US riders were clearly on form when taking the top three placings in the early morning class but winner, McLain Ward, was quickly brought
back to earth when biting the dirt at the penultimate double of ditches in the nations' cup when his 10 year old mare, Sapphire, backed right
off the second element and fell in a pile of poles.
Switzerland's Hansueli Sprunger, already in trouble when Rubens Du Ry D'Asse stopped at the first element of the double at fence seven before lowering two more fences, also gave his rider the ejector seat at the ditches but the horse didn't fall and Sprunger remounted to finish.
The horse looked uncomfortable leaving the arena however and the Swiss rider did not return for the second round.
In a surprising move, the French withdrew in round one after pathfinder Philippe Rozier was eliminated at the same fence and new recruit,
Nathalie Paillot, picked up 27 faults.
Course-builder Bob Ellis gave them plenty to think about with a maximum height vertical at three, a difficult line from a triple bar at six to
a double at seven followed by a dog-leg to a set of planks, while the Longines double - oxer to vertical - at nine hit the floor for many.
The ditches however were the real bogey but, by round two when Germany already held the advantage with the Dutch in second, the US in third, Belgium in fourth, Ireland in fifth, Switzerland in sixth and the home side in last, things began to settle down with considerably improved performances all round.
John Whitaker and Exploit du Roulard produced one of only six clear rounds when leading the way in the second round but the British were
struggling while the Swiss, hampered by the absence of Sprunger, had to settle for a total score of 52 faults despite a foot-perfect second
round for Puis Schwizer and Unique.
Belgium's Jean Claude Vangeenberghe also kept a second-round clean sheet with Osta Rugs Quintus but after big scores for Maurice van
Roosbroeck and Dirk Demeersman both times out, Belgium finished just one fault ahead of the Swiss in sixth while the British slotted into
Cian O'Connor made the perfect return to the Irish team when clear with Waterford Crystal in round one and, on his Super League debut, Shane Breen produced a creditable 12-fault result with World Cruise, but big scores for Dave Quigley and Denis Lynch jeopardised Irish chances and, although they slotted into fourth place in the final analysis the Irish have dropped to the bottom of the league table going into their home leg in Dublin next week.
Wout Jan van der Schans picked up a total of 32 faults but just six faults over two rounds for Harrie Smolders and Oliver, boosted by a
first round clear and a nine-fault second-round result for Mathijs Van Asten and VDL Groep Kwidanta, helped the Dutch to slot into third.
The real battle was between the Americans and Germans however and despite the loss of Ward the US were impressive when Kimberley Prince made only a single error each time out while Beezie Madden kept the pressure on when picking up just four first-round faults with
German Chef d'Equipe did not tell Rene Tebbel that the result hung in the balance as he went into the ring last with Quel Homme but Tebbel
did not disappoint, coming home with a single time fault to ensure his side won by a narrow one-point margin.
The league table continues to be a close-fought thing with only one point separating the Belgians, Dutch and Irish at the bottom end and
just 1.5 points between the Germans in pole position and the US in second.
1. Germany - 27 faults: Diamonds Daylight (Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst) 1+5, Asti Spumante (Thomas Muhlbauer) 4+4, Carino (Ulrich Kirchhoff) 16+12, Quel Homme (Rene Tebbel) 12+1.
2. USA - 28 faults: Miss Independent (Laura Kraut) 12+4, Marlou (Kimberley Prince) 4+4, Sapphire (McLain Ward) Elim+DNS, Authentic
(Beezie Madden) 4+0.
3. The Netherlands - 39 faults: Oliver (Harrie Smolders) 2+4, Miss Montana (Emile Tacken) 17+9, Broere VDL Atlantic (Wout-Jan van der
Schans) 24+8, VDL Groep Kwidanta (Mathijs Van Asten) 0+8.
4. Ireland - 45 faults: Waterford Crystal (Cian O'Connor) 0+9, World Cruise (Shane Breen) 8+4, Ashdale Futuro (David Quigley) 21+5, Domingo (Denis Lynch) 20+8.
5. Great Britain - 48 faults: Exploit du Roulard (John Whitaker) 13+0, Nicolette (Robert Whitaker) 13+12, Thesaura (Mark Armstrong) 9+5,
Russel (Nick Skelton) 25+8.
6. Belgium - 51 faults: Osta Rugs Quintus (Jean-Claude Van Geenberghe) 9+0, Le Coup C (Maurice Van Roosbroeck) 20+17, Tiquila (Dirk
Demeersman) 9+29, Karioka del Follee (Philippe Le Jeune) 8+8.
