Great Britain produced an emphatic victory in Rotterdam, The Netherlands following its elimination at the previous leg in St Gallen, Switzerland. Its
best rounds were the double-clear from David McPherson and AK Pilgrim 11 which was matched only by Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson and the veteran MacKinley. And The Maestro himself, John Whitaker, did not have to jump in the second round with Peppermill. The deal had already been sealed by his younger brother Michael, his niece Ellen and the 46 year old former South African.
The Belgian team lined up second, just a fence behind in the final analysis, but big scores were the order of the day for the remaining six teams with Switzerland slotting into third ahead of Germany in fourth, Sweden in fifth and the host Netherlands side in sixth. The French managed to keep only one other nation at bay - the Americans who collected a massive 42 faults to finish a very definite last and who have now slipped to the bottom of the 2007 Samsung Super League with FEI table.
Well out in front on a zero score after the first round, the British were in command all the way following clears from Michael Whitaker, McPherson and John Whitaker while Ellen Whitaker collected just a single time penalty with Locarno. The Belgians were looking good in the early stages with just single time faults from both Philippe Le Jeune (Vigo D'Arsouilles) and the impressive newcomer Niels Bruynseels (Item de Quintin), but 20 faults from Dirk Demeersman and Tymoon Caloo Meerchen blotted their copybook so the five picked up by Jos Lansink and Al Kaheel Turbo R brought their tally to seven.
Sweden and Switzerland shared a score of 13, Swedish pathfinder Erika Lickhammer producing a very stylish clear from Irco Mac and Royne Zetterman's 13 faults with Isaac the only others to count when Helena Lundback's 17 with Madick were dropped after Bengtsson also left the course intact. The Swiss were also obliged to dispose of one high score - the 16 collected by Daniel Etter and Peu a Peu - but with just a single mistake from Werner Muff and Plot Blue and one time fault for Niklaus Schurtenberger and Cantus then Pius Schwizer's eight with Nobless M completed their scoreline.
Germany was lying fifth at the half-way point following single errors from both Marcus Ehning and Sandro Boy and Ludger Beerbaum with Goldfever which had to be added to the eight faults acquired by Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst and Lord Luis when Daniel Deusser's Air Jordan also had two down but added a time penalty. Time was a crucial factor all day - the speed required to make it around Rob Jansen's track throwing some very experienced partnerships into a bit of a spin....
The Dutch were carrying 21 faults, Vincent Voorn's clear with Audi's Alpapillon-Armanie largely responsible for keeping things under control when both Angelique Hoorn (Blauwendraad's O'Brien) and Ben Schroder (BMC Rubert R) left three on the floor and Gerco Schroder's Eurocommerce Berlin returned with nine faults on the board. The American slide was already seriously underway however, the single errors from opener Richard Spooner riding Cristallo and anchor rider Beezie Madden with Authentic incapable of compensating for cricket scores from both Margie Engle with Hidden Creek's Quervo Gold and McLain Ward with Sapphire. Ward's round got off the to worst possible start when the mare hit the very first fence and he returned with a total of 17 faults, but that was considerably better than the 25 accumulated by Engle who had a horror-story of a day that concluded with a personal tally of 46 faults.
The US first-round tally of 25 however did give them a one-point advantage over the French going into round two - France hampered by nine faults from Florian Angot (First de Launay), 13 from Eugenie Angot (Ilostra Dark) and 17 from Roger-Yves Bost (Ideal de la Loge) while Stefan Lafouge and Gabelou des Ores lowered just one first time out. One French clear second time out however would reverse those last two placings.
It was the great recovery by Bost who left all the fences up second time out that secured the 38 fault finishing score for the French while the Americans, crippled by another 21 faults from Engle, had to settle for last when adding another 17 between the remaining three riders.
Ben Schroder was the only Dutch rider to go clear in round two when all three of his team-mates double-faulted but that was still good enough to squeeze the host nation into sixth place, just ahead of the French. The Swedes picked up another 18 faults despite Bengtsson's second clear and this saw them drop two places to fifth while, surprisingly, the powerful Germans also collected another 13 faults to leave them with a final total of 29 in fourth. The Swiss added another 12 to remain in third place carrying 25 faults but Belgian Chef d'Equipe Lucien Somers should be feeling very happy with runner-up spot. Having just returned to the Samsung Super League with FEI series after relegation two years ago the Belgians are showing that they are definitely made of Super League material and, against the stiffest of opposition today, their 16-fault result was impressive.
Not quite as impressive as the British with just 12 however - "and David clinched it for us" Michael Whitaker said afterwards. David McPherson, from Maidstone in Kent, competed for South Africa until transferring to Britain in 2003 and is making quite a mark. "The course today was very, very big but our horses were really jumping" Whitaker continued. "After the first round we were a good way out in front - my mare was exceptional in the first round but she got a bit flat second time out. Ellen's horse Locarno was really good - its great that he's back again - and David's second clear was brilliant - that's a really good horse he's got there so I hope he can hang onto it!" he said. "The horses we have here are big, scopey horses, the kind we will need for the European Championships" he added, thinking ahead to the Olympic qualifier in Mannheim in August.
Show Director, Emile Hendrix, congratulated the British side adding that he looked forward to Samsung and the FEI staying "for many years" at Rotterdam, "and I want to compliment the course designer today" he said, "it was a very big course, but very fair. Riders usually come to Rotterdam expecting that it will not be so difficult but we are always trying to upgrade the show - not just the height of the obstacles but everything we do here" he pointed out.
While the British were celebrating however the Americans were at the other end of the emotional roller-coaster that is Nations Cup jumping. Chef d'Equipe George Morris must be wondering just what he has to do for things to go his way in the 2007 Samsung Super League with FEI series as the US now lies bottom of the leaderboard with just 7.5 points while the Swedes have grasped a foothold - albeit only a one-point advantage - ahead of them. The British meanwhile can put the memory of that Swiss day of disaster behind them because they have rocketed right up to second place and are now seriously challenging the Germans for the lead going into the next leg in Aachen in two weeks' time.....
1. GREAT BRITAIN 12 faults: Suncal Portofino (Michael Whitaker) 0/8, AK Pilgrim 11 (David McPherson) 0/0, Locarno (Ellen Whitaker) 1/4, Peppermill (John Whitaker) 0/DNS.
2. BELGIUM 16 faults: Vigo d'Arsouilles (Philippe Lejeune) 1/5, Item de Quintin (Niels Bruynseels) 1/9, Tymoon Calco Meerchen (Dirk Demeersman) 20/4, Al Kaheel Turbo R (Jos Lansink) 5/0.
3. SWITZERLAND 25 faults: Plot Blue (Werner Muff) 4/4, Cantus (Niklaus Schurtenberger) 1/12, Peu a Peu (Daniel Etter) 16/8, Nobless M (Pius Schwizer) 8/0.
4. GERMANY 29 faults: Sandro Boy (Marcus Ehning) 4/0, Lord Luis (Alois Pollmann-Schweckkhorst) 8/13, Air Jordan Z (Daniel Deusser) 9/9, Goldfever (Ludger Beerbaum) 4/4.
5. SWEDEN 31 faults: Irco Marco (Erika Lickhammer) 0/12, Madick (Helena Lundback) 17/9, MacKinley (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) 0/0, Isaac (Royne Zetterman) 13/9.
6. THE NETHERLANDS 37 faults: Blauwendraad's O'Brien (Angelique Hoorn) 12/8, Audi's Alpapillon-Armanie (Vincent Voorn) 0/8, BM Rubert R (Ben Schroder) 12/0, Eurocommerce Berlin (Gerco Schroder) 9/8.
7. FRANCE 38 faults: First de Launay (Florian Angot) 9/4, Gabelou des Ores (Stephan Lafouge) 4/8, Ilostra Dark (Eugenie Angot) 13/13, Ideal de la Loge (Roger-Yves Bost) 17/0.
8. USA 42 faults: Cristallo (Richard Spooner) 4/8, Hidden Creek's Quervo Gold (Margie Engle) 25/21, Sapphire (McLain Ward) 17/5, Authentic (Beezie Madden) 4/4.
SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE WITH FEI - LEADERBOARD AFTER ROUND 4 AT ROTTERDAM:
1. Germany - 25.75
2. Great Britain - 21.0
3. Belgium - 20.75
4. Switzerland - 19.75
5. Netherlands - 16.0
6. France - 10.75
7. Sweden - 8.5
8. USA - 7.5
Courtesy: The HorseTV Channel News, http://www.horsetv.com
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