Riding the eight year old Gotha he grabbed the advantage with a determined run in the nine-horse jump-off and withstood a fierce challenge from the on-form Frenchman Michel Robert who had to settle for runner-up spot with Kellemoi de Pepita.
The glittering line-up also included Alltech FEI European individual silver medallists Carsten-Otto Nagel and Corradina who took third for Germany ahead of Olympic silver medallist Rolf-Goran Bengtsson from Sweden in fourth and reigning individual European Champion, Kevin Staut, in fifth.
Germany's Ludger Beerbaum and Gotha with Magali Dubois-Vaucher from Rolex after winning the fifth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series in Stuttgart, Germany yesterday. © Dirk Caremans/HippoFoto
There was no place to hide on Uliano Vezzani's demanding 12-fence track. By the half-way point of the first round a pole had been dislodged from almost every obstacle on the course, but in the latter stages it was the triple combination - vertical to a double of oxers - that claimed the largest number of victims. Three riders retired - Thomas Velin (Den) when Grim St Clair had three consecutive fences down, Steve Guerdat (Sui) when Tresor hit all three elements of the treble and Gianni Govoni (Ita) when Joyau d'Opal refused at the third, an oxer with water-tray. Unluckiest of all were Finland's Mikael Forsten (Isaac du Jonquet), Spain's Sergio Alvarez Moya (Wisconsin) and Holland's Albert Zoer (Sam), who were clear to the very last fence only to leave that on the floor.
There were nine into the jump-off, and with four representing the host country a German victory seemed very much on the cards. However Michel Robert and Kellemoi de Pepita have been on fire over the last couple of weeks, winning the Global Champions Tour Final in Doha eight days ago and then helping to secure a French rout in the German Masters at Stuttgart on Saturday when second behind winning fellow-countryman Patrice Deleveau with Katchina Mail. And anyone who thought the French partnership's chances might have been compromised by that hectic schedule were about to be proven very wrong.
Germany's Philipp Weishaupt was first to go against the clock with Catoki who set the standard with four faults in 39.98 seconds, the penultimate oxer hitting the dirt, and when team-mate Christian Ahlmann's nine year old Taloubet Z had two down the result was still wide open. Third into the ring was America's Lauren Hough and, as usual, the 32 year old Californian meant business with Quick Study who, however, returned with four faults in 40.25 seconds after clipping the first element of the double - formerly the treble - at the half-way point on the track.
Carsten-Otto Nagel and Corradina then showed the qualities that earned them that coveted silver medal in Windsor this summer with a copybook clear to re-set the target at 39.19 seconds and while Bengtsson was equally stylish he was a little more cautious when slotting temporarily into runner-up spot with a fault-free ride from Casall la Silla in 41.13. Beerbaum's Gotha was like a guided missile however, shaving almost a second off Nagel's target to take the lead and although Staut was clear he could only steer his championship-winning partner Kraque Boom Bois Margot into fourth place at this point. He remained there when Switzerland's Pius Schwizer and Carlina were fractionally slower through the finish after dislodging the first element of the double but last man in, Staut's compatriot Robert, would demote him to fifth.
When it comes to horsemen, there are few to match the skill of this French rider who has long been an authority on the art of equitation. And today he gave another lesson in just how it should be done although, despite his best efforts, he had to stand in Beerbaum's shadow when his fast round in 39.09 seconds was still almost three-quarters of a second shy of the winning time. Robert will celebrate his 61st birthday next month and as he continues to wrestle with the best of them he commented this afternoon "I think I'm getting faster as I'm getting older!".
But the man of the moment was 46-year-old Beerbaum who, 16 years ago, secured the World Cup title with the great Ratina Z at Gothenburg. The multiple champion was delighted, although not entirely surprised, about the result achieved with his talented young mare.
"Gotha has a lot of experience for her age, she's done a few Grand Prix classes but this is another step up for her and I'm really pleased with the win. She's very consistent" he said.
Commenting on the course he pointed out that "the course designer did a good job because this was a world-class field and he managed to create a track which brought faults everywhere - not just at one fence".
He plans to give Gotha a rest now - "she's finished for the season and may start again in Leipzig (21-24 January 2010) but I haven't finally decided yet what she will do next" he said.
The 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series now moves on to Olympia in London in four weeks time.
1, Gotha (Ludger Beerbaum) Ger 0/0 38.25; 2, Kellemoi de Pepita (Michel Robert) Fra 0/0 39.09; 3, Corradina (Carsten-Otto Nagel) Ger 0/0 39.19; 4, Casall la Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) Swe 0/0 41.13; 5, Kraque Boom Bois Margot (Kevin Staut) Fra 0/0 41.90; 6, Catoki (Philipp Weishaupt) Ger 0/4 39.98; 7, Quick Study (Lauren Hough) USA 0/4 42.28; 8, Carlina (Pius Schwizer) Sui 0/4 42.28; 9, Taloubet Z (C Ahlmann) Ger 0/8 40.55; 10, Sam (Albert Zoer) Ned 4 flts 68.40.
Standings after 5th leg in Stuttgart:
1. Daniel Etter - 40
2. Eric van der Vleuten - 37
3. Pius Schwizer - 36
4. Ludger Beerbaum - 34
5. Marco Kutscher - 34
6. Rodrigo Pessoa - 33 (pending additional calculations)
7. Marcus Ehning - 31
8. Kevin Staut - 30
9. Patrice Deleveau - 29
10. Philipp Weishaupt - 29
11. Natale Chiaudani - 27
12. Albert Zoer - 25
13. Daniel Deusser - 22
14. Beat Mandli - 21
15. Michael Whitaker - 20
16. Gilbert Bockmann, Michel Robert - 17
18. Ben Maher, Carsten-Otto Nagel - 16
20. Edwina Alexander - 15