France wins Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup final

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France has won the inaugural final of Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping in Barcelona – while Scott Brash won a €100,000 bonus for one of two double clears.

Biggest prize fund

The all-new Nations Cup culminated on Sunday (30 September), and with showjumping’s biggest ever prize fund of €1.5million at stake, there was everything to play for.

It was the French team that put in the best performance, finishing on a total of eight faults to win the series. Brazil came second on nine faults, while Ireland and the Netherlands both scored 12. However, the Irish team – comprised of Shane Breen (Balloon), Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade), Cameron Hanley (Antello Z) and Denis Lynch (Allstar) – were just over one second faster, to take the third position.

Belgium finished fifth, with Canada sixth, Ukraine in seventh and Great Britain in a very disappointing eighth, and last place.

The European champions went into the competition as the favourites, but things didn’t go their way from the outset, after William Funnell’s Billy Congo was withdrawn before the competition even started. Even without William the Brits fielded a strong team, but the four riders knocked up 21 faults between them.

‘Not our day’

“This was a big course today, it was really big, as big as the European Championships,” said Rob Hoekstra, World Class Performance Manager for Showjumping, “It would naturally have been nice to win, but we have to just put it behind us and say it wasn’t our day today.”

World number one rider, Ben Maher and his Olympic gold-medal winning partner, Tripple X III had an uncharacteristic three fences down, as did Louise Saywell and Hello Winner. Michael Whitaker and Viking V, on whom he helped secure team gold at the Europeans, had two down and one time fault, while Scott Brash and Hello Ursula posted the team’s only clear round.

“Tripple X was a little disappointingbut horses aren’t machines and you have to accept that they will have good and bad days,” Rob said.“Viking wouldn’t have given Michael the easiest of roundsand was a little tricky resulting in Michael losing a stirrup halfway round the course.

“Louise and Winner have certainly impressed me. This would have been the biggest course they have tackled and I’m incredibly proud of them both, it was a huge step up for them.”

A lot at stake

Scott also jumped clear on the opening day of the competition, which meant he was eligible for €200,000 prize fund, which was offered to all riders jumping a clear across both legs of the final. Canada’s Eric Lamaze was the only other rider to achieve such a feat, with Powerplay, so the bonus was split between them.

“I knew there was a lot at stake because the bonus money was big and as the clears kept going and (other riders) kept having fences I kept thinking this bonus is getting a bit bigger so I thought I better try and jump a clear,” said Scott. “Eric will be annoyed I took £100,000 off him but I’m happy!”

According to Rob, following Scott’s superb performance out in Barcelona, he now has a second championship horse alongside his Olympic ride Hello Sanctos, which is something the chef d’equipe has been working towards.

Championship horses

“Producing more championship horses and riders has always been my objective and it has always been about given them as many opportunities as possible,” Rob said.“When I bear that in mind, then I’m really pleased with what we’ve achieved. Our next big target isthe World Games next year.”

This event brings the 2013 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup series to a close until May next year, when the 2014 series opens in La Baule, France.