The American team finished fourth in the penultimate leg of the 2006 Samsung Super League with FEI series at the Failte Ireland Dublin Horse Show today when Germany forged further ahead at the top of the league table with a clear-cut win.
However a back-to-back victory in the series for the defending Samsung champions from the USA is still very possible because only nine points separate the two sides going into next month's final in Barcelona, Spain and with double points up for grabs there, it is still wide open.
The Irish fixture can always be guaranteed to produce its fair share of drama and today was no exception, with the track, tough but well composed by Irishman Brian Henry, posing just enough problems. For Frenchman Jacques Bonnet the problems came in the shape of an uncooperative riding partner called Gracieux Ardent who decided he had done enough when arriving at the second-last fence, the treble, and wanted to go home from there in the first round and who then threw in a second-round objection after jumping the first fence causing elimination yet again. This scuppered French chances and they had to settle for fifth place, while another nightmare outing for Rolf Grass's Swiss squad saw them copy-catting the poor 66 fault performance they produced at Hickstead when picking up just one less fault over today's rounds to finish last.
The Swedes have lost their grip, finishing second-last this afternoon, and have dropped to seventh spot on the leaderboard so instead of the final turning into a survival struggle between the Dutch and Irish it will be the Swedes who must try to keep the green jackets at bay. However despite their excellent second-place finish this afternoon the Dutch are not completely off the hook as only four points separate the bottom three teams....
Both Anne Kursinski and Christine McCrea produced clear rounds for the US, but Candice King was very nearly unseated in the opening round when, after Coco Cabana hit both the oxer at four and the vertical at five, she arrived off-balance to the FEI oxer at six and was almost jumped out of the saddle. Her 14 faults thus proved the discard in this round and America carried eight faults into round two after Anne Kursinski's Roxana caught just the middle element of the bogey triple combination one from home and Molly Ashe and Neuville clipped the vertical at nine but then went on to clear the tricky treble with the greatest of ease. French Chef d'Equipe Jean Maurice Bonneau had warned before the class began that this would be the fence to watch out for and so it proved as it claimed a large number of scalps throughout the afternoon. Christine McCrea rounded up the US effort with a lovely, easy clear with Vegas but only Kursinski was fault-free second time out, King hitting the second element of the double of ditches at fence three as well as picking up a time fault, Ashe also falling foul of the clock after clipping fence six and McCrea clear all the way to the penultimate triple where, once again, the middle element was dislodged.
The 17-fault total ensured that it was left to the Irish, Dutch and Germans to fight it out in the closing stages and the Irish at last began to show some of that familiar sparkle. Capt Shane Carey's little gelding Killossery gave it his all to complete with a total of five faults, Cian O'Connor picked up 13 with Irish Independent Echo Beach and Cameron Hanley, last into the ring, was clear first time out with SIEC Hippica Kerman and retired after a fence down in round two. It was Shane Breen, winner of the Eventing Grand Prix at Hickstead two weeks ago, who was the Irish hero of the day when, having only been given his call-up after Marion Hughes' good ride Heritage Transmission was injured last weekend, he produced a double-clear for the home supporters who are so desperate to see their side find form again. World Cruise's owner, Vinnie Duffy from Ballina in the West of Ireland, is getting his reward for making the tough decision to turn down $1million for the horse last summer. For Vinnie the joy of seeing his horse in action for his country outweighs the financial gain and he has followed the Irish team faithfully throughout this summer season.
The Dutch were excellent and Chef d'Equipe Rob Ehrens can go to Barcelona filled with confidence after double clears from both Piet Raymakers with Van Schijndel's Curtis and Jeroen Dubbeldam with BMC Up and Down. Wim Schroder's first-round 12 faults was discarded when his brother Gerco brought the big-jumping Eurocommerce Berlin home without incident and the situation was reversed in round two when Wim's single error from Eurcommernce Vancouver made up for three mistakes from Berlin at his second attempt. Their finishing score of four faults left the Dutch only two faults better off than the Irish but Germany stole the show when keeping an even cleaner slate.
Sonke Sonksen said after the competition that he had been very angry with his team after they were beaten by the British by a single time fault in Dublin last year. Only Rene Tebbel had a problem with the clock today but his single time fault second time out with Team Harmny Coupe de Coeur, who picked up nine first-round faults, was the only score counted at the end of a very successful German outing. That single fault saw the four picked up by Thomas Voss dropped from the German tally and with double clears from Ulrich Kirchhoff and Carino and Heinrich Hermann Engemann riding Aboyeur W it was a fait accompli - and it was accomplished with conviction.
"In horse sport when you travel a long distance then you always want to do a good job" Mr Sonksen said, "but last year that did not happen. We finished second by one point behind the British and it made me very angry" he pointed out. He talked about his fondness for Ireland because it was here that he bought his great Olympic horse Kwept. "He was by the stallion Nordlys and I bought him as a five year old. I jumped him in top competition for more than 11 years and he won a silver medal in the Olympic Games in 1976, a gold team and bronze individual medal at the European Championships in Munich in 1975 and many German Championships - he was a wonderful horse" he recalled.
He continued "I didn't expect that my team would be so strong today, they did a fantastic job and most importantly they are friends together so they fight together, this is so very important in our sport today". He talked about the attraction of big-money classes for riders and how that can affect their attitude to team competition. "A rider told me a few years ago "you can ride your own stupid nations cup on your own, I won't do it" but after that he must be very very good to come back on the team. The way I see it, to ride for your country is an honour and it’s about fighting together, winning together and losing together. It's about being part of that team. Now private shows and rich people are changing the sport and it is not good" he insisted.
He complimented the performance of his riders today - "they did a fantastic job" he said - but he is concerned about the German line-up for the Super League final in Barcelona because, even though Germany has such a strong pool to choose from, the hectic calendar that includes the World Equestrian Games in Aachen, the Spruce Meadows Master in Canada and the big German championships at Donaueschingen which clash with the Barcelona final puts a big strain on resources. "I would hope that our WEG team will go to Barcelona" he said.
Meanwhile in the Irish camp things are considerably more upbeat. Their close third place finish today is a major morale-boost and team manager Robert Splaine said "we are much better now than we were earlier in the year. We were a bit static but now the door has opened and today the boys did a fantastic job. We would prefer to be chasing the Swedes than the Dutch and we could overtake both of them in Barcelona. I felt after the comeback in the second round at Hickstead that there was something encouraging happening and after today I have no doubt that we can do it. I'm proud of my team - they did their country proud today" he added. If they manage to escape relegation for the second year in succession it will be little short of a miracle however. The Swedes already know what relegation tastes like, and Henk Nooren's proteges have no intention in having to go through all that qualification rigmarole again. Its going to be the mother of all dog-fights at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona on Sunday September 17th next.....
SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE WITH FEI COMPETITION (Ireland) Results
Team Competition (Art. 264) 11 AUG 2006 at 14:35 - Prize money: 148’000 €
Number of Teams: 8
1 GER - GERMANY (Chef d’Equipe: S. SONKSEN) 0 -1 =1
43 Leonardo B VOSS Thomas 0 (4) 49000 €
27 Team Harmony Coupe De Coeur TEBBEL Rene (9) 1
11 Carino KIRCHHOFF Ulrich 0 0
58 Aboyeur W ENGEMANN H. 0 0
2 NED - NETHERLANDS (Chef d’Equipe: R. EHRENS) 0 -4 =4
63 Van Schijndel’S Curtis RAIJMAKERS Piet 0 0 33000 €
111 Bmc Up And Down DUBBELDAM Jeroen 0 0
37 Eurocommerce Vancouver SCHRODER Wim (12) 4
28 Eurocommerce Berlin SCHRODER Gerco 0 (12)
4 USA - UNITED STATES (Chef d’Equipe: G. MORRIS) 8 -9 =17
67 Roxana 112 KURSINSKI Anne 4 0 17000 €
105 Coco Cabana KING Candice (14) 5
122 Neuville ASHE Molly 4 (5)
1 Vegas MCCREA Christine 0 4
5 FRA - FRANCE (Chef d’Equipe: J.M BONNEAU) 8 -16 =24
29 Haxelle Dampierre JARRY Pierre 0 8 11500 €
19 Gracieux Ardent Hn BONNET Jacques (EL) (EL)
50 Gabelou Des Ores LAFOUGE Stephan 0 0
92 Icare Du Manet EPAILLARD Julien 8 8
6 GBR - GREAT BRITAIN (Chef d’Equipe: D. RICKETTS) 20 -9 =29
15 Marius Claudius SMITH Robert 4 5 7800 €
30 Insul Tech Portofino 63 WHITAKER Michael 8 0
5 Omelli GREDLEY Tim 8 (5)
51 Peppermill WHITAKER John (12) 4
7 SWE - SWEDEN (Chef d’Equipe: H. NOOREN) 23 -20 =43
48 H & M Magic Bengtsson FREDRICSON Peder 8 12 4600 €
10 Columbus H HEED Linda (20) (12)
32 Diorissimo FREDRICSON Jens 4 0
22 Nostradamus JOHANSSON Svante 11 8
8 SUI - SWITZERLAND (Chef d’Equipe: R. GRASS) 40 -25 =65
35 La Toya lll FUCHS Markus 20 0 2100 €
55 Peu A Peu ETTER Daniel (20) 17
25 Daloubet D’Evordes STAUFFER Celine 8 8
46 Con Spirito R MUFF Theo 12 (RET)
SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE WITH FEI After 7th Event-Standings
1 GERMANY - 45.125
2 UNITED STATES - 36.0
3 FRANCE - 34.0
4 GREAT BRITAIN -28.0
5 SWITZERLAND - 27.125
6 NETHERLANDS - 21.125
7 SWEDEN -19.125
8 IRELAND -17.0
Final Samsung Super League Event - Barcelona ESP 14-17 September