Belgium took top honours in the Longines FEI Nations Cup Final in Barcelona on Sunday (7 October) after a nail-biting afternoon of ups and downs. In a breathtakingly close finish, France took the runner-up spot and Ireland claimed third in this end-of-season finale.
“We were still fighting till the last rider jumped, so this victory means a lot to us,” said Belgian chef d’equipe Peter Weinberg.
Two of his quartet produced foot-perfect clears — Neils Bruynseels (Gancia De Muze) and Nicola Philippaerts (H&M Harley V Bisschop) — while both Pieter Devos (Claire Z) and Jos Verlooy (Caracas) added 12 faults. But when the leading teams crashed down the rankings as the competition reached its conclusion, it would be Belgium who were crowned the champions.
“I just tried to ride my own class and it worked out well,” said the team’s anchorman Nicola Philippaerts. “Today it was me that could make the clear round that would make a difference, and another time it will be one of the others.”
Ireland’s third-place finish came courtesy of Billy Twomey (Kimba Flamenco), Anthony Condon (SFS Aristio, pictured top), Michael G Duffy (Lapuccino 2) and Darragh Kenny (Balou Du Reventon). They finished just a fence behind the winners, tied with France, Italy and the Netherlands, meaning the placings were decided by accumulated time.
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“We are pretty pleased, we came close to doing something really special,” said Ireland’s team manager Rodrigo Pessoa. “Clear rounds were hard to come by and we came close to forcing a jump-off, but in the end we have to be satisfied with finishing third. Many times this year we have come close without finishing the job. We have to now reflect on those fences we have down, which are the ones that prove costly.
“All-in-all, the season has been a good one although the World Games in Tryon was, of course, disappointing. But overall we have introduced a lot of new horses and riders to our our squad which will be really good for the future.”
Read the full story from Barcelona, including an exclusive insight from Great Britain’s performance manager Di Lampard, in this week’s Horse & Hound, out Thursday, 11 October.