Team gold for Iliana and team silver for Highland President
The battle for the team medals went down to the wire at the historical racetrack of Milan. Defending champion Switzerland watched their dreams of a medal go up in smoke and Austria mounted the podium for the first time since 1992. Sweden claimed the gold, Ireland secured silver and the bronze medal was awarded to Austria.
Everyone was on the edge of their seats down to the last rider and the spectators were once again treated to top level sport. The contenders faced a tough course, and the clock was often unforgiving. The Swedish riders won in a dominant fashion, even with a team different to last year’s winning squad in Herning. As a result, Sweden may now call themselves Olympic, World, and European Champion. A remarkable achievement and one for the books; only Germany could do so twice.
Bright future ahead of Iliana
The phenomenal Iliana (Cardento out of Destiny by Gentleman, breeder J.A.M Bocken of Weert) wins team gold at her first international championship. Her rider believes the Cardento-daughter has a bright future ahead of her. Despite incurring one jumping mistake today, Iliana held onto a strong 8th position in the individual standings. “Coming here, our goal was to win. European team gold was one I was hoping to add to my collection”, smiles Henrik von Eckermann afterwards. “The level of sport was high today; it was a fantastic day.” Although the Swedish rider always seems to be relaxed, he admits he sometimes feels stressed, too. “If I have to ride, I am calm. Watching my teammates, on the other hand, is terrible. I simply cannot watch”, discloses Von Eckerman.
Silver for home-bred Highland President
Trevor Breen secured team silver for Ireland aboard his home-bred and self-produced Highland President (Clinton out of Kannabella by Kannan, bred by Heather Black of Bucks). “It’s very special. It’s my first international championship at any level, so it was a big deal for me I could compete here. It makes it even more special considering we have bred Highland President ourselves. To produce a horse up to a championship, is fantastic”, said the Irishman at the press conference afterwards.
Prior to the start of the second team leg, Germany was on course to gold, Sweden held provisional silver and Switzerland was in the bronze position. Due to the withdrawal of Marcus Ehning and Stargold, Germany no longer had a discard score. Eventually, they placed fourth, ahead of Spain. Austria, Switzerland and Spain qualified for the Olympics. Switzerland started the day off strong thanks to a flawless ride of former Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, but they needed one more clear round to obtain a medal. The pressure was on for Martin Fuchs and Leone Jei (Baltic VDL out of Dara ster prest IBOP-spr PROK by Corland, breeder G.M. van Mersbergen of Udenhout), that was unable to repeat the cracking performances of the preceding days. Two rails off dropped Switzerland to the sixth place, right ahead of the Netherlands.
Sublime Highway TN
The KWPN-approved Highway TN retaliated with a sublime clear round. Exceeding the time by a split second resulted in one time penalty. “I’ve got mixed feelings, my horse was out of this world in this demanding course today. I took a bit too much time in the last line, But Highway was fantastic”, lauds Greve his partner in crime.
Faltic HB best KWPN horse
After a rest day tomorrow, the individual final is scheduled on Sunday. The best 25 combinations may return to compete in this thrilling conclusion. Five out of 12 KWPN horses have qualified for the individual final. The KWPN horse that is currently in the best position to vie for the medals is Faltic HB (Baltic VDL out of Beloma elite IBOP-spr sport-spr D-OC by Concorde, bred by H.A. Brinkman and M. Huisman of Dalfsen) of Ben Maher. The pair is ranked fifth on the intermediate standings, Iliana follows in the eighth place. Highway TN, Leone Jei and Harwich VDL (Arezzo VDL out of Alba VDL stb-ext prest by Darco, bred by VDL Stud of Bears) also advanced to the final.
All participating KWPN horses, the timetable, starting lists and results can be found in the special media guide.
Photo Iliana and Highland President: Dirk Caremans