Swiss jumpers off to good start at Europeans

August 28, 2009

Swiss riders Pius Schwizer and Steve Guerdat filled the top two places in the first jumping competition at the Alltech FEI European Jumping and Dressage Championships at Windsor, Great Britain, on Wednesday.

Schwizer earned €12,500 when he steered the 12-year-old bay gelding Ulysse home and clear in the quickest time when 13th of the 77 starters. And Guerdat slotted in behind him when going sixth from the end of the class with the super-speedy French-bred mare Jalisca Solier.

The Swiss head the team rankings going into Friday's Nations Cup competition thanks to a further solid result from Clarissa Crotta and West Side v. Meerputhoeve, but with scores calculated into points they have only a marginal lead over the defending title-holders from The Netherlands, while France lies third ahead of Ireland in fourth place.

"I thought I could have gone faster," 47 year old Schwizer said afterwards. "Normally the first day is the worst day for my horse!" he added.

The 13-fence track created just enough difficulty and two eliminations - the most spectacular being that of Belgium's Peter Postelmans who enjoyed an early bath when his chestnut gelding, Top Gun, decanted him at the open water where several other horses also lodged a variety of objections. The triple combination at fence 10 also claimed a number of victims, while those taking the vertical three from home on a sharp angle often suffered the consequences and the penultimate oxer was also consistently lowered throughout the competition.

The Netherland's Harrie Smolders (Exquis Walnut de Muze) and Angelique Hoorn (Blauwendraad's O'Brien) claimed third and fourth places respectively, Hoorn displaying particularly impressive determination when only second into the ring. Austria's Stefan Eder and Chilli Van Dijk were next in line ahead of the best of the French - Olivier Guillon and Lord de Theize - while the surprise placing in the top 10 came from Estonia's Rein Pill who steered the athletic stallion son of Kannan, the 9 year old A Big Boy, to a copybook tour of the track to finish seventh.

Ireland's Darragh Kerins was second-last to go with the diminutive Night Train and knew that he needed to do something special to keep his country in the frame. And the 158cms chestnut gelding didn't let him down, bouncing home to finish eighth ahead of the best of the British - Ben Maher and Robin Hood W - in ninth place.

True to their sudden burst of recent form, the re-born Italians completed four solid rounds to slot into fifth in the team rankings ahead of Germany in sixth. Germany's defending individual champion, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, is a long way off the leaders however, lying 32nd with Checkmate who was fast but left both the first element of the triple combination and the penultimate oxer on the floor for an expensive additional eight faults.

Just over a fence separates the first three teams going into Friday's nations cup challenge and the Irish, Italians and Germans are less than two fences behind. The host country lies seventh ahead of Sweden. A total of 17 teams lined out tonight. Tonight's winner was Pius Schwizer of Switzerland who collected the top prize of . He was riding the 12 year old bay gelding Ulysse.