7. Switzerland - 52 faults: Unique (Pius Schwizer) 12+0, Cantus (Niklaus Schurtenberger) 9+9, Hansueli Sprunger (Rubens du Ry D'Asse)
34+DNS, Principal (Beat Mandli) 9+13.
8. France - Retired: Senna Van Paemel (Philippe Rozier) Elim, Kapital Girl (Nathalie Paillot) 27, Cyrenaike FRA (Philippe Leoni) DNS, First
de Launay (Florian Angot) DNS.
SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE LEADERBOARD (after Round 5 in Hickstead):
1. Germany - 31
2. USA - 28.5
3. Great Britain - 23.5
4. Switzerland - 23.0
5. France - 20.5
6. Belgium - 12.5
7. The Netherlands - 12.0
8. Ireland - 11.5.
British drawn first at Hickstead
The home side is drawn first in tomorrow's fifth leg of the 2005 Samsung Super League series at Hickstead but, for once, running early rather than late is considered an advantage as, after weeks of dry weather, the rain has descended on the All England showground.
The order of go is as follows:1, Great Britain; 2, Belgium; 3, Germany; 4, USA; 5, France; 6, The Netherlands; 7, Switzerland; 8, Ireland.
Mr Ben Tilley, Marketing Services Manager for Samsung UK, welcomed the Chefs d'Equipe from the eight competing nations during today's draw and said that Samsung is delighted to continue its sponsorship of the Super League series which is included in its portfolio along with the Olympic Games, the Winter Olympics and the recently-announced sponsorship of the team shirts for the world-famous Chelsea Football Club.
French team manager Jean-Maurice Bonneau pointed out that it is difficult to find strong teams for events when they take place in a short space of time. "We had the European Championships last week and now we have two Super League shows at Hickstead and Dublin so I hope the course designer will take that into account and take care of our horses" he said. Britain's Derek Ricketts hoped that there would be no overnight rain, and he also expressed concern about fielding a competitive team so soon after a championship event. His side for tomorrow's clash will include Mark Armstrong, John Whitaker and his son, Robert, and Nick Skelton.
As expected, the American and German teams are well-fancied and while Belgian Chef d'Equipe Lucien Somers forecast a win for the US ahead of Britain and Germany, the German Chef, Sonke Sonksen, predicted that France will head the line-up tomorrow with the British in runner-up spot.
"I put my team in the first three" said Holland's Rob Ehrens, but Irish team manager Eamonn Rice said "if the gods were with us we would like to reverse the order of the draw so that we could have the best of the ground. Realistically if we finish in the top three I'll be very happy. Germany and the US are very strong" he added.
Rolf Theiler is acting as Chef d'Equipe for Switzerland this time out, and after his country's superb silver medal winning performance at San Patrignano team spirits are high. "I hope we can make a result like last week - that would be good" he said but he pointed out "here we have two young horses so maybe we might have to finish behind the USA, Britain and Germany".
Mr Theiler was also concerned that tomorrow's course should not be too demanding on what is likely to be difficult ground, but America's George Morris disagreed with him. "I've ridden at Hickstead in much worse conditions than this and I don't think it is good for either the horses or riders to 'build down' all the time just because the ground isn't perfect. Doing just that has hurt the sport in America. We need to remember that this is not a business, it's a sport. I think the Germans and the British will do well tomorrow but I hope we will be in the top three" he added.
The battle resumes at Hickstead
As the 2005 Samsung Super League series resumes this Friday at Hickstead after a six-week break, the Swiss hold a narrow lead over the
Americans at the top of the table and only two points separate the first five nations. There is likely to be some jostling amongst the
leading bunch but the most exciting action will probably be played out between the three countries at the other end of the leaderboard as the Dutch and Irish fight to climb away from that last-place relegation position and the Belgians work to ensure that they don't get left
behind in the aftermath.
It was no surprise when Germany took team and individual gold at the European Championships in San Patrignano in Italy last week but
Switzerland's team silver medal marked a significant upturn in fortunes while few could have predicted that the Dutch, struggling for Super
League survival, would claim team bronze in considerable style.
