by Louise Parkes
There were great big smiles on French faces when Philippe Guerdat’s side won the Longines FEI Jumping Nations Cup™ of Switzerland at St Gallen (SUI) this afternoon. The French may be Olympic champions, but what made today’s victory all the more sweet is that there were no riders from Rio 2016 in the team that simply swamped the opposition when never putting a foot wrong all day in this third leg of the Europe Division 1 series.
And, to make it all the more impressive, it took only three of their team-members to do it, fourth-line rider Olivier Robert (42) languishing on the sidelines as his compatriots ensured his services were not required in either round.
This was the 15th French win at the Swiss fixture since 1987, and the first time in 20 years for any country to win the Swiss Nations Cup with a zero score. The hosts lined up second with eight faults while Belgium finished third with 13. There were seven teams in contention and it was Germany who slotted into fourth (16 faults) ahead of Great Britain in fifth (17 faults), Spain in sixth (20 faults) and Brazil, winners at the previous leg in La Baule (FRA) two weeks ago, in seventh spot (21 faults).
Mathieu Billot (32) and the 12-year-old stallion Shiva D’Amaury led the French offensive while Nicolas Delmotte (39) and the 10-year-old gelding Ilex VP were third to go for the winning nation. But the biggest surprise of the day was the superb performance of Alexandra Francart (38) who was on a mission with her lovely nine-year-old stallion Volnay du Boisdeville. The lady who runs a relatively small 12-horse competition yard near the Belgian border, not far from Riems, was competing in her very first 5-Star Nations Cup and only her second 5-Star show. And she admitted that she got her chance only by pestering Chef d’Equipe Guerdat over the last few months.
“My horse is very talented and the first time we placed in a 3-Star Grand Prix I told Philippe - ok we are ready, it’s time to give us a chance! Then I told him again a second time, and when I called him a third time he agreed!” Francart said.
She took that chance in both hands today when bringing her horse home twice without a hiccup to prove her point. The French were already in the lead after the first round followed by the Swiss carrying just four faults and the Belgians carrying nine. Riding the brilliant mare Bianca, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat was also double-clear, while the British were unlucky.
Their pathfinder, William Whitaker, produced two spectacular clears from Utamaro d’Ecaussines and Holly Smith followed suit with Hearts Destiny. But Samuel Hutton and Happydam racked up 17 first-round faults and these had to be counted when Louise Saywell’s Golden Wave was eliminated at the open water. Hutton was fault-free second time out and while it was too late to rescue them from a minor placing, today’s British effort suggests Di Lampard’s pool of team contenders is steadily growing.
Today’s winners from France will next line out in round four of the eight-leg Europe Division 1 series in Sopot, Poland in two weeks’ time where they will be hoping to add to their points tally on the league table which continues to be dominated by the Swiss.
Result: 1, France 0 faults - Shiva D’Amaury (Mathieu Billot) 0/0, Volnay du Boisdeville (Alexandra Francart) 0/0 Ilex VP (Nicolas Delmotte) 0/0, Eros (Olivier Robert) DNS/DNS; 2, Switzerland 8 faults - Daimler (Werner Muff) 4/0, Dsarie (Beat Mandli) 4/4, Bianca (Steve Guerdat) 0/0, Chaplin (Martin Fuchs) 0/DNS; 3, Belgium 13 faults - Jeunesse (Yves Vanderhasselt) 1/0, Uno de la Roque (Francois Mathy Jr) 0/8, Identity Vitseroel (Christophy Vanderhasselt) BEL 16/0, IQ van het Steentje (Wilm Vermeir) 8/4.
Full results here
Standings in Europe Division 1 after third leg at St Gallen (SUI):
1. Switzerland - 270
2. Germany - 180
3. Spain - 170
4. Belgium - 160
5. France - 150
6. Ireland - 145
7. Netherlands - 90
8. Great Britain - 60
9. Italy - 57.5
10. Sweden - 57.5
Detailed Standings here
Watch highlights here