Great Britain’s Scott Brash once again proved himself to be the most formidable of opponents when galloping to victory with Hello Sanctos in Norway on Sunday.
The pair took victory in the opening leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League in Oslo, despite the last-minute drama of a broken noseband just before going in to jump against the clock.
But the 27-year-old rider from Peebles in Scotland stayed as cool as a cucumber to clinch the win ahead of individual Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, from Switzerland. And, as if to cement the sheer quality of today’s competition, it was three-time FEI World Cup Jumping champion Marcus Ehning from Germany who slotted into third place ahead of Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood in fourth.
There was a time when the early legs of the Western European League series were considerably less competitive, but those days are history now. This year’s start-list for the first round at Oslo included nine of the top 12 riders on the current Longines Rankings list, so it was never going to be an easy one to win.
And the course designed by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani, who was assisted by Anders Hafskjold and Terje Olsen-Nalum from Norway, was no walk-in-the-park either. It may have been the first big test of the indoor season, but the close confines of the arena which measures just 75m x 35m, and the intensity of the track layout itself ensured a very tough days work indeed. “I thought it was a very difficult track when I walked the course, and I was surprised when there were so many clears – the fences came up very quickly and I’m told this was the biggest track ever in Oslo!” said winning rider Brash.
Making his victory all the more remarkable was the fact that Brash rode the same horse into the winner’s enclosure in Saturday’s Oslo Grand Prix in which Angelica Augustsson and Mic Mac du Tillard lined up second. “Everyone was questioning me because I rode him fast in the Grand Prix yesterday but I know my horse!” he saidy.
Hello Sanctos, the 11-year-old gelding whom he rode to team gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games last year, will go to the second leg of the series at Helsinki in Finland next week and will then travel to Doha in Qatar for the Global Champions Tour Final in November.
“He is the horse of a lifetime considering what he has done for the country – he is outstanding,” Brash said. “You don’t get too many like him. He is very clever, very sharp. When you work him at home he is very lazy, as if to say ‘do we really have to do this training?’, but then he goes into the ring and gives you his heart!” he said.
Runner-up, Steve Guerdat, said “the last show I did was not great – it was our horse’s first show back since the Europeans and that is why he jumped in two of the smaller classes earlier here. Today I could feel in the first round that he was a bit too fresh and jumping with a bit of caution – our first round was not so smooth. When we did the jump off he was already better,” Guerdat said.
Third-placed Marcus Ehning left the post competition press conference early. “My wife and I are expecting our next baby. She is a bit nervous because I am far away so I have to catch the first plane back!” he explained.
Geir Gulliksen finished fifth for Norway, and was very happy with his result. “It is always very exciting competing in front of your home crowd. I was a bit worried as I jumped two rounds yesterday – I didn’t know how he (Edesa S Banjan) would react but he did great today. It is a great achievement for an old chap from Norway!” joked the 53-year-old rider who has been the linchpin of the Norwegian team for many years now.
Result: 1, Hello Sanctos (Scott Brash) GBR 0/0 34.29; 2, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 36.52; 3, Copin van de Broy (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/0 37.72; 4, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 39.00; 5, Edesa S Banjan (Geir Gulliksen) NOR 0/0 39.64; 6, Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 44.57; 7, AD Camille Z (Athina Onassis de Miranda) GRE 0/0 46.55; 8, Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) BRA 0/4 39.27; 9, Winchester HS (Frank Schuttert) NED 0/8 44.17; 10, Mic Mac du Tillard (Angelica Augustsson) SWE 4/69.21 in first round.
Longines FEI World Cup Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League – Standings after Round 1:
1. Scott Brash (GBR) – 20
2. Steve Guerdat (SUI) – 17
3. Marcus Ehning (GER) – 15
4. Luciana Diniz (POR) – 13
5. Geir Gulliksen (NOR) – 12
6. Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) – 11
7. Athina Onassis de Miranda (GRE) – 10
8. Marlon Zanotelli (BRA) – 9
9. Frank Schuttert (NED) – 8
10. Angelica Augustsson (SWE) – 7
11. Pius Schwizer (SUI) – 6
12. Simon Delestre (FRA) – 5
13. Gerco Schroder (NED) – 4
14. Kevin Staut (FRA) – 3
15. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) – 2
16. Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA) – 1