France Rides Victoriously after Thrilling Four-Team Jump-off Decides €200,000 Nations Cup CSIO 5* at Knokke Hippique

Knokke-Heist, Belgium – July 08, 2022 – 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 penalty points 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 (FRA) had a rail down in the Henders and Hazel triple combination. Pieter Devos (BEL) threw in the towel after Claire landed in the middle of the water jump. Even Peder Fredricson (SWE), felt the immense pressure and had one rail down.

Flying Frenchman
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 penalty-points. Henk Nooren, the French chef d’equipe chose his only double clear combination: Julien Epaillard (FRA) 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 (BEL) 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 (FRA), France wins the first Henders and Hazel Nations Cup at Knokke Hippique. Sweden is second and home country Belgium finishes third.

Belgium & France
After the Nations Cup, Henk Nooren was extremely proud of his team. Of course he also wanted to talk about the unbeatable Julien Epaillard: “He is a true winner and completely ready to join us at the highest level, even at the Olympic Games in Paris.” The world’s fastest rider added: “Before the Nations Cup started, Henk told me that there would probably be a jump-off and he asked me to prepare myself. So that is exactly what I did. It was a very special day for me.”
Kevin Staut really enjoyed the competition at Knokke Hippique: “I have been riding Nations Cups all over the world for so many years now. It is a great concept which really comes into its own here at Knokke Hippique. I am so happy that we were able to participate and win at this event.”
After many great performances in the Nations Cups over the past few months, home team Belgium just barely failed to take the win. But the Belgian riders certainly put on a show. Niels Bruynseels and Delux Van T & L did not make a single mistake. Jos Verlooy and Igor also remained clear up until they had one rail down in the jump-off. “It had been a while since we participated in a jump-off and I had not expected to do so today. But I was 100% motivated to win. I took a lot of risks but unfortunately it did not pay off in the end. We really missed the Nations Cup in Belgium. I noticed that today more than ever. I am really grateful I got the chance to compete in a Nations Cup in front of my home crowd.”  

A Nations Cup Event Where it Belongs
It was also a wonderful moment for organiser Stephan Conter who, together with his Stephex team, and with the support of the Belgian Equestrian Federation, has been working for years to bring the prestigious Nations Cup back to Belgium. “The Nations Cup is a unique concept that adds so many extra dimensions to our sport: team spirit, national pride, togetherness. An event of this quality was simply not to be missed in a horse country like Belgium. It was almost impossible to bring it back to our country. But by finding the right sponsor who shared our passion, we succeeded. I cannot stress enough how grateful we are to Henders and Hazel for helping us give this wonderful experience back to the Belgian horse fans.”
Paul Van Den Bosch (Henders and Hazel) made the choice to sponsor the Nations Cup with great conviction. “As far as I am concerned, this partnership may continue for a long time. We want to support the beautiful equestrian sport because we simply love it. But it also benefits Henders and Hazel. I would definitely advise other companies to do the same.”

Final Results – €200,000 Nations Cup of Knokke Hippique CSIO 5*

Place / Country / Round 1 + Round 2 Team Score / Jump-off Score / Jump-off Time

1) France – 8 / 0 – 33.80

2) Sweden – 8 / 0 – 34.62

3) Belgium – 8 / 4 – 34.68

Source: Press Release from Knokke Hipique

Photo: © Sportfot