A week ago Team Ukraine had to settle for runner-up spot at the opening leg of the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Europe Division 2 in Linz (AUT) where Poland came out on top. Today however the tables were turned with victory for Najib Chami’s side at the new venue in Celje (SLO) where they pinned Spain into second while Austria finished third.
The 2016 Europe Division 2 series is revealing some exciting new talent, and Luxembourg’s Christian Weier and the stallion Global were amongst the five impressive horse-and-rider partnerships to produce a double-clear performance to help his team slot into fourth place. Maria Madenova did likewise as Russia clinched joint-fifth along with Hungary, while Omer Karaevli’s double clear played a key role in the seventh-place share for the three-member Turkish side who finished on the same score as Portugal.
The event was staged at Equestrian Centre Celje, the most modern equestrian facility in Slovenia which stages National Championships in June and September each year including the Finals of the Slovenia Cup and a CSI2* World Cup event which attracts over 300 entries.
Dedicated to the promotion and support of equestrianism in the country, the centre is owned by Hugo Bosio whose family are widely involved in the management of the venue and its activities. And horses and riders were grateful for the presence of the impressive indoor arena which provided welcome shelter from the heavy rains that continue to plague outdoor events across Europe over the last days, weeks and months.
Warming up indoors, competitors moved outside for today’s competition in which Ukraine and Austria shared the lead on a zero score at the halfway stage. But it was Spain, close behind going into the second round with just a single time penalty on the board, who proved the biggest danger to the eventual winners.
On the sidelines
With 12 nations in action it was Croatia, Lithuania and the host nation who joined Team Poland on the sidelines when only the top eight countries progressed into the second round. Ludiczak Krzysztof was the only remaining member of last week’s winning Polish side, and this time around his country’s first-round scoreline of 21 faults was never going to make the cut.
Russia, Hungary and Luxembourg were all sharing fifth place on 12 faults as round two began with Turkey already trailing with 16 on the board. But the real battle would be played out between the three leading nations.
The third-placed Spanish looked vulnerable when both Manuel Fernandez Saro (Coreall) and Pilar Cordon (Goriana van Klapscheut) double-faulted. But Gerardo Menendez and Cassino DC were double-clear while Eduardo Alvarez Aznar and Chatman added nothing to their first-round total of one time fault, so just one of the eight-fault results had to be counted to leave them on a final tally of nine.
Austria’s Gerfried Puck made a mistake first time out, so although he returned an eight-fault score with Bionda at his second attempt his team still looked strong when Christian Rhomberg and Saphyr des Lacs produced a double-clear. But two mistakes from third-line rider Roland Englbrecht and Mevisto’s Poorboy proved costly, because that meant that Max Kuhner’s single error with Cielito Lindo had to be taken into account for a final tally of 12 faults which dropped them below the Spanish.
There were few mistakes from the Ukrainian side however, team owner Oleksndr Onyshchenko producing the only blot on their first-round copybook with a single time fault in round one with Calcourt Falklund which provided their discount score. And when pathfinder Rene Tebbel (Cooper) and third-line rider Ferenc Szentirmai (Chadino) both remained fault-free second time out, then their tally of five faults could not be bettered. It was a convincing victory as anchorman, Ulrich Kirchhoff, didn’t have to return to the ring with Gabbiano.
Chef d’Equipe, Najib Chami, was delighted. “I’m really happy for the result, you can’t get better than first place!” he said. “Our preparation is primarily towards the Olympic Games, and working step-by-step towards qualifying for the Nations Cup Final in Barcelona. We are going to Odense (DEN) next week and we will see how it goes. We’re always thinking about the horses and the distances they must travel to get from one show to the other. The riders are doing their best with the horses. It’s all coming from the great team work between the riders and horses” he explained.
He described last week’s result in Linz as “a test. We used it as a platform to discover what our weak points are so we could play to our strengths coming in to Celje. Some horses perform better two weeks in a row and others not, so it’s really about management. Luck is also sometimes the difference in clinching first place, as we did here, as opposed to second in Linz”, he pointed out.
Oleksandr Onyshchenko, described himself as “only an amateur rider in this professional team! I’m very happy with the result today. With the riders we have in the team, there is a lot of success to be had…..and the secret to success is not only keeping the horses happy, but the riders as well!” he pointed out.
Ukrainian pathfinder, Rene Tebbel, talked about how the competition played itself out. “In the first round there were quite a lot of clears, but in the second round the course designer put up four or five fences and it was a more difficult course. My horse was in really good shape today, double-clear again like he was in Linz. The course was really fair and the footing was really good despite the terrible weather” he said.
He talked about his 13-year-old gelding, Cooper. “I’ve had him for eight years now and he is one of best horses in the world. He has only had two fences down in maybe two years and in Nations Cups he is almost always double-clear. When you keep him happy normally he won’t have a fence down, and when he does it’s normally my fault!” Tebbel added.
Course designer Stefan Wirth from Germany came in for plenty of praise. “He was very good” said Tebbel who described the whole event at Celje as “a really positive experience.” And now out in front on the leaderboard, with the bit firmly between their teeth, Team Ukraine head for Odense (DEN) in a week’s time in a very positive frame of mind.