Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer clinched a sensational victory in the opening round of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping 2013/2014 Final at Lyon in France riding a horse who had never previously won an international competition.
Going 32nd in the field of 40 starters on Friday night, the man who has come so very close to claiming the prestigious FEI World Cup Jumping trophy on several previous occasions steered the 10-year-old gelding Quidam du Vivier to pip the host nation’s Patrice Delaveau and Lacrimoso HDC by just 0.3 seconds, while German veteran Ludger Beerbaum lined up third with Chaman.
Defending champion, the USA’s Beezie Madden, had to settle for 12th place when penalised for a single error at one of the most influential fences on the course, the oxer at fence eight. As a result she is lying outside the top-eight zone which she had earlier said was the place to be at the end of the first of the three tough days of competition at this annual test of the best.
Olympic individual gold medallist, Steve Guerdat from Switzerland, is lying fourth going into Saturday night’s two-round class, while Morocco’s Abdelkebir Quaddar is next in line following an exciting performance from the explosive stallion Quickly de Kreisker who kept the spectators entertained with his lively antics. Germany’s Daniel Deusser (Cornet d’Amour), Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Verdi NOP), and Ireland’s Billy Twomey (Tinka’s Serenade) fill the next three places followed by two more of the strong German contingent, Christian Ahlmann (Aragon Z) in ninth and Marcus Ehning (Cornado NRW) in tenth place.
It seemed more than possible that the very much on-form Olympic and European team gold medallist and Longines World No. 1 rider Scott Brash from Great Britain would edge into the lead in the closing stages when third-last to go, and he did indeed threaten to do just that. But the final fence put paid to his chances, and, lying just ahead of Madden going into Saturday’s class, he faces a tough battle to get back into contention. The USA’s Kent Farrington (Blue Angel) and McLain Ward (HH Carlos Z) were the final two to take on the first-leg Speed challenge in which four seconds were added for each fence on the floor, but both faulted once to leave them down the order.
Frank Rothenberger’s 13-fence track produced the leading bunch without over-taxing the less experienced combinations. The penultimate oxer at 12 hit the floor many times while the final vertical fell only twice, the first time for the USA’s Lucy Davis and Barron and the second time for Brash who just got too deep at the end of an otherwise foot-perfect run.
As always there were moments of drama, Latvia’s Andrius Petrovas parting company with his gelding, Complemento, when losing power on the approach to the oxer at eight despite a great run over the early part of the track. But there were also some memorable clears including the one produced by Leslie Burr-Howard and Tic Tac who are lying 14th at the end of the first day.
The 57-year-old American rode in exactly the same style as she did when winning the FEI World Cup title way back in 1986 at Gothenburg, Sweden. And the exceptional nature of the sport of jumping was underlined by the fact that the youngest rider in the competition, 18-year-old Hamad Ali Mohamed A Al Attiyah from Qatar, was born ten years after Burr-Howard recorded that great victory with McLain 28 years ago.
Beerbaum set the early target when fifth in to the ring, breaking the beam in 65.54 seconds, and another 21 horses tackled the course before Delaveau went out in front when clearing the line in 63.67. But Schwizer and his chestnut gelding carved an even sharper line to take the lead in 63.37 seconds, and none of the remaining eight runners could better that.
Talking about Quidam du Vivier afterwards, Schwizer said: “I have a lot of experience and the horse relied on that. He has a lot of talent and I knew Quidam for four years before I began to ride him – that was about four months ago. Previously he was ridden by Markus Hauri, son of Max Hauri. He was a very spooky horse so he was brought on slowly in smaller classes to give him confidence and he never won an international class before, but he has had some good placings in 3 and 4-stars over the last few months including at Gothenburg (Sweden). He is a naturally fast horse, and in the end today was just my day!” the Swiss rider said.
Second-placed Delaveau said he was pleased to get the host country off to a good start, but he is not predicting the result just yet – “there are still another two days of competition so we must wait and see,” he said wisely.
Beerbaum meanwhile talked about Chaman, the horse of whom he said, after winning at the Grand Palais in Paris (France) last year, “this is a horse to win a battle, but not a war”. The first German rider ever to win the FEI World Cup Jumping title back in 1993, Beerbaum intends to compete over the remainder of the event with his second ride, Chiara.
Result – Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final – opening competition:
1, Quidam du Vivier (Pius Schwizer) SUI 63.37;
2, Lacrimoso HDC (Patrice Delaveau) FRA 63.67;
3, Chaman (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 65.54;
4, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 66.06;
5, Quickly de Kreisker (Abdelkabir Quaddar) MAR 66.40;
6, Cornet d’Amour (Daniel Deusser) GER 66.69;
7, VDL Groep Verdi NOP (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED 66.92;
8, Tinka’s Serenade (Billy Twomey) IRL 67.25;
9, Aragon Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 67.65;
10, Cornado NRW (Marcus Ehning) GER 68.13;
11, Ursula Xll (Scott Brash) GBR 68.14;
12, Simon (Beezie Madden) USA 68.55.