Fighting French win gripping Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ leg in Gijon

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British and Irish put the winners under pressure with a late challenge

Team France celebrate victory in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ leg at Gijon, Spain

Considering it is one week after the FEI European Championships, the course today was tough but not over the top

Team France held on to win the penultimate leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2015 Europe Division 2 League at Gijón in Spain today. But they had to see off a late challenge from the British and Irish who eventually shared second spot ahead of The Netherlands, Switzerland and Belgium in equal-fourth.

It was an important day for the Ukrainian side who were the only ones chasing points towards the Furusiyya 2015 Final which takes place in just over three weeks’ time. And although they had to settle for seventh place, that was good enough to overtake Finland at the top of the Division 2 leaderboard this evening. However it was a disappointing day for the host nation who slotted into eighth place from the starting field of 10 nations.

Canada and USA failed to make the cut into the second round, but Aymeric de Ponnat was the hero of the day when clinching victory for his side with one of six double-clears, and it was a poignant day for the French. As Chef d’Equipe, Philppe Guerdat, explained this evening, “the father of the fifth rider passed away last night and that was why we wore black armbands. We dedicate this victory to Geoffroy de Coligny’s father, the riders did it for him”, he said.

Superb track

Avelino Rodriguez Miravalles set a superb 12-fence track with a generous time-allowed of 77 seconds. “I tried to maintain a five-star level course that was also easy and fluid to jump for the horses. Other than the combination, which was quite tricky and difficult, the course was good overall to complete” explained the Spanish course designer afterwards. And indeed it was the triple combination that produced the greatest number of faults throughout the competition, although the penultimate vertical with a plank on top also claimed a significant number of victims.

The Americans and Canadians disappeared from the reckoning at the halfway stage after posting 20 and 12-fault results respectively. And as the second round got underway, the French and Belgians looked set to battle it out for supremacy as the only two nations on a zero scoreline. But while many horses showed improving form and confidence on their return to the ring, the two leading sides were already in trouble by the time their second-line riders completed their second tour of the track.

Second fabulous clear

French pathfinder, Alexandre Fontanelle, produced a second fabulous clear from Prime Time des Vagues, but Cyril Bouvard’s handsome stallion, Quasi Modo Z, decided he didn’t want to go down to the triple combination again and indulged in a theatrical tantrum before eventually obliging and making it all look a breeze. Too late however, as the Ground Jury had already rung the bell for elimination.

Meanwhile Belgium’s Fabienne Daigneux Lange and Venue d’Fees des Hazalles were foot-perfect only to be followed by an eight-fault result from Catherine van Roosbroeck and Calumet whose round fell apart over the final two fences. The Swiss had been lying third, carrying just four faults, but when they added eight more then the British and Irish began to threaten. Sharing an eight-fault first-round total with the Dutch, Ukrainians and Spanish they both held firm while the others faltered.

Double-clears from both Robert Bevis (Courtney Z) and Joe Clayton (Velini) boosted British chances. But with two eight-fault rounds from Keith Shore and Mystic Hurricane, only a foot-perfect run from anchorwoman Laura Renwick could keep them in touch. And it was a lot to ask as her eight-year-old gelding, Heliodor Hybris, was almost uncontrollable first time out when picking up 16 faults. A bridle change worked superbly however, and the young horse showed his real potential with a brilliant second-round clear to put the pressure on the rest.

Also rallied

The Irish meanwhile also rallied, with Cameron Hanley producing a great double-clear from Z Acodate DDL, and the second four-fault effort from Anthony Condon and the stallion Aristio - who is a carbon copy of his very famous sire Arko - potentially the discard if Dermott Lennon could match Capt Michael Kelly’s fault-free effort with Ringwood Glen. But the 2002 world champion had also been involved in a battle of wills with his mare-with-attitude, Loughview Lou-Lou, first time out, and only a man with Lennon’s masterful skills could have followed his first-round eight-fault effort with a much-needed clean sheet to keep his side in the game.

A 12-fault result for Wilm Vermeir and Garrincha Hedoniste finally put paid to Belgian chances, and when Adeline Hecart, 20-year-old daughter of French Jumping star Michel Hecart, made her only mistake of the day at the vertical at fence three with Pasha du Gue, then everything depended on de Ponnat. A clear would clinch a clear-cut victory on a four-fault tally, but a fence down would leave France in a three-way jump-off with Britain and Ireland. As he set off with his 10-year-old stallion Ricore Courcelle however, de Ponnat didn’t allow the pressure to get to him. “I didn’t let myself think about what would happen if I had one down, I just tried to jump the best I can, I know my horse and I have a lot of experience, so I just did what I had to do!” he said, after sealing the result with a foot-perfect run.

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Louise Parkes
Fédération Equestre Internationale
+353 862345307
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Louise Parkes
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