Polo in Barcelona, Spain, on Saturday night, putting the result beyond doubt with fabulous clears from their first three riders.
On the crest of a wave following their gold-medal-winning performances at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Normandy last month, the team that includes new world champion Jeroen Dubbeldam proved beyond doubt that, right now, they are simply untouchable, leaving Canada to settle for second and Sweden for third place.
But the Dutch team members were quick to point out that they owe much of what they have achieved to the inspiration of “one special man” as Jur Vrieling called him. “Our Chef d’Equipe Rob Ehrens is really good at team-building, he is a positive man, and he can really inspire us. He has inspired Jeroen Dubbeldam to a completely other level, and Jeroen is now the best rider in the world for sure. This Final has been unbelievably good, and I think we all owe that to Rob” Vrieling insisted.
Last to go, Gerco Schroder was only competing for his share of the €200,000 on offer to the horse-and-rider partnerships who could leave all the fences up in both Thursday’s opening round and again in the final round, because his team-mates had already done all the hard work. When Glock’s London hit the first element of the triple combination, Schroder had settle for his share of the team winnings instead – a massive €500,000 – but he wasn’t complaining.
The course was another big one, with a testing triple combination at fence eight proving influential. Butr it was the oxer-to-vertical double at 11 that played the most significant role in the early stages, the first element hitting the deck on numerous occasions.
The Dutch were the only side to produce a clear from the first-line riders. In Thursday’s opening round Jeroen Dubbeldam and Zenith collected eight faults and the 10-year-old horse seemed a little less concentrated. But this time the pair were focused, clean and clear and once the world championship winning team had the bit between their teeth they were always going to be difficult to rein in.
Germany didn’t live up to expectations, finishing fifth of the eight nations that made the cut into the last competition. Daniel Deusser and Cornet D’Amour were the only German pair to go clear, and this left the reigning Longines FEI World Cup Jumping champion sharing that €200,000 double-clear bonus at the end of the night. Germany ended just ahead of the British who finished on the same scoreline but in a slower time. Italy and Brazil shared a final tally of 13 faults each to fill the last two places, and it was the Canadians who came closest to the winners when posting just a four-fault result.
Yann Candele and Showgirl clipped the bogey opening element at 11, but Tiffany Foster showed just how much her partnership with Tripple X, the horse who won team gold for Britain’s Ben Maher at the London 2012 Olympic Games, has matured this year, as they cruised home for a classic clear. Ben Asselin’s Makavoy hit the second element of the triple combination, but when Eric Lamaze produced a faultless run from Zigali PS then that would prove plenty good enough for the Canadians to pick up the €300,000 second place prizemoney.
The Swedish team edged Belgium for third place by just a single fault when finishing with eight on the board. The pressure was all on Henrik von Eckermann when last to go with Cantinero, and he kept a really cool head to deliver not only the podium placing but a tidy €50,000 for himself as one of the four to share the double-clear bonus.
In the end however it was all about the Dutch and their incredible superiority right now. Such was the sense of calm confidence amongst them that Rob Ehrens could be seen snoozing by the ringside earlier in the day, stretched out on a sofa looking as if he hadn’t a care in the world.
Teased about that during Saturday night’s press conference, he admitted that he did indeed feel confident about his side’s chances of taking the trophy. But he pointed out that no win is ever in the bag until the last jump has been cleared. “You could also have had the situation today where you have four magnificent riders and horses but each of them have just one mistake and you end up with 12 faults. Every team is evenly matched, but I must say for a coach it’s not often you have four riders on a team who can finish the job the way mine do. They can go into the arena with an instruction and follow it right up to the finish line. Add to that these four brilliant horses, and that’s what you need to win,” he said.
Canadian chef d’équipe Mark Laskin was also pleased with his team. “This was an unbelievable result for our team, especially in this company. This is as difficult and prestigious as a major championship, and I’m so proud of my riders. It says a lot when we can leave Ian Millar at home, and be second in a competition of this level.”
Saudi Arabia’s Prince Faisal talked about Furusiyya’s commitment and involvement with the revamped FEI Nations Cup Jumping series. “The spirit of Furusiyya is about giving everyone a chance. The team won that won today deserved it, but the feeling I am getting is that we are here for the sake of the sport, and everyone is a winner!” he said.
1. Netherlands 0 faults: Zenith SFN (Jeroen Dubbeldam) 0, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten) 0, VDL Bubalu (Jur Vrieling) 0, Glock’s London (Gerco Schroder) Ret.
2. Canada 4 faults: Showgirl (Yann Candele) 4, Tripple X (Tiffany Foster) 0, Makavoy (Ben Asselin) 4, Zigali PS (Eric Lamaze) 0.
3. Sweden 8 faults: H&M Sibon (Peder Fredricson) 8, Cafino (Alexander Zettermann) 12, H&M Tornesch (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) 0, Cantinero (Henrik von Eckermann) 0.
4. Belgium 9 faults: Cabrio van de Heffinck (Olivier Philippaerts) 4, Pommeau du Heup (Niels Bruynseels) 8, As Cold as Ice Z (Judy-Ann Melchior) 1, Dylano (Pieter Devos) 4.
5. Germany 12 faults/245.17 seconds: Codex One (Christian Ahlmann) 8, Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) 16, Cornet D’Amour (Daniel Deusser) 0, Chiara (Ludger Beerbaum) 4.
6. Great Britain 12 faults/247.10 seconds: Fandango (William Whitaker) 4, Utamaro D’Escaussines (Joe Clee) 8, Wonder Why (Spencer Roe) 0, Cassionato (Michael Whitaker) 9.
7. Italy 13 faults/247.20 seconds: Neptune Brecourt (Luca Moneta) 4, Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) 4, Elky van het Indihof (Lorenzo de Luca) 5, Bonzai van de Warande (Juan Carlos Garcia) 9.
8. Brazil 13 faults/249.51: AD Rahmannshof’s Bogeno (Doda de Miranda) 8, Quabri de L’Isle (Pedro Veniss) 1, AD Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) 4, Status (Rodrigo Pessoa) 13.