Eagerly anticipated, today, for the first time in 5 years, a Nations Cup event took place in Belgium, one of the most esteemed equestrian nations in the world. The Belgian team was clearly keen on making their home crowd proud, but also their competitors were eager for the win. It even took a 4-way jump-off to determine the winner. An ecstatic atmosphere and truly amazing athletic performances made the very first Nations Cup on the seaside of Knokke-Heist an instant hit!
France, Belgium, Sweden, … and the Netherlands
Delivering a challenging course, world-famous course designer Uliano Vezzani immediately set the bar high for Knokke Hippique’s first-ever Nations Cup event. After the first round, France, Sweden (the Olympic champions) and Belgium came out on top with 4 faults each on the scoreboard and 2 riders going clear. In the second round the three leaders remained neck and neck. After three of their riders had completed the course, they all had accumulated 8 faults in total, allowing the Netherlands to creep closer. With two clear rounds and only four faults in the second round, the Dutch team would catch up with them if their last riders would only make one mistake. And that is exactly what happened! Kevin Staut had a rail down in the Henders and Hazel triple combination. Pieter Devos threw in the towel after Claire landed in the middle of the water jump. Even Peder Fredricson, felt the immense pressure and had one rail down.
So it’s a jump-off, with four teams, something that rarely happens. The chefs d’equipe sent their fastest and most consistent combinations into battle. Jos Lansink, the Dutch chef d’equipe chose Marc Houtzager and Sterrehof’s Dante N.O.P. But oh no! One down on the first jump and the Audi obstacle: 8 faults. Henk Nooren, the French chef d’equipe chose his only double clear combination: Julien Epaillard and Caracole de la Roque. He is the fastest rider in the world. With a nickname like The Flying Frenchman, the competition knew it would be difficult if he made no mistakes. Epaillard did not disappoint! He flew through the course in sensational fashion, clear and unbeatable it seemed. Then the Belgian flags went up for the last time. Peter Weinberg sent Jos Verlooy and Igor into the Zoute Plage arena, a combination that until then had not made any mistakes. Would they be able to exceed the performance of Epaillard? Unfortunately! The Audi obstacle also proved to be a problem for them. Finally, it was time for the team gold and the individual silver medallist of the most recent Olympics: Peder Fredricson. This time Catch Me Not S cleared all the jumps, but … too slow. Thanks to a stunning jump-off by Julien Epaillard, France wins the first Henders and Hazel Nations Cup at Knokke Hippique. Sweden is second and home country Belgium finishes third.
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