Rich Fellers (USA) and the Irish sport horse Flexible (USA) won the $75,000 Las Vegas Grand Prix at the World Cup competition. © Kit Houghton/FEI
Just five of the 24 starters went clear to go into the second-round Las Vegas Grand Prix jump-off and 19-year-old sensation, Laura Teodori from Scottsdale, Oregon, led the way against the clock with Kasoar D'Uxelles.
Two fences down this time out left her vulnerable and when Prince Abdullah produced a foot-perfect run in 38.61 seconds with Mobily Ashkur Allah Obelix he went into the lead.
Norway's Geir Gulliksen and Sundal Colliers Cattani hit the vertical third fence and then also clipped the first part of the following double to pose no threat, but when Fellers came cantering into the ring with Kilkenny Rindo he clearly meant business.
Setting off in a great rhythm with the 11-year-old gelding, the 49-year-old from Wilsonville, Oregon cruised around the seven-fence track riding smooth corner-cutting turns but never looking under any pressure as he shaved almost two seconds off the target time, and when Schroder and Eurcommerce Seattle hit the second fence it was a done deal.
Fellers agreed that this victory was a great omen ahead of Sunday's third and last leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final. "Confidence plays a big part in a major like this so today's win is a great boost" he said. He only discovered how owners, Doug and Sharon Boyd, sourced Kilkenny Rindo when meeting top horse dealer Paul Hendrycks during the course-walk. "He told me he sold the horse to the Boyd's as a five year old," he said.
American riders are in with a real chance of snatching the coveted Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping title for the first time in 22 years. The last US champion was Katherine Bursdall who claimed the trophy riding The Natural in Paris, France back in 1987. Rich Fellers goes into the final lying fourth with his Irish-bred Flexible and McLain Ward lies second with Sapphire ahead of Dutchman Albert Zoer and Oki Doki who separates the two main home-side contenders.
After the first two rounds however, it seems that only an unlikely error by defending champions Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly can prevent the German rider from capitalising on her double-victory this week and taking the title for the third time.