Caption: Olympic champions, Switzerland's Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets, who will compete in this week's Jumping Championships at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™, were in fine form during today's training session at Stade D'Ornano in Caen, France. (Dirk Caremans/FEI)
Lots more sparkling sport ahead as week two gets underway
By Louise Parkes
The thrills and excitement of the first week of fabulous sport at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy will be a hard act to follow. But now that the Dressage, Para-Dressage, Reining, Endurance and Eventing horses have headed for home, the stables at the Games venues in Caen have filled up once more, this time with the world's top Jumping, Vaulting and Driving horses. Anticipation hangs in the air ahead of another six days of superb sport.
The Jumping athletes and their horses had the opportunity to take in the sights and sounds of the D'Ornano Arena during today's training session. The stadium was a great deal more silent than yesterday afternoon when the roars of the crowd celebrated a brilliant double-victory for Germany in team and individual Eventing. The atmosphere was electric then, and from the moment the first rider gets the Jumping championship underway tomorrow morning, the temperature gauge, and the sound level, is sure to rise once again.
The Olympic and European champions from Great Britain, who had the team Jumping title firmly in their sights, have suffered a major set-back with the news that world number 3, Ben Maher, has withdrawn due to injury to his chosen ride, the mare Cella. But the British still have a very strong hand, with world number 1 Scott Brash riding Hello Sanctos, Joe Clee partnering Utamaro d'Ecaussines, Spencer Roe with Wonder Why and Michael Whitaker with Viking V flying the flag.
The Belgian team has also had to adjust their line-up with Jos Lansink's horse, Ensor de Litrange, withdrawn before the first horse inspection. This led to a last-minute call-up for Jos Verlooy and Domino, who were so impressive at last summer's ECCO FEI European Championships in Herning (DEN) and who were members of the winning team at CHIO Aachen in July.
Meanwhile there has also been a re-jig in the Qatari squad. Bassem Hassan Mohammed will ride Eurocommerce California, the horse initially listed to Sheikh Ali bin Khalid Al Thani. Mohammed's original ride, Primeval Dejavu, has been withdrawn and Sheikh Al Thani will now ride Vienna Olympic.
Riders from 54 countries will battle it out for the Jumping medals and 35 nations will be represented in the team competition. The first horse will enter the arena at 09.10 tomorrow morning for the first competition, which counts for both team and individual rankings. There's a four-second penalty for every fence down in this speed competition. Athlete's results are converted into penalty points which are carried into another two rounds of jumping on Wednesday and Thursday before the team medals are awarded and the five nations that will be heading for Rio 2016 Olympic Games are confirmed.
It's a rest day for the Jumpers on Friday, and the top-30 riders then go through to Saturday's qualifier for the individual top-four Final which brings the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 to a close on Sunday afternoon. Only one of the individual medallists from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 in Kentucky returns to defend his title - Canada's Eric Lamaze, who took bronze four years ago.
There are four sets of medals up for grabs in Vaulting, which also begins tomorrow morning and which has attracted a record entry of 179 athletes from 22 countries with 17 nations represented by squads.
It's going to be a busy four days of competition, starting with the Compulsory Tests tomorrow, Freestyle tests on Wednesday, Technical Tests and the first Freestyle Pas-de-Deux on Thursday and the drama-filled Finals for all four events on Friday.
In the battle for the Female honours, Great Britain's Joanne Eccles can expect a strong challenge from Italy's Anna Cavallaro, who successfully defended her FEI World Cup™ Vaulting title this year, while in the Pas-de-Deux the Austrian duo of Jasmin Lindner and Lukas Wacha may prove hard to beat.
A total of 35 female and 18 male individuals will take part, and the 12 top teams qualify for the Freestyle Final.
The presence of the host nation's male Vaulting super-stars, World and FEI World Cup™ Vaulting Champion Nicolas Andreani, and European champion Jacques Ferarri, is set to draw huge, enthusiastic crowds throughout the week, and particularly for Friday's closing stages.
The horse inspection for Driving takes place at 10.30am on Wednesday and the action gets underway with Dressage on Thursday and Friday. The Marathon takes place on Saturday and Obstacles on Sunday, and every phase will be staged at the La Prairie Racecourse.
A total of 46 four-in-hand drivers from 17 nations will take part, including world champion and title defender Boyd Exell from Australia. The host nation of France will be represented by eight competitors – three team members and five individuals - and a total of 14 nations will line out for the team medals, including the defending champions from The Netherlands.
At 22, Hungary's József Dobrovitz junior is the youngest driver while Carlo Mascheroni (ITA) is, at 74, the oldest athlete of the entire Games.
Course Designer is America's Richard Nicoll and while Boyd Exell looks the man to beat, he will be coming up against the toughest of opposition as America's Chester Weber looks a serious threat following victories at the key international Driving events at Windsor (GBR), Saumur (FRA) and Aachen (GER). The 2012 silver medallist also won the test event at Caen in 2013, leaving nothing to chance.
Facts and Figures:
153 horse-and-rider combinations will start in the first competition, which begins tomorrow at 09.10.
First rider into the arena will be Finland's Jessica Timgren with Vaillant.
54 National Federations will be represented.
35 National Federations represented by teams.
19 National Federations represented by individuals only.
Only 1 of the individual medallists from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2010 in Kentucky returns to defend his medal - Canada's Eric Lamaze who took bronze four years ago.
Course designer is Frederick Cottier (FRA).
179 athletes from 22 countries.
17 nations represented by squads of 6 vaulters.
4 competitions - Squad, Female Individual, Male Individual and Pas de Deux.
4 sets of medals, and the lunger also receives a medal along with the vaulters.
12 top teams qualify for the Freestyle Final.
35 Female Individuals.
18 Male Individuals.
Horse inspection 10.30am on Wednesday 3 September.
46 four-in-hand drivers from 17 nations, including world champion and title defender Boyd Exell from Australia
Host nation France is well represented with eight competitors – three team members and five individuals.
A total of 14 teams will line up in the nations competition, in which the Netherlands is the defending champion.
At 22, Hungary's József Dobrovitz Jr. is the youngest driver.
At 74, Carlo Mascheroni (ITA) is the oldest athlete of the entire Games.
Course Designer is Richard Nicoll (USA).