France Forges Ahead of U.S. in Two-Way Jump-Off at the Meydan FEI Nations Cup in Rotterdam
RELEASE: June 22, 2009
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: By Malina Gueorguiev
France came out on top after yet another edge-of-the-seat finish to the fourth leg of the 2009 Meydan FEI Nations Cup series in Rotterdam, The Netherlands, on Friday.
For the third time this season the result was decided by a two-way jump-off against the clock, and the USA was only denied a back-to-back hat-trick by a breath-taking performance from Frenchwoman Penelope Leprevost. Last to go in a third-round head-to-head against McLain Ward, the 28-year-old from Normandy galloped fearlessly to clinch the result in emphatic fashion.Ups and Downs
It was a day of real ups and downs, the Irish sharing the lead with France at the halfway stage only to drop down the order as the second round unfolded and, to the astonishment of keen Meydan FEI Nations Cup series followers, the Swiss joined the Italians when failing to make the cut into round two. Lying second on the series leaderboard going into this leg they collected 20 faults in the early stages, and this proved far too costly as they joined the Italians, with 21 faults on the board, in the rider's stand instead of in the ring when the competition resumed.
The host country slotted into third ahead of Belgium in fourth and the Irish in fifth, while the Swedish team was highly impressive despite eventually having to settle for sixth place. Maria Gretzer's side was reduced to just three when Lotta Schultz's gelding, Calibra, was unsound before the class began, and yet they held third place as the first round drew to a close. Germany finished seventh in the final analysis with Great Britain in eighth, but while France has now joined Switzerland to lie second on the series leaderboard, Germany remains highly competitive in fourth as the Irish and Italians continue to battle it out at the bottom of the table.More Difficult
The 12-fence course designed by Louis Konickx seemed to present more difficulty instead of less as the competition progressed, and Ireland's Jessica Kuerten and Quibell were the only partnership to jump clear in both rounds. When teammate Cameron Hanley was also foot-perfect at his first attempt with Livello, and Capt. David O'Brien with Mo Chroi and Denis Lynch with Nabab's Son collected just four faults apiece, the Irish were sharing pole position with France on a four-fault score at the halfway point, but only Kuerten held firm as round two progressed.
The French, however, added just nine more second time out—Leprevost and Jubilee D'Ouilly falling victim to the third element of the troublesome penultimate triple combination, Olivier Guillon's Lord de Theize clipping the oxer at fence nine, and Nicolas Delmotte and Luccianno caught by the water tray at five and the triple combination also, but Kevin Staut steadying the ship with just a single time fault in an otherwise perfect round from Kraque Boom Bois Margo. Now on a total of 13 they watched the Swedes slip following eight faults from both Svante johansson (Saint Amour) and Jan Fredricson (H&M Aurora Borealis) while the Americans suddenly burst into contention when rocketing up from seventh place to challenge for the lead as Lauren Hough (Quick Study) and McLain Ward (Sapphire) both went clear, Laura Kraut and Cedric just dropped a toe in the water once again, and Todd Minikus picked up only a single time fault with Pavarotti.Jump-Off
Yet again it would take a jump-off to decide the winners, and it fell to McLain Ward to throw down the gauntlet with Sapphire. As always the great mare didn't let the American down, crossing the line to set a tough target in 32.93 seconds and really putting it up to the relatively inexperienced Leprevost. But as her Chef d'Equipe Laurent Elias said afterwards, Penelope is no shrinking violet. "I chose her because she's not scared or intimidated by anything—I knew she would just go for it because she knows no fear and she is a wonderful rider," he pointed out.