The USA’s Kent Farrington and Voyeur galloped to victory in the thrilling second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final 2013/2014 at Lyon, France, on Saturday night.
From a starting field of 38 there were 21 into the jump-off and the US rider produced a devastating turn of speed against the clock that rocketed him up from overnight 18th place to lie equal-10th going into Monday’s third and deciding competition.
Course designer Frank Rothenberger said he was expecting between 10 and 12 clears “but we got a few too many. Unfortunately the time wasn’t a factor, a few seconds less and we would have had 10 to 12 clears. The course was big enough, the oxers were at 1.90m and the verticals were 1.60m – to me it was big enough. We have another two rounds on Monday and I didn’t want to take too much from the horses tonight, but 21 (into the jump-off) was definitely too many.”
Olympic champion Steve Guerdat (Switzerland) was second ahead of defending champion Beezie Madden from the USA, while Germany’s Daniel Deusser finished fourth ahead of French rider Patrice Delaveau in fifth.
After the results of the first two competitions have been calculated, it is Guerdat and Delaveau who top the leaderboard going into the last day when they will both start on a zero score, followed by Deusser carrying two penalty points and Madden, Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum and first-day winner Pius Schwizer from Switzerland next in line carrying four penalty points apiece. It’s going to be a close-fought affair right to the very end, as only six penalty points separate the top 10.
US riders have always demonstrated a particular flair for running and jumping against the clock and, fourth to go in the timed round, Charlie Jayne and Chill RZ were the first to do just that when setting the target with a second clear in 42.52 seconds. US colleague, Katie Dinan, had two down with Nougat du Vallet and although Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander was clear with Ego van Orti, her careful tour of the track in 50.51 seconds presenting no threat.
Next in was Farrington, and the Florida-based 33-year-old electrified the arena with an amazingly tight turn from five to six and a heart-stopping gallop to the last that broke the beam in 39.69 seconds. That was now the time they all had to beat, and none of them could do it.
Kevin Staut’s chances were dashed when Silvana HDC jammed on the brakes at 10 after lowering the first element at nine, and two fences on the floor left both Britain’s Michael Whitaker and Viking and the USA’s McLain Ward and Rothchild out of contention. Leslie Burr-Howard was having a fine cut at it until her bay stallion, Tic Tac, hit fence six but Beezie Madden left all the poles in place to slot, temporarily, into runner-up spot with Simon in 40.35 seconds.
World No. 1, Britain’s Scott Brash, steered Ursula Xll to a smooth round in 42.16 seconds and, celebrating his 40th birthday, Germany’s Marcus Ehning gave yet another exhibition of superb jumping with the fabulous grey Cornado NRW but didn’t pose any problem for the leader when crossing the line in 43.66 seconds. Fellow-German and 2011 champion Christian Ahlmann steered Aragon Z home in 42.13 while Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten posted a clear in 43.74 with VDL Groep NOP, so it wasn’t until the closing stages that Farrington’s supremacy really came under further attack.
Daniel Deusser put Germany near the top of the scoreboard when producing a super-smooth run from Cornet d’Amour that brought them across the line in 40.61 seconds, but Guerdat’s round that followed shaved a half-second off that. His Olympic ride, the 13-year-old gelding Nino des Buissonnets, is always a spectacular horse to watch as he looks so busy and seems to do the impossible time and again, particularly against the clock. And this time was no exception, the spectators gasping when the pole on top of the second element of the double at fence 9 jumped out of the cups and then back in again, while the Swiss man’s breathtaking run to the last and Nino’s enormous leap at the final fence were nothing short of sensational.
But it still wasn’t quick enough to oust Farrington from the head of affairs, and when Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum and Chiara hit the second element at nine, French challenger Delaveau stayed clear but almost two seconds slower with Lacrimoso HDC and first-day winner Pius Schwizer also faulted at fence nine with Toulago it was game over.
Farrington talked about his super-speedy 12-year-old horse afterwards. “He’s naturally fast by himself so I try to let him run at his own speed, and the more I can leave him alone the better he jumps!” he explained. “I got Voyeur as a nine-year-old and he has come back from an injury. I have high hopes for him – he is strong and aggressive but I think he is a spectacular horse,” the Florida-based rider added.
Runner-up Guerdat talked about the 2014 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final and what it means to him, especially since he came so very close to victory last year. “I have been very motivated for a long time about this Final. Today was important but in the end you don’t remember the one who finishes second. There is a lot of pressure because you want to make sure you don’t make any silly mistakes and let it slip away.”
He was happy with Nino des Buissonnet’s performance. “He’s jumping very well, but we saw in the first round a few times where he was over careful – he jumped the triple combination too high and then it makes life a little bit hard keeping him under control, so hopefully he’ll calm down a bit for the final on Monday, because if it’s big, I need to have a little better round.”
Asked if he wants to win he replied “Yes but I think everybody else does too – there are many other riders who want to win it and who also have the quality to win it, so we’ll see who’s the best on Monday!” One of those others is Delaveau who shares the top of the leaderboard going into that final competition and who will have the roar of the home crowd behind him as he attempts to clinch the crown for the host nation of France for only the second time in the 36-year history of the prestigious series. And, lying joint-fourth and just a single fence off the leading pair as the action gets under way, is another – defending champion Madden who is most unlikely to give up that trophy of trophies without a serious fight.
Result – Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final competition 2:
1, Voyeur (Kent Farrington) USA 0/0 39.69;
2, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 40.29;
3, Simon (Beezie Madden) USA 0/0 40.35;
4, Cornet d’Amour (Daniel Deusser) GER 0/0 40.61;
5, Lacrimoso (Patrice Delaveau) FRA 0/0 41.66;
6, Ursula Xll (Scott Brash) GBR 0/0 42.16;
7, Chilli RZ (Charlie Jayne) USA 0/0 42.52;
8, Aragon Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/0 42.93;
9, Cornado NRW (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/0 43.66;
10, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED 0/0 43.74;
11, Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 50.51;
12, Chiara (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 0/4 42.09;
13, Tic Tac (Leslie Burr-Howard) USA 0/4 42.40;
14, First Devision (Yuri Mansur Guerios) BRA 0/4 45.66;
15, Toulago (Pius Schwizer) SUI 0/4 47.31;
16, Leonie W (Lars Nieberg) GER 0/4 47.7;
17, Nougat du Vallet (Katie Dinan) USA 0/8 42.95;
18, Rothchild (McLain Ward) USA 0/8 44.77;
19, Conte Bellini (Kristaps Neretnieks) LAT 0/8 45.43;
20, Viking (Michael Whitaker) GBR 0/8 47.00;
21, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/12 56.01.