With their new chef d’equipe, Markus Fuchs, at the helm, the Italians go out with a bang while France claims the Meydan series title.
The Italian team had only 4 total points for the Meydan FEI Nations Cup series going into the final, and nothing could have saved them from elimination from next year’s series.
People were even avoiding eye contact with the riders and the changing string of chefs d’équipe as the Italians racked up what had to be record losing scores that left a pall over the crowds at recent series shows: 63 faults from their first round at Hickstead (England) and 72 in Falsterbo (Sweden), to name just two.
At the draw during the Dublin CSIO (Ireland), Aug. 5-9, as if to add insult to injury, Italy was picked to go first in the order of go for the league final.
Markus Fuchs, less than two months after officially retiring from professional ridng, sat in the seat for the first time as the new chef d’équipe of the Italian team. He’d only been in discussions with the riders since the San Patrignano CSI***** (Italy) in mid-July, where he managed to put the best four together for one last go at Dublin.
“I didn’t expect to be on the top of the list so quickly!” Fuchs joked before his team took to the course in Dublin.
But he continued with a more serious, though not negative, tone.
“I don’t have great hopes for tomorrow; I’ve still got to get to know the riders, the teams, their horses,” he said. “We’ll start from the bottom next year, but I guarantee you we won’t finish last.”
In his first outing with the Italian team he orchestrated a 360-degree, come-from-behind turn-around that would trump most made-for-TV movies in America. It’s evident now that Italy has good horses and strong riders, and though they are likely leaving the league (see “Great Britain And Belgium Both Qualify For Nations Cup Top League“), if Fuchs has anything to do with it, they’ll be back.
A Deep Well
In Friday’s competition, three of Italy’s four riders had only one rail down after two rounds. With their team tied with the United States for first at the half, the last rider to go, Piergiorgio Bucci on the 12 year-old bay Baden Wurttemberg gelding, Kanebo, clinched the win for Italy with a clear round.
| Meydan FEI Nations Cup League Final Standings
1. France, 48.0
After winning the final, Fuchs added, “Now [the Italian Equestrian Federation] will know I’m not just there to take their money! I’ve won some pretty big things in my life—I’ve won the grand prix here, and others—but I’ve never received so many texts from so far around the world; they’ve been coming in from Europe, America, Asia and Brazil—it’s unbelievable.”
While the Italian team did a boomerang-style turn around, many of the other top team horses didn’t seem to be in sync. There was languid jumping and unexpected refusals from top contenders including Sweden, the Netherlands and Ireland (who just stayed in the league by the skin of their teeth). Even the German team had problems when Max Kuhner was twice eliminated and once unseated when Coeur De Lion roared that he didn’t like the liverpool.
The Nations Cup course designed by Alan Wade was daring in that there was no time component. It was a difficult and complicated course, but even though the second element of the triple combination and the water jump collected errors, fences were down all over the track.
Peter Charles of Great Britain said, “That Nations Cup course was the best course I’ve ever ridden. Wade—he could be the world’s best course designer. He didn’t use time as a factor.”
After co-leading after Round 1, the U.S. team came apart in the second round when Charlie Jayne and Urbanus lost their rhythm after their second mistake at fence 10 and became the drop score with 16 on the board.
Cara Raether followed her first-round performance with only one down—the same water jump that snagged her and Ublesco in Round 1. Laura Kraut and Cedric weren’t able to repeat their first-round clear, dropping two of the most felled fences on the track, fence 5A (the liverpool) and fence 9, the water jump, which was splashed a total of 12 times.
Beezie Madden and Danny Boy also had a repeat of their first round, dropping the same fence 11B, the middle element of the triple.
The U.S. team’s score was good enough to land them in shared fourth with France, for a second-placed overall finish in the Meydan FEI Nations Cup series to France.
Chef d’Equipe George Morris wouldn’t say he was disappointed when prompted by a TV interviewer, rather, he replied: “I’m very pleased. I think we ended up second. I brought some younger riders and younger horses, but I didn’t strategize this. We have some depth now—and that’s always the secret—you have to have depth and numbers of Super League-level horses.”
The Dublin show is always nostalgic for Morris, who competed here as a young man in 1958 and won the grand prix his first time out. “I love Dublin,” Morris noted.
Who’s In And Who’s Out?
The British team did everything in its power to hold onto their place in the league, but a second-placed finish at the final (tied with Switzerland with 16 faults) put them in shared eighth with the Belgian team with 22 points.
Fédération Equestre Internationale officials first announced that Britain was still in the league, then that it was Belgium, then that there was uncertainty as to the interpretation of the rule.
The ruling itself, under the April 1, 2009 FEI Rules for the Nations Cup Series 2009 and 2010, states: “Relegation of Top League Teams—the two last-placed teams in the overall standings at the end of each season will be relegated to the FEI Nations Cup Promotional League. Teams tying on points for either of the last two places in the final classification of the Top League are separated by relegating the two teams with the greatest number of last places in the Top League competitions. If further ties exist the teams with the greatest number of second-last places are relegated and so on until a tie no longer exists.’’
Following this rule, confusion became more apparent in the series points totals, which both add up to 22.
Britain: 0 5.5 3.5 1 0 3.5 2 6.5
Belgium: 3 0 5.5 5 3 0 3.5 2
After canceling out like scores, you end up with Britain’s 1, 3.5 and 6.5 against Belgium’s 3, 5 and 3. So, does one count Britain’s 1 score, or the fact that their two remaining scores beat Belgium’s two-out-of-three? Most absolute lowest scores or most losing scores?
By not being prepared with the meaning of their ruling, and by giving several changing announcements, FEI officials left the British and Belgian teams celebrating and commiserating in turns in their respective camps. On Aug. 19, however, officials eventually granted immunity to both teams, allowing each to remain in the league for 2010. see “Great Britain And Belgium Both Qualify For Nations Cup Top League.”