Olympic champion Steve Guerdat won the second leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final with his London 2012 ride, Nino des Buissonnets, but it is Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Lennox who hold the lead going into Sunday’s deciding competition.
In a competition that bristled with excitement from the outset, Guerdat produced a devastating turn of speed in the 15-horse jump-off to clinch it, while The Netherlands’ Marc Houtzager slotted into second place. Diniz’s third place finish was confirmed when Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Quintero la Silla), Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer (Picsou du Chene) and the USA’s Beezie Madden (Simon) all followed her into the ring but failed to leave the course intact. It was deep disappointment for Madden after her opening-day triumph, but she trails Diniz by just a single penalty point going into Sunday’s third and final leg.
There were 38 starters following the withdrawal of Hong Kong’s Raena Leung, and a generous 15 clears were recorded over Uliano Vezzani’s first-round track. The double of vertical to oxer at fence eight proved the most testing of the 13 obstacles, and continued to play its part as the jump-off unfolded.
Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Ego van Orti led the way against the clock with a clear in 42.10 seconds and Latvia’s Kristaps Neretnieks shaved two seconds off that with Monte Bellini before Ireland’s Denis Lynch lowered the first element of the double at eight, now the third fence on the track, in a very speedy 38.33 seconds with All Star. The turn from the oxer at fence five, now second on the new course, to that first element of the double would prove crucial to the result and Germany’s Marcus Ehning was the next victim here with Copin van de Broy.
It was Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost who recorded the next clear with one of his trademark thrillers from the equally-electrified Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois who broke the beam in 37.92 seconds to take the lead. Belgium’s Ludo Philippaerts and Challenge V Begijnakker were almost a half-second quicker, but a stumble after the second element of the double left this pair off balance and even though they established a shorter route by turning between the second fence and the second element of the former triple combination – now the penultimate fence – he hit the vertical after the double for four faults in 37.42 seconds.
Guerdat was next into the ring and, as he said afterwards, “my plan was to win. I knew if my horse was clear he would be difficult to beat. The turn before the double wasn’t so good so that made it easy to decide to do the turn after it.” His breath-taking run to the penultimate oxer and his racing gallop to the final Rolex oxer brought gasps from the crowd as the clock showed 34.09 seconds.
Try as they would, the rest just couldn’t match that, although the next rider into the ring, Dutchman Marc Houtzager, came closest when breaking the beam in 36.80 with Sterrehof’s Tamino. The USA’s Reed Kessler (Cylana) and McLain Ward (Super Trooper de Ness) both had a fence down but, with just five left to go, Frenchman Kevin Staut was clear with Silvana HDC in 39.23 seconds and then Diniz followed suit with Lennox in 37.22.
The crowd went wild as home hero and reigning FEI European champion Rolf-Goran Bengtsson set sail with Quintero la Silla, but they fell foul of the tricky turn to the first element of the double, while Pius Schwizer momentarily lost his line of communication with Picsou du Chene, and it cost him dearly when the gelding faltered after the first fence and then demolished the second. They also brought down the vertical third-last, and their nine faults in total saw the Swiss man who has been so consistent in the Rolex series in recent seasons slip dramatically down the leaderboard.
First-day winners, Beezie Madden and Simon, looked cool as cucumbers over the early part of the track, but it suddenly fell apart coming down to the second-last and although they cleared that, their frenzied run to the last resulted in a very expensive four faults that saw them finish ninth in this competition and slip down the overall standings to second place.
But there is so little in it going into the final day, with Diniz holding just a single-point advantage over Madden and Kevin Staut stalking the leading ladies another point further in arrears. They had better all look out for Staut. He is a man on a mission, and his delight at another fault-free performance from his much-loved mare made his big smile even wider last night. Bengtsson lies fourth ahead of Houtzager in fifth, and if Guerdat’s form is anything to go by then he will be a force to be seriously reckoned with as he holds sixth spot.
Guerdat talked about his route to the final. “I messed up the timing a little bit. After the Olympics I decided to rest Nino as much as possible but maybe I did it too much. I took him to Bordeaux, Den Bosch and Lanaken, but unfortunately he lived up to his character and he wasn’t listening at all and started stopping on me. There was panic in the house at this stage, but we decided to take him to Paris where he wasn’t too good either, so then I started riding him twice a day to get his confidence again before coming here to Sweden. Yesterday he wasn’t perfect but he was really good today. I’m hoping that we are not coming right one day too late”.
Guerdat teased Rolf-Goran Bengtsson by interjecting, when the Swede was asked if he felt big pressure in front of his home crowd – “he’s so old it’s no problem for him!”
Rolf laughed and agreed – “Steve is a little bit right, I’ve been here so many times but jumping in front of the home crowd gives me even more motivation”.
He will ride Quintero again on Sunday. “He maybe has more scope than Casall, he always wants to go clear even though he has a very special way of getting over his fences!” Bengtsson explained.
Scope will be in big demand as Vezzani throws down one final challenge for Sunday’s last two-round competition which will decide the fate of the 2013 Rolex FEI World Cup title.
1, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 34.09;
2, Sterrehof’s Tamino (Marc Houtzager) NED 0/0 36.80;
3, Lennox (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 37.22;
4, Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois (Roger-Yves Bost) FRA 0/0 37.92;
5, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 39.23;
6, Conte Bellini (Kristaps Neretnieks) LAT 0/0 40.23;
7, Ego Van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 42.10;
8, Super Trooper de Ness (McLain Ward) USA 0/4 35.98;
9, Simon (Beezie Madden) USA 0/4 36.62;
10, Quintero La Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) SWE 0/4 36.81;
11, Challenge VD Begijnakker (Ludo Philippaerts) BEL 0/4 36.81;
12, Cylana (Reed Kessler) USA 0/4 37.83;
13, All Star (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/4 38.33;
14, Copin van de Broy (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/4 40.19;
15, Picsou du Chene (Pius Schwizer) SUI 0/8 43.53.
Standings going into Sunday’s Final:
1, Lennox (Luciana Diniz) POR 0;
2, Simon (Beezie Madden) USA 1;
3, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 2;
4, Quintero la Silla/Casall la Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) SWE 3;
5, Sterrehof’s Tamino/Sterrehof’s Uppity (Marc Houtzager) NED 4;
6, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 5;
6, Picsou du Chene/Verdi III (Pius Schwizer) SUI 5;
6, Super Trooper de Ness (McLain Ward) USA 5;
9, Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) ESP 8;
10, Cylana (Reed Kessler) USA 9.