Marcus Ehning wins World Cup jumping final

April 19, 2010

by Lulu Kyriacou

Germany's Marcus Ehning celebrates his 36th birthday today as the newly crowned 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping champion.

Ehning kept his cool in the Palexpo arena in Geneva, Switzerland yesterday afternoon, despite an early mistake and won through when those ahead of him faltered. This was his third time to take the prestigious Rolex title and he said "it's really unbelievable - I thought I was too far behind going into the last round but this is how it works out - I am so happy!"

Runners-up Pius Schwizer of Switzerland (left) and Ludger Beerbaum of Germany (right) hold the newly-crowned 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup champion Marcus Ehning of Germany aloft after his victory in Geneva. © Kit Houghton

Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue jump their way to victory in the World Cup final.

Australia's Chris Chugg and Vivant had four faults in the final event to finish seventh equal overall.

The USA's Richard Spooner and Cristallo were severnth equal, with Chris Chugg and Kevin Staut (Silvana). © Lulu Kyriacou

Germany dominated the winners podium when Ludger Beerbaum produced one of just four double-clear performances in the competition to finish equal second with Switzerland's Pius Schwizer.

And the thrilling class highlighted some great characters and new arrivals, but shattered the dream of the USA's Mario Deslauriers who it seemed was about to re-take the title he first claimed 26 years ago in Gothenburg, only to see it slip from his grasp in the fading moments.

The day opened with the news that the United States Equestrian Federation, McLain Ward and team vet, Dr Tim Obers, were launching a last-minute appeal against the disqualification of Ward's horse Sapphire, from the World Cup Final.

However following the hearing, FEI Tribunal Chair, Ken Lalo (Israel) denied the request for emergency intervention on the grounds that the Tribunal did not have the jurisdiction to overturn the ground jury's decision, meaning Sapphire remained disqualified.

The horse, whom I saw at exercise in the morning at close quarters, seemed very happy and at ease and although wearing the obligatory exercise wraps, the area disputed was uncovered and looked absolutely normal.

The International Jump Riders Club also issued a statement saying while they supported FEI policy on clean sport, it was not their role to comment further on the situation, although they applauded the fact that the FEI had indicated there was no evidence of malpractice in the case. They went on to remind the media that the riders had to ride in a Final and could the press give them the space to do so!

Course designer Rolf Ludi presented two more classic tests, with the field of 29 whittled down to 22 for the last jumping round. The 12 -fence course was well up to height and included some difficult turns and fences sited very close to arena walls.

Todd Minkus, Michael Whitaker and Daniel Etter were among the casualties in the first round. Lauren Hough was the first of seven clear rounds which but Rodrigo Pessoa was not among them nor was Rolf Goran Bengsston and Marco Kutsher, who were among several four faulters.

In the second round, the US's Richard Spooner was the first to get a double clear on his unruly partner Cristalo but these were few and far between. Of those that could, Natale Chiaudani came close but fell foul of the tight time in the second round, Luciana Dinitz's Winningmood seemed to be getting rather strong and hit the tenth fence, but former world champion Dermot Lennon made no mistake on Hallmark Elite and nor did Ludger Beerbaum with Gotha.

After Puis Schwizer (Carlina) and Marcus Ehning (Plot Blue) both went clear and improved their first round scores, overnight leader Mario Deslauriers was left with a fence in hand. Urico had not made a mistake in the contest so far but he got into trouble in the combination at four and despite clearing it, could not recover for the vertical five strides later and almost walked through it. You could have heard a pin drop as the capacity crowd waited to see if the American horse and rider could recover their cool and they almost did but a slight mistake at 10 saw the front rail fall and the title go to Marcus Ehning, already twice a winner and now in the record books as the only person to win three times on three different horses. He went home €67,850 richer.

Puis and Ludger tied for second, Luciana was fourth, Dermot fifth and Mario sixth. Australia's Chris Chugg was clear in the last round to make a spectacular rise to seventh (shared with Kevin Staut and Richard Spooner) on his pirouetting stallion Vivant.

Chugg, 46, was a crowd-pleaser every time he came in the ring. Despite lying 267th in the world rankings, he produced a series of brilliant performances with his 11-year old-stallion Vivant.

Ludger Beerbaum was well-pleased with his result with Gotha, a daughter of Goldfever. "I was hoping for a top-five place, so this is fantastic," he said.

After the excitement of the driving, it was a fitting end to a great show, sadly marred by an incident outside the control of the organisers who could not have done more to create a most special occasion. In 2011 the World Cup Final will be in Leipzig, Germany, appropriately so Marcus Ehning can defend his title on home soil but notable because it will be the first time all three indoor World Cup disciplines will be in the same place at the same time.

The stats

29 riders from 12 nations started in the final competition
The USA had the largest numbers of starters, 7 in total
Four riders jumped double-clear
One of these was Switzerland's Jane Richard who got the wild-card call-up only 11 days ago
There were 7 first-round clears
One rider retired - Great Britain's Michael Whitaker with GIG Amai
This was Marcus Ehning's third victory in the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series. He previous won with Anka in Las Vegas in 2003 and with Sandro Boy at Kuala Lumpur in 2006.