Belgium win FEI Nations Cup thriller at Hickstead
Belgium came out on top in the seventh and penultimate leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping 2015 Europe Division 1 League at Hickstead.
It took a three-way jump-off to decide the result at the British venue, and the hero of the day was Pieter Devos who when last to go against the clock, secured the win for the Belgians and their first Nations Cup victory at Hickstead.
Janika Sprunger claimed runner-up spot for Switzerland, while an uncharacteristic mistake from Beezie Madden and Cortes C saw the USA having to settle for third.
With five of the eight nations teams fighting for points towards the Furusiyya 2015 Final in Barcelona, Spain in September there was a lot hanging in the balance.
The result has moved Belgium to the head of the leaderboard, demoting France to second ahead of the defending champions from the Netherlands in third.
The Europe Division 1 League draws to a close in Dublin, Ireland next Friday and the host nation along with Italy will be the ones under pressure as they go into the competition are languishing at the bottom of the table from which only seven of the 10 nations will make the cut to the Spanish finale.
The Italians were relying on a good result at Hickstead to boost their chances, but they had no joy when finishing last. They were hampered by elimination for Giulia Martinengo whose mare, Fixdesign Funke van ‘T Heike, refused to take on the four-metre-wide open water in either round, meaning they racked up 37 faults to stay well out of the frame.
France’s Patrice Delaveau was the second of the two riders to ensure elimination in the first round as Lacrimoso 3 HDC to took a similar dislike to the same obstacle, however three second-round clear round from his team-mates ensured fourth place for the French.
There were nine double-clear rounds from the 32 starters with Switzerland’s Janika Sprunger – on Bonne Chance CW, the only horse-and-rider combination to jump three clear rounds.
Course designer, Kelvin Bywater, set the competitors a track without a triple combination but included three doubles, all of which proved influential. The time-allowed of 80 seconds also played its part, but the Belgians and Swiss still managed to post zero scores first time out.
The USA carried just four faults into round two while the French carried five and the host nation had six on the board. The British then added five more in the second round which allowed Germany to overtake them for fifth place in the final analysis, but the real battle was played out between the Belgians, Swiss and Americans.
As round two drew to a close, the Swiss looked set to clinch a clean victory when both Paul Estermannn (on Castlefield Eclipse) and Sprunger (on Bonne Chance CW) posted a second clear round. It meant if anchorman Pius Schwizer could leave the course intact then the single error from Martin Fuchs and Clooney could be discarded to leave them with nothing to add to their clean sheet to date. However Schwizer - on Giovanni van Het Scheefkasteel, returned with 15 on the board to give the Swiss a four-fault tally.
The Americans meanwhile jumped into contention when Laura Kraut was clear second time out with Nouvelle and Todd Minikus (on Babalou 41) and Beezie Madden (on Cortes C) completed two double-clear rounds. This left them carrying just Kraut’s single first-round error, Charlie Jayne (on Chilli RZ) providing the discard score in both rounds.
And the Belgians began to look vulnerable when Devos led the way second time out with 12 faults. However clear rounds from Judy-Ann Melchior (on As Cold as Ice Z) and Olivier Philippaerts (on H&M Armstrong van de Kapel) kept them in contention despite Gudrun Pateet and Sea Coast Pebles Z leaving the massive Hickstead planks on the floor.
With all three sides now level on a four-fault total, it would take a third round jump-off to separate them.
Madden was first to go, but she left the door wide open finishing with eight faults in 55.32 seconds. Sprunger and Bonne Chance set the first real target when galloping home in 44.17 seconds, but Devos smashed that when breaking the timers in 42.60 to clinch the win.
The last leg of the Europe Division 1 League will take place in Dublin, Ireland next Friday, 7 August.
1. Belgium 4 faults and 0/42.60 in third-round jump-off
2. Switzerland 4 faults and 0/44.17 in third-round jump-off
3. USA 4 faults and 8/55.32 in third-round jump-off
4. France 5 faults
5. Germany 9 faults
6. Great Britain 11 faults
7. Netherlands 17 faults
8. Italy 37 faults
Standings after round seven at Hickstead
1. Belgium 350
2. France 310
3. Netherlands 295
4. Sweden 295
5. Germany 295
6. Great Britain 260
7. Switzerland 250
8. Ireland 205
9. Italy 205
10. Spain 195