Patrice Delaveau produced a stunning victory with Orient Express HDC in the second leg of showjumping’s Nations Cup series in Helsinki, Finland, on Sunday.
Second-last to go in the eight-horse jump-off against the clock, the French partnership snatched victory from London 2012 Olympic champions Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets from Switzerland.
Ireland’s Shane Breen steered his talented 10-year-old stallion, Balloon, into third ahead of Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Tornesch in fourth. This was a most impressive result for the Swedish rider’s horse, as he had an eye surgically removed only a few short months ago, but seems to have lost nothing of his talent or of his zest for his job on his return to top-class competition.
Fifth place went to Luciana Diniz who enjoyed another spectacular day with her lovable grey stallion Winningmood, and the Portuguese rider now lies second on the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Western European League leaderboard at this early stage of the 11-leg series, while Steve Guerdat is well out in front having already collected 34 points to date.
The ice-hockey ring at the Hartwall Arena at Helsinki always presents a particularly tough challenge for the world’s best jumping horses and riders, and an equally difficult task for course designer Aki Ylanne.
The height of the poles and the stretches over the big, wide oxers were challenging enough, but it was the relentless pace at which the fences came up, often off corners and without any possibility of a last-minute adjustment of any kind, that really racked up the pressure.
Baryard-Johnsson led the way in the jump-off with a lovely second clear from the 13-year-old H&M Tornesch whose recovery from his operation in July has been quite spectacular. The stallion had been battling with an eye issue for the last eight years and when it became more problematic this summer it was decided to remove it, so Baryard-Johnsson had to step down from her national side for the PSI FEI European Jumping Championships at Herning, Denmark in August. She said before Sunday’s competition that she wasn’t sure what to expect, but she was in for a very pleasant surprise as her horse showed all of his usual flair and power as he crossed through the finish line in 38.03 seconds to set the early target.
Shane Breen was more than happy with third place partnering his promising stallion. “Balloon was terrific this weekend” said the Irishman who lives at the Hickstead showgrounds in Great Britain. Breen also finished third in yesterday’s Grand Prix at the Finnish fixture. “It is my first time here in Helsinki and I am really happy with my placing in both competitions. The courses were quite tricky and the lines were severe – you had to be accurate and on the ball, while your horses really needed to stretch and make an effort on the course.
“My horse is getting better and better. I am delighted with him. He is 10 years old and every year is improving – if he can improve 10 per cent again next year, then we’re going to do great things!” Breen added.
But the day belonged to Delaveau who talked about the horse that also carried him to victory as part of the winning French team at the thrilling inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final in Barcelona, Spain last month. “Orient Express is an exceptional horse with great quality and a massive heart. He is undoubtedly one of the best horses in Europe – he’s a real gem!” he said proudly.
The next leg takes place at Verona, Italy on Sunday, November 10.
Result: 1, Orient Express HDC (Patrice Delaveau) FRA 0/0 34.23; 2, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 35.99; 3, Balloon (Shane Breen) IRL 0/037.14; 4, H&M Tornesch (Malin Baryard-Johnson) SWE 0/0 38.03; 5, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 38.20; 6, Quinai des Chayottes (Julio Arias) ESP 0/4 36.11; 7, Amai (Michael Whitaker) GBR 0/4 36.27; 8, Conte Della Caccia (Martin Fuchs) SUI 0/4 40.95; 9, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 4/60.88; 10, VDL Groep Sapphire B (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED 4/62.25.
Longines FEI World Cup Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League – Standings after Round 2:
1. Steve Guerdat SUI – 34
2. Luciana Diniz POR – 25
3. Scott Brash GBR – 24
4. Patrice Delaveau FRA – 20
5. Marcus Ehning GER – 15
5. Shane Breen IRL – 15
7. Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE – 13
8. Geir Gulliksen NOR – 12
9. Julio Arias ESP – 11
9. Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS – 11
11. Kevin Staut FRA – 11
12. Athina Onassis de Miranda GRE – 10
12. Michael Whitaker GBR – 10
14. Simon Delestre FRA – 10
15. Marlon Zanotelli BRA – 9
15. Martin Fuchs SUI – 9
17. Maikel van der Vleuten NED – 9
18. Frank Schuttert NED – 8
19. Angelica Augustsson SWE – 7
20. Hans-Dieter Dreher GER – 6
20. Pius Schwizer SUI – 6