Switzerland secured a definitive victory in the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Slovakia in Šamorín today. With seven nations chasing points at this first leg of the 2018 Europe Division 1 qualifying series it was a hotly-contested affair, and the eventual winners already looked well poised for success when leading at the end of the first round on a zero scoreline.
However the second tour of the track designed by Uliano Vezzani saw a big shake-up, with Italy dropping from runner-up spot to joint-fifth and replaced by the Irish, while Belgium finished third ahead of Brazil in fourth place. Sweden lined up joint-fifth while the German team collected a total of 24 faults for seventh place and Spain accumulated 38 faults to finish last of the eight competing countries.
The Swiss picked up nine faults in round two, but that was without the services of anchorman Steve Guerdat (35) who didn’t have to return to the arena with his mare, Hannah, because the result was already decided, the Irish finishing on 13, Belgium on 16 and Brazil on 18 faults apiece.
“I managed her really well in the first round, and then the team did so good they made it a nice Sunday afternoon for me!” Guerdat said after sitting it out during the final stages of the competition.
It wasn’t all plain sailing for Swiss Chef d’Equipe Anky Kistler however, because he had to give Paul Estermann (54) a late call-up after selected team-member, Jannike Sprunger, took a fall yesterday. And Estermann’s 10-year-old stallion, Curtis Sitte, was competing in his very first Nations Cup today. The pair collected the discard score of eight faults in round one and put five more on the board in round two, but when youngest team member Martin Fuchs (25) produced one of four double-clears on the day then just the single mistake by pathfinders Werner Muff (44) and Daimler at the influential vertical one fence from home had to be added for the final winning scoreline.
“We brought a really good team here and we were aiming for the win – we knew we could do it!” said Fuchs whose 11-year-old stallion, Chaplin, was sensational. He was particularly delighted because the horse is just returning to top level after injury.
“He won the Grand Prix in Mexico, and in Zurich and Doha but after the GCT in Miami he got hurt and this was his first big show back”, Fuchs explained. Talking about today’s course he said, “the back bars on the oxers were wide and square so there were quite a few faults, but for me it felt quite easy because Chaplin was jumping so well. He was fresh all the way to the last fence in the second round and this makes me very happy because I knew my planning was right – I gave him more time instead of going to some more indoor shows and today he was fit and just perfect!”
The Swiss now head into the second round of the eight-leg Europe Division 1 series in La Baule (FRA) in three weeks’ time at the top of the league table but only 10 points ahead of the Irish whose runner-up finish today was bolstered by a brilliant double-clear from US-based Paul O’Shea riding Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu. The other double-clears came from Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts (Chilli Willi) and Brazil’s Luiz Francisco de Azevedo (Comic).
Result: 1, Switzerland 9 faults – Daimler (Werner Muff) 0/4, Curtis Sitte (Paul Estermann) 8/5, Chaplin (Martin Fuchs) 0/0, Hannah (Steve Guerdat) 0/DNS; 2, Ireland 13 faults – Ipswich van de Wolfsakker (Shane Breen) 12/4, Utchan de Belheme (Mark McAuley) 1/8, Skara Glen’s Machu Picchu (Paul O’Shea) 0/0, Chaqui Z (Shane Sweetnam) 4/4; 3, Belgium 16 faults – Chilli Willi (Nicola Philippaerts) 0/0, IQ Van Het Steentje (Wilm Vermeir) 4/0, Caracas (Jos Verlooy) 4/8, Claire Z (Pieter Devos) 8/9.
Full results here
Standings in Europe Division 1 after first leg in Šamorín (SVK):
1. Switzerland – 100
2. Ireland – 90
3. Belgium – 80
4. Italy – 57.5
4. Sweden – 57.5
6. Germany – 50
7. Spain – 45
Watch highlights here https://youtu.be/a6S1Kq_rD9s