20 July - Germany had two of their Olympic gold medal horses back at their brilliant best to spearhead a third successive team victory at their showpiece home event. The DHL Preis at Aachen (GER), fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing 2014, was the most competitive so far, with eight nations fielding teams.

As Sandra Auffarth and her flying chestnut Opgun Louvo galloped back into the iconic main arena at the end of the Cross Country course, the crowd burst into cheers, knowing that she had clinched victory for Germany with her foot-perfect round eight seconds inside the optimum time of seven minutes.

Auffarth, who also took the individual honours, and her team mate Michael Jung on La Biosthetique Sam FBW, third, were two out of only three riders to achieve the optimum Cross Country time on the hot, sunny day. Their two horses, the individual gold and silver medallists at the London 2012 Olympic Games, missed the FEI European Championships last year but, perhaps ominously for other nations, they look certainties for next month’s Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy (FRA).

Dirk Schrade provided excellent back-up in 10th place on the reliable Hop and Skip, and Peter Thomsen was also clear across country on Horseware’s Barney to take Germany up to third in the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing 2014 standings at this halfway stage of the season, which is generating fierce competition between the 12 nations now competing in the series.

"It was really good fun and the atmosphere was great,” said Auffarth, who was second in 2013 on Opgun Louvo. “The conditions were much better than last year, when it was very wet, and luckily there was a tailwind which was refreshing.

“I forgot to set my watch when I set off, so I didn't know how well I was doing for time until I entered the stadium. Then I could relax and really enjoy it. I had a super ride. My horse is very smart and helps you out. I trust him completely.”

German National Coach Hans Melzer said the result was “a great boost and motivation” before the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014. “The conditions today were ideal and the day was a great advertisement for the sport,” he said.

Great Britain finished second at Aachen with four Cross Country clears and still holds the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing series lead as the only nation to have fielded a team at every competition this year. The squad has finished no lower than third this season and has a 10-point lead over the French, who finished third at Aachen with Maxime Livio (Qalao des Mers), their highest-placed rider in seventh.

Britain has had a policy of using younger riders for FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing teams, but performance manager Yogi Breisner places great importance on Aachen as a selection trial and pulled out a senior quartet, of which Izzy Taylor finished best, in fourth, on Orlando.

William Fox-Pitt was ninth on his Normandy horse Chilli Morning and Piggy French 13th on Jakarta. Zara Phillips, the World Champion at Aachen in 2006, who has also been selected for Normandy was, surprisingly, the discard score on High Kingdom despite their assured Cross Country performance.

Phillips is working hard to get back on song after the birth of her daughter, Mia, in January. She said: “It’s hard, but lots of other ladies have done it. Our Cross Country felt great, there’s just a bit of work to do on the Dressage and Jumping phases.”

New Zealand finished fourth, with Andrew Nicholson and Nereo, winners at Aachen in 2011, the highest placed in sixth. Lucy Jackson, who was fifth after Dressage on Willy Do, but had an unfortunate Jumping phase, became the discard score when she was unseated at the corner in the water at fence 8b.

There were 25 clear rounds over German designer Rudiger Schwarz’s masterful Cross Country course. Fence 18, a spread on top of a mound, was taken out after Jayne Doherty’s (IRL) Ravenstar banked it and then fell.

Joseph Murphy (Electric Cruise), a member of the fifth-placed Irish team, Kevin McNab, riding Clifton Pinot for the seventh-placed Australian team, and Tim Lips (Concrex Oncarlos) for the Netherlands, eighth, all had run-outs at fence 15c, a skinny fence following a bank.

The sixth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing will take place in Malmö (SWE) on 1-3 August.

Results from Aachen

1 Germany, 129.0 penalties

Sandra Auffarth/Opgun Louvo, 33.8; Michael Jung/La Biosthetique Sam FBW 41.2; Dirk Schrade/Hop and Skip, 54.0; (Peter Thomsen/Horseware’s Barney, 57.6)

2 Great Britain, 152.4

Izzy Taylor/Orlando, 43.8; William Fox-Pitt/Chilli Morning, 52.4; Piggy French/Jakarta, 56.2; (Zara Phillips/High Kingdom, 70.8)

3 France, 164.6

Maxime Livio/Qalao des Mers, 50.0; Astier Nicolas/Piaf de b’Neville, 52.4; Thomas Carlile/Quiro Hoy, 62.2; (Pascal Leroy/Minos de Petra, 65.4)

4 New Zealand, 169.2

Andrew Nicholson/Nereo, 48.4; Jonelle Price/Faerie Dianimo, 58.0; Tim Price/Ringwood Sky Boy, 62.8; (Lucy Jackson/Willy Do, EL Cross Country)

5 Ireland, 209.6

Camilla Speirs/Portersize Just A Jiff, 61.8; Fraser Duffy/Primus 209, 70.8; Joseph Murphy/Electric Cruise, 77.0; (Jayne Doherty/Ravenstar, EL Cross Country)

6 Sweden, 213.4

Johan Lundin/Johnny Cash, 66.6; Niklas Lindbäck/Mister Pooh, 68.4; Malin Petersen/Sofarsogood, 78.4; (Ludwig Svennerstal/Alexander, WD before Dressage)

7 Australia, 215.4

Paul Tapner/Kilronan, 54.0; Andrew Hoy/Rutherglen, 57.6; Kevin McNab/Clifton Pinot, 103.8; (Christopher Burton/Graf Liberty, WD before Cross Country)

8 Netherlands, 245.4

Elaine Pen/Undercover, 113.6; Tim Lips/Concrex Oncarlos, 131.8 (Andrew Heffernan/Millthyme Corolla, EL Cross Country; Merel Blom/Rumour Has It, WD before Cross Country)

source: fei.org

Photo Caption: The winning German team of (left to right) Sandra Auffarth, Dirk Schrade, Michael Jung and Peter Thomsen with their chef d’equipe (front left) Hans Melzer receive the honours at Aachen (GER), fifth leg of the FEI Nations Cup™ Eventing 2014 (Photo: Trevor Holt/FEI).