Strong cross-country performances in testing conditions gave France the winning edge in the second leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™, which took place in the stunning setting of Chatsworth Park (GBR). All four French riders scored clear cross-country performances around a demanding course, with some of the fastest times of the day. Their final team score of 140.3 penalties put them just ahead of Great Britain who had led the first two phases but eventually finished on 148.9 penalties. Belgium lagged behind in third on 1120.3 penalties.
The best performance of the day came from young Frenchman Stephane Landois and his beautiful grey horse Chaman Dumontceau. After an impressive dressage score of 22.8, the talented pair was one of just four riders to jump a double clear and his blazing cross-country round was one of the quickest of the day. Speaking after his performance, he said: “I am so happy; my horse is a very good horse and this weekend he confirmed that. My horse is very powerful and the ground was not easy, but not so difficult for him as for others.”
Gaspard Maksud and his exciting mare Zaragoza ll did no harm to their chances of selection for future French teams with another fast and seamless cross-country performance. He spoke highly of the cross-country course, which has been designed by Ian Stark for a number of years. Chatsworth is generally considered one of the more demanding tracks of this level, with the undulations adding to the scale of difficulty.
“It was a lovely track to ride. Big and bold and nothing too technical,” summed up Maksud. “The ground was a bit holding and was the reason no one went first. I just let my horse gallop at her own speed because there is nothing worse than a tired horse. It’s always easy to find an excuse and blame the ground, but whilst you needed to ride the ground a bit slower, you still needed to attack the fences. It was big and wide and you had to be committed to ride the distances.”
“This is my first time at Chatsworth, it’s lovely with the house in the background. It is a fantastic atmosphere — in fact, hard to do much better than that. It is great to see people out here enjoying watching the sport and what we are doing,” said Maksud.
Like many of the riders here, Maksud is hoping to impress the selectors, particularly with the French hosting the Olympics in Paris next year. “I have done two Nations Cups last year and it is always nice to be in the team and win. But the real battle is going to be in August for the Europeans at Haras du Pin.”
The British team posted impressive dressage and jumping performances, with three riders jumping double clears but slipped behind the French after incurring more time penalties in the final phase. Fresh from her Badminton victory, Ros Canter led going into the final phase after scoring an eye-popping 18 penalties in the dressage. Her horse Izilot DHI is young and impressionable, so she chose to take him more steadily on the cross-country. “It was a really fantastic course and exactly what we wanted to set us up for Bramham, which is our big aim. The ground conditions were far from ideal, so I just let him get the education at the fences. He is quite a spooky horse, but the scope and ability are all there.
“The Nations Cup is fantastic and there is the bigger significance for some of the nations trying to get their Olympic qualification, so it’s great to see so many nations coming over for Chatsworth. This Series is really good for the young horses to get the exposure and come to an event like this where there are lots of people watching; it’s just the sort of thing that would bother my horse. You get the benefit of your other team members telling you what happened and all our amazing World Class staff that give us valuable information here,” said Canter.
Despite the sun coming out for the final day, incessant rain leading up to the event resulted in heavy ground conditions in both the jumping and cross-country phases. This inevitably saw the undoing of a great number of combinations. There were just 11 combinations to jump clear cross-country out of the 23 who started the competition.
This Nations Cup series is of particular significance to some nations this year. The highest placed team according to the final team classification of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup Series 2023, excluding teams/NOCs already qualified, will be allocated a place for the Paris 2024 Olympic Games.
The Belgians lead the Series at this early stage, with 180 points scored after winning the opening event in Montelibretti last month. The third leg of the FEI Eventing Nations Cup™ moves to Millstreet (IRE) which runs from 3-6 June.
by Eleanore Kelly