U.S. Show Jumpers Second in First Leg of Samsung Super League with FEI; Belgians are Best in La Baule
RELEASE: May 15, 2008
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Sarah Evers
La Baule, France – The Belgian team came out on top in the first leg of the 2008 Samsung Super League with FEI series in La Baule, France, this afternoon. This was a tough start to the season, with fortunes fluctuating as the competition progressed, but it was Ludo Philippaerts' double-clear, one of just two on the day, that sealed the result for the team, which only returned to the elite level of Nations Cup show jumping last season after relegation in 2005.
The USA shared the second spot with Switzerland and Ireland while the Swiss rallied brilliantly after finding themselves at the bottom of the order at the end of round one, and the Irish survived some shaky moments thanks to solid performances from Edward Doyle and Denis Lynch.
It wasn't a good day for Sweden however. They have clung on desperately to their Samsung Super League with FEI status over the past two seasons, but although they were very competitive after the opening round today, 12-fault second-round results for both Rigmor Arvidsson-Maggi and Lotta Schultz sent them plummeting to last place. It looks like they could be facing another uphill struggle as the 2008 series gets underway.
The host team from France had plenty to celebrate. The 2003/2004 series winners may not be part of the Super League family this season but they showed they remain seriously competitive. A copy-book display from 59 year old Michel Robert riding Koro d'Or produced the only other double-clear of the afternoon and helped secure joint-fifth for France along with the surprisingly erratic Dutch, while Great Britain started strongly but fell back to finish seventh ahead of Germany in eighth and the trailing Swedes in ninth.
Course designer Frederic Cottier presented a straight-forward test with no nasty traps but, as always, when the action moves outside to big grass arenas after the restrictions of the winter indoors then horses and riders have to adjust and Cottier came up with a master-plan to help them do just that. The Samsung vertical at fence five hit the ground more than once as anxiety about the following water took hold, while the penultimate triple combination also claimed plenty of scalps. However problems were widespread throughout the 12-fence track.
At the end of round one it was the British who held the whip hand with just six faults on the board after a clear from Nick Skelton and Russel, a single time-fault form Ben Maher and Rolette and five faults for Robert Smith with Ronaldo, Tim Gredley providing the drop-score with four fences down for Omelli.
The Belgians however were already looking strong and lay second following clears from both Philippaerts and his stallion Cavalor's Winningmood and Judy-Ann Melchior with Aktion Pur Z so that they only counted the eight collected by Philippe Le Jeune and Vigo d'Arsouilles as the three mistakes from Niels Bruynseels and Item de Quintin were discarded.
The French were also impressive, Kevin Staut and Kraque Boom Bois Margot bringing a roar of approval from the packed stands as he kicked off for the host country with a clear and Robert bringing up the rear with Koro d'Or in exactly the same fashion while Timothee Anciaume registered nine faults with Jarnac and Patrice Deleveau left two fences on the floor with Katchinamail Normandie. Sharing second spot with the Belgians and French at the half-way point were Sweden and the USA also on eight faults - Sweden's Peter Eriksson (Jaguar Mail) and Lotta Schultz (Calibra) making just single errors, and Helena Lundback going clear with Bukowskis Erbblume to discard the 12 recorded by Rigmor Arvidsson-Maggi with Gentano.
Veteran Olympian Anne Kursinski was the American pathfinder and the 49-year-old showed the wealth of her experience with a four-fault result for Roxana before Charlie Jayne, riding on his first Super League squad collected eight with Urbanus. Kate Levy (another fir