It seemed almost like poetic justice when Team Brazil reigned supreme in the Longines Challenge Cup to bring the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2016 Final to a close at the Real Club de Polo in Barcelona (ESP) today. Squeezed out of a medal position at the Olympic Games on their home turf in Rio de Janeiro last month where they finished a very creditable fifth, they missed qualifying for last night’s Furusiyya Final competition by just a single second, but today produced a gritty performance to take some well-earned glory at last.
They won through despite elimination for second-line rider Stephan de Freitas Barcha who took a spectacular fall late on the track, and the hero of the hour was Pedro Veniss who produced the only clear round of the entire competition when last into the ring with the fabulous stallion Quabri de L’Isle.
Initially cancelled on Friday night due to extreme weather conditions but then rescheduled to this morning following consultation with all the chefs d’equipe, the competition was open to the 10 teams that finished ninth to 18th in Thursday’s first round. And such was the enthusiasm to compete that Rio 2016 Olympic team gold medallist, Penelope Leprevost, who headed home to France when the class was called off on Friday, did a quick turnaround to get back to Barcelona for today’s event. It was not a great week for the newly-crowned Olympic champions who had to settle for equal-fourth with the host nation at the end of the day, but, very much in keeping with the fundamental ethos of the Furusiyya series which is designed to encourage the engagement and development of countries right across the globe, there was a truly international look to the podium with Team Qatar lining up second ahead of Colombia in third.
Santiago Varela’s course was no walk in the park, the series of roll-backs consuming valuable time while several fences, including the vertical topped by planks that followed the triple combination, the open water and the line through the penultimate double to the final oxer, all proved highly influential. By the halfway stage of this single-round class it was impossible to know how it was going to play out, but it was already clear that the French were not living up to expectations, and when Roger Yves Bost’s Rio gold-medal-winning ride, Sydney Une Prince, tried to take on the penultimate double in one stride instead of two with obvious consequences then French chances were finally dashed. Not even the single time fault posted by Leprevost and her lovely mare Flora de Mariposa could rectify the situation sufficiently as her team completed on 21 faults.
The Spanish finished on level pegging, Manuel Fernandez Saro (U Watch) picking up five faults and both Gerardo Mendez Mieres (Cassino DC) and Sergio Alvarez Moya (Carlo) collecting eight, allowing the 12 posted by Pilar Lucrecia Cordon (Gribouille du Lys) to be the discount. So when their rivals for that single place available in Europe Division next season, Team Austria, completed with 29 on the board then the host nation had something to celebrate as they can now look forward to testing their mettle with the best on the European circuit in 2017.
Out in front
In the closing stages it was the Colombians who were out in front, carrying the single time fault collected by pathfinder Roberto Teran Tafur (Brilliant du Rouet), 13 from Rene Lopez (Con Dios lll) and just four from anchorman Carlos Enrique Lopez Lisarazo (Admara Z) whose only error was at the second fence. Third-line rider Andres Penalosa retired with Cisco S Zidane late on the track, but as it turned out their final tally of 18 faults would keep the Colombians well in the frame.
As the last-line riders took their turn it seemed the final two teams on the startlist might each complete on a 12-fault total leading to a jump-off. The first two Qatari team-members, Hamad Al Attiyah (Appagino 2) and Sheikh Ali Al Thani (First Devision), each collected eight faults but Ali Al Rumaihi (Gunder) lowered only the very last so if Bassem Mohammed (Dejavu) could jump clear then one eight-faulter could be dropped for a 12-fault finishing score. However a mistake at the delicate vertical that followed the triple combination added four more for a final total of 16, so last-line Brazilian, Pedro Veniss, had a fence in hand as he entered the ring.
De Freitas Barcha’s elimination meant the 2016 Olympic host country’s team had to carry the four picked up by opener Rodrigo Pessoa (Citizenguard Cadjanine Z) and the double-errors, at the oxer at five and the first element of the triple combination at fence six, posted by Yuri Mansur (Babylotte) so they already had 12 faults on the board. With no room for a fence error if his team was to take the win, Veniss headed out knowing exactly what he had to do. And he did it with consummate ease, his handsome 12-year-old stallion maintaining a lovely rhythm and remaining rideable every step of the way to a crisp, clean clear to clinch victory and the lion’s share of the €300,000 in prizemoney.
There was a bonus of €50,000 on offer to riders that could succeed in producing clear rounds on Thursday and again today, and Veniss was the only one who managed to do that. He was delighted with his horse – “he’s unbelievable, and he’s my very friend!” the 33-year-old rider said today.
The fact that he was the only one to make it around the course without penalty certainly set him apart from the rest. “It was up to 1.60m and it was difficult enough but I was a bit surprised to be honest”, said course designer Varela this afternoon.
Former Olympic and World champion, Rodrigo Pessoa, talked about his team’s path to today’s success. “We were disappointed on Thursday to miss the final (which took place last night and was won by Germany) by just one second, but then we got our thoughts together and approached this competition with a lot of will to do well and to come out on top. A win is always good so we are happy to be here. We were confident we would have good result. On paper France was the strongest team in the group, Qatar as well – we thought they would be close – but in any competition you never know, and France didn’t have good day. Qatar had some good rounds but it was a tough competition and with just one round anything can happen. We also had some misadventures during the day, but in the end we got lucky to come out on top!” he said.
Foto: Dirk Caremans/FEI