Daniel Deusser rode the 11-year-old stallion Cornet d’Amour to victory in the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final at Lyon, France, on Monday, pipping fellow-German and former champion Ludger Beerbaum by a narrow margin.
For 32-year-old Deusser it was a real test of nerve after moving into pole position at the end of the first round after Olympic