The squads travelling to this week's British fixture are very different however and the formidable Hickstead arena with it's undulating ground
and challenging fences is bound to be as influential as ever. There is little comparison between jumping a nations' cup track at most European
venues and what they will find here and, after heavy rain in the early part of this week, the going could also be a major factor. The best
horses to bring to Hickstead are usually ones that have been there before. They need to be brave and bold - any lack of courage will quickly become evident.
On paper, the Americans and Germans look strongest. The US squad includes Laura Kraut, Beezie Madden, Kimberly Frey, McLain Ward and
Jeffery Welles. Although relatively unknown in Europe, Welles is one of the most successful competitors on the US circult.
Germany sends Thomas Muhlbauer, Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst, Rene Tebbel and Ulrich Kirchhoff - all seasoned campaigners with experienced horses - and they can be expected to give a good account of themselves.
Pius Schwizer conjured up something close to a miracle to clinch victory for the Swiss in Rotterdam and he is joined by Beat Mandli,
Hansueli Sprunger and Niklaus Schurtenberger this time out while the French line-up of Herve Godignon, Olivier Guillon, Nathalie Paillot,
Philippe Leoni and Philippe Rozier will be hoping to ensure that they keep pace with the leading pack. A hat-trick of Samsung Super League
titles is still well within their grasp if the French can hold their ground.
The Belgians were most impressive in Italy last week when finishing fifth, so spirits should be high as Chef d'Equipe Lucien Somers chooses
his side from Philippe Le Jeune, Jean-Claude van Geenberghe, Maurice van Roosbroeck, Dirk Demeersman and Niels Bruynseels.
The British used up most of their fire-power when finishing sixth at San Patrignano so team manager Derek Ricketts has plenty to think about
but the Irish and Dutch have called up fresh troops and the Dutch seem to have the advantage here.
Mathijs Van Asten, Wout-Jan van der Schans, Harrie Smolder and Emile Tacken will be buoyed up by their country's superb result last weekend but the Irish witnessed their colleagues disappearing from the team event during the nations' cup first round. Not much encouragement there then.
The return of Cian O'Connor to the Irish side should have boosted morale. His three-month ban from international competition was
completed just over two weeks ago and he immediately showed form when finishing fifth in the Gelderland Grand Prix with his Olympic ride
Waterford Crystal, but Jessica Kurten's refusal to ride alongside him has come as a huge blow because both riders are so desperately needed if Ireland is to stand any chance of staying in the premier league of international show jumping.
Denis Lynch, Marie Burke, Dave Quigley and Shane Breen join O'Connor at Hickstead this week but there is cloud hanging over the Irish camp.
Chef d'Equipe, Eamon Rice, said yesterday "we have our backs against the wall, but we'll still be coming out fighting" so this Friday's leg
of the 2005 Samsung Super League series looks set to be thriller.
It´s going to be hot at Hickstead
Britain has been experiencing a heat-wave in recent weeks, but the temperature is set to rise even further in 12 days time when the 2005 Samsung Super League series resumes at Hickstead on Friday July 29th.
It's been a fascinating season so far, with the Americans dominating at the opening leg in La Baule and the British showing their class in Rome. The double Super League champions from France headed the line-up in St Gallen and then the Swiss swept to victory in Rotterdam before the series took a six-week break.
Show jumping minds are firmly fixed on the European Championships which take place at San Patrignano, near Rimini in Italy, this week but riders are acutely aware that the Super League battle re-commences just five days after the Championships conclude, and for Belgium, Ireland and Holland, Hickstead presents a particularly important challenge.
These three nations lie at the bottom of the league table and desperately need to pick up more points in order to improve their position. The Belgians are in sixth place, but only three points separate them from the Irish in seventh while the Dutch, at the bottom of the leaderboard, are just 0.5 points further adrift.
Victory in Rotterdam rocketed the Swiss to the top of the table, but it's tight up there because the Americans are only a half-point behind while Germany, Britain and France are hot on their heels in third, fourth and fifth places respectively.
The British won on their home ground in 2004 but the Belgians, Irish and Dutch know that they need to make up some ground if they are to avoid the prospect of relegation at the end of the season and, with just four more legs of the series remaining, it's time to pull out of the danger-zone. It is unlikely that they will all manage to do it, but next week at Hickstead they will be giving it their best shot.
SAMSUNG SUPER LEAGUE LEADERBOARD (after Round 4 in Rotterdam):
1. Switzerland - 22
2. USA - 21.5
3. Germany - 21
4. Great Britain - 20.5
5. France - 20
6. Belgium - 10.5
7. Ireland - 7.5
8. Netherlands - 7.