The final score line disguised a convincing victory for the defending champions from Germany in the first leg of the 2007 Samsung Super League with International Equestrain Federation (FEI) series at La Baule in France on May 13, 2007.
Finishing with only a two-fault advantage over runners-up Switzerland, the winning side did not have to play their full hand in the second round when their last man, Ludger Beerbaum, did not have to jump because they were already assured of pole position. This first competition of the new season proved a bruising one for the USA and Britain however as they floundered at the bottom of the order while for the newly-returned side from Belgium, and the Swedes who had to battle so hard in 2006, it was a confidence-boosting afternoon in the Francois Andre Stadium.
The weather-gods were not altogether kind, heavy rain making Frederic Cottier's track all the more challenging for many during the early stages, but the Germans were already looking far too good by the half-way interval after Marcus Ehning (Noltes Kuchengirl), Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst (Lord Luis) and Ludger Beerbaum (Couleur Rubin) all kept a clean sheet while Heinrich-Hermann Engemann provided the discount score when lowering two with Aboyeur W.
It was wide-open for the remaining places at this point however with Switzerland carrying eight faults, Belgium and Holland with nine, the home team from France with 12, Sweden carrying 14, the USA with 17 and Great Britain already at the bottom of the heap carrying 20. Surprisingly it was Michael Whitaker who provided the discount score for the British in this round when picking up 13 faults with the stallion Insul Tech Mozart des Hayettes so double-errors from both Mark Armstrong (Thesaura) and William Funnel (Mondrian) had to be added to the single mistake made by David McPherson's Pilgrim 11.
A 13-fault opener from Piet Raijmakers and Van Schijndel's Curtis rattled Dutch confidence as the second round got underway and their grip was further loosened by a similar score from Vincent Voorn whose gelding Audi's Alpapillon Armanie had been foot-perfect first time out. While The Netherlands was weakening however, Sweden was improving, Helena Lundback having an excellent day when picking up only a single time fault each time out with Madick and Royne Zettermann faulting just once at his first attempt with Isaac before collecting one time fault in round two.
Germany's Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst commented after the competition that the time-allowed was a decisive factor today - "especially in the second round where it caused more faults" he pointed out. "The track was long - 550 meters - and every fence was a bit special. You had to be completely focused to make a clear round" he added.
The home team was hampered by an unusually large total of 16 faults from Laurent Goffinet and the game little stallion Flipper d'Elle as the second round got underway. And although Michel Hecart's stallion Itot du Chateau added just a time fault to his clear first-round result and Kevin Staut and Kraque Boom Bois Margot improved from an eight-fault to four-fault performance, the five collected by Julien Epaillard and Icare du Manet, who had already racked up nine, proved expensive because a clear at this stage would have left France in joint-runner-up spot.
The Americans did not have a great day. Samsung Super League debutante Lisa Silverman picking up a total of 17 faults when pathfinder over the two rounds with Obelix R and Laura Kraut collecting 12 with the considerably more experienced Miss Independent. The biggest surprise however was the 24 faults accumulated by World Equestrian Games silver medalist, Beezie Madden, riding Integrity, and it was Richard Spooner and Cristallo who was best for the U.S. when following a first-round single error with a nice second-round clear.
The British were less erratic but still collected another 18 faults to complete on a total of 38 faults and finish last behind the USA but, despite a slight wobble in the closing stages, Belgium, Switzerland and Germany held firm. Philippe Lejeune remained consistent with five faults in each round from Vigo d'Arsouilles while Ludo Philippaerts' good four-fault effort with Chatman first time out was rather spoiled by three fences down at their next attempt but Dirk Demeersman's double-clear with Tymoon Caloo Meerchen and a total of 12 for Jos Lansink and Al Kaheel Turbo R saw Belgium complete on a total of 18.
Pius Schwizer and Noless M provided a steady four-fault result each time out while Markus Fuchs and La Toya faulted just once in the first round. Niklaus Schurtenberger and Cantus however faultered dramatically when following an opening clear with 17 faults at their next attempt but newly-crowned FEI World Cup champion Beat Mandli added just five faults to the four picked up with Principal to leave Switzerland with 17.
If Mandli had managed to make it a clear he would have forced Ludger Beerbaum into the ring for a second time but, in the end, Germany was already assured of maximum points after three riders had taken their turn. And that was despite a bit of a disaster for Engemann who added another 14 faults to his personal tally. However a second clear from Ehning and just one time fault for Pollmann-Schweckhorst was good enough to wrap it up.
Pollmann-Schweckhorst was full of praise for the ground conditions in La Baule. "It rained very heavily during the first round but the going was really good and it didn't [deteriorate] during the second round either. This makes a big difference to a competition" he pointed out. However he said that German Chef d'Equipe, Kurt Gravemeier, had still not decided which of his riders would go to Rome for the next leg of the Samsung Super League with FEI series. "The ground in Rome has sometimes not been so good. He will make his decision when he knows what is happening with the arena there" he explained.
Alois was delighted with the performance of his nine year old Holsteiner Lord Luis who belongs to Hans Helmut Bauer, also owner of his other great ride Candy. "This was this horse's first Nations Cup and it really suited him. He is a tall horse with a big jump and he is scopey but this is the biggest thing he has ever done in his life - by far. I have had him for two years and he has done well in a few Youngster classes but he has never jumped at this level before and I have to say he was extraordinary today!" he explained with real excitement in his voice.
1. Germany 15 faults: Noltes Kuchengirl (Marcus Ehning) 0/0, Lord Luis (Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst) 0/1, Aboyeur (Heinrich-Hermann Engemann) 8/14, Couleur Rubin (Ludger Beerbaum) 0/DNS.
2. Switzerland 17 faults: Noless (Pius Schwizer) 4/4, La Toya (Markus Fuchs) 4/0, Cantus (Niklas Schurtenberger) 0/17, Principal (Beat Mandli) 4/5.
3. Belgium 18 faults: Vigo d'Arsouilles (Philippe Lejeune) 5/5, Chatman (Ludo Philippaerts) 4/12, Tymoon Caloo Meerchen (Dirk Demeersman) 0/0, Al Kaheel Turbo R (Jos Lansink) 8/4.
4. Sweden 21 faults: Nostradamus (Svante Johannson) 9/5, Cagancho (Niklas Arvidsson) 9/9, Madick (Helena Lundback) 1/1, Isaac (Royne Zetterman) 4/1.
5. France 22 faults: Flipper d'Elle (Laurent Goffinet) 4/16, Itot du Chateau (Michel Hecart) 0/1, Kraque Boom Bois Margot (Kevin Staut) 8/4, Icare du Manet (Julien Epaillard) 9/5.
6. The Netherlands 27 faults: Van Schijndel's Curtis (Piet Raijmakers) 9/13, Opium VS (Marc Houtzager) 9/1, Audi's Alpapillon Armania (Vincent Voorn) 0/13, O'Brien (Angelique Hoorn) 0/4.
7. USA 33 faults: Obelix (Lisa Silverman) 5/12, Miss Independent (Laura Kraut) 8/4, Cristallo (Richard Spooner) 4/0, Integrity (Beezie Madden) 9/15.
8. Great Britain 38 faults: Insul Tech Mozart des Hayettes (Michael Whitaker) 13/5, Thesaura (Mark Armstrong) 8/9, Pilgrim (David McPherson) 4/9, Cortaflex Mondriaan (William Funnell) 8/4.
SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE WITH FEI - LEADERBOARD AFTER ROUND 1 AT LA BAULE:
1. Germany-10 points
4. Sweden- 4
5. France - 3
8. Great Britain-0.5.
Courtesy: The HorseTV Channel News, http://www.horsetv.com
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<a href="http://www.equestrianmag.com/article/germans-samsung-super-league-results-5-07.html">Germans Convincing in La Baule at the Samsung Super League</a> ~ EquestrianMag.com