Italians Win First Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Europe Division I Leg in Lummen

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Only promoted from Division 2 last season, Hans Horn impressive side is now aiming for another strong result on home ground in Rome in three weeks' time

Team Italy on the podium: Piergiorgio Bucci, Luca Moneta, Chef d’Equipe Hans Horn, Lorenzo de Luca and Daniele Augusto Da Rios

“It’s great to start the new season with a win again!”

The Italian team swept to a spectacular victory in the opening leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 Europe Division I League at the Longines Spring Classic of Flanders in Lummen, Belgium today. Only promoted from Division 2 at the end of last season, Hans Horn’s side might have been expected to play it safe on their return to the premier level of the team sport. But instead they came out with all guns blazing to pin the host nation and Great Britain into joint-runner-up spot ahead of France in fourth.

Switzerland and The Netherlands shared fifth place while Sweden slotted into sixth ahead of the Irish, who finished last of the eight competing nations.

It was the perfect result for the Italians who have a renewed sense of purpose, and a master-plan that they hope will take them all the way to the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Today they also collected the maximum 100 qualifying points on offer for the Furusiyya 2015 Final.

Had it in the bag

It looked like the French already had it in the bag at the halfway stage when leading on a zero score, but many of the younger horses appeared to fade a little second time out over Lucien Somer’s 12-fence course. Amongst the five nine-year-olds in action was Kevin Staut’s Ayade de Septon et HDC who, along with Penelope Leprevost’s 10-year-old Flora de Mariposa and Jerome Hurel’s 11-year-old Quartz Rouge, made it look quite elementary at their first attempt.

The Longines triple combination at fence seven was influential from the outset, the opening oxer leading to a plank vertical and followed by another oxer. Time and again the middle element fell, and the following 1.60m vertical at fence eight also took its toll as did the double at fence 10.

When the second round got underway the fences at the end of the track hit the floor repeatedly, and the six-stride distance that seemed to come up so effortlessly between the penultimate 1.60m vertical and the final oxer proved more difficult for some to get.

French chances faltered when Leprevost’s mare hit the oxer after the water and the final fence on their second tour of the track. And when Staut also returned with an eight-fault tally the picture changed dramatically. But it was impossible to predict the final outcome until the very end.

Trailing the leaders

The Italians were trailing the leaders with just two time penalties collected by Danielle Augusto Da Rios (For Passion) and Piergiorgio Bucci (Casallo Z) after Lorenzo de Luca (Erco van T Roosakker) kept a clean sheet first time out, and they were closely followed by the British carrying just four faults at the halfway stage. Belgium, The Netherlands and Sweden were next in line with eight faults apiece while Switzerland carried 12 and the Irish were already well out of it with a first-round total of 21.

The Belgians rallied strongly with clears from Pieter Devos (Dream of India Greenfield) and Niels Bruynseels whose lovely French-bred, Pommeau du Heup, produced one of just two double-clear performances on the day, the other registered by French anchor, Hurel. Only third-line rider, Guy Williams (Titus) went clear for Britain second time out, and when pathfinder Luca Moneta collected 20 faults with Neptune Brecourt it seemed the Italians were about to take a nosedive. But when de Luca left just one on the ground and Da Rios produced a second spectacular round then it was “game on”, because Simone Delestre’s Qlassic Bois Margot had three fences down and there was now no way back for the French.

For Italian anchor, Piergiorgio Bucci, it was all to play for as he came into the arena with a fence in hand and his country now carrying six faults while the British and Belgians had rounded up their scores to 12 apiece. Keeping his nerve, and with Casallo Z again giving all the fences plenty of air, Bucci soared home to roars of delight from the Italian bench.

Start the new season

“It’s great to start the new season with a win again!” said Bucci, who was the hero of the victory on home ground at Arezzo that announced his country’s return to centre stage last autumn. The 39-year-old Dutch-based rider wasn’t altogether pleased with himself however. Explaining why he picked up a time fault in the first round today he said, “I wanted my horse see the far side of the skinny vertical at fence four which was very close to the spectators. But the bell suddenly rang, and this is a huge arena here in Lummen. By the time I got to the first fence the clock was already showing two seconds and I knew I was going to have time faults!” he said.

Lorenzo de Luca’s 11-year-old Belgian-bred, Erco van T Roosakker, was also really impressive today. “I’ve only had him since February, he was previously ridden by Daniel Deusser (GER) and I’ve only competed him a few times, notably here during the spring tour in April. I can’t believe how well he did today, and I am super happy!” said the 28-year-old athlete.

Daniele Augusto Da Rios described himself as “an outsider” when part of last September’s winning side. The 39-year-old certainly isn’t that anymore. He said modestly today, “I’ve been riding my horse for the last five years and I am over the moon to reach such results. Today is very special, and I am extremely proud and happy” he said.

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Louise Parkes
Fédération Equestre Internationale
+353 862345307
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Louise Parkes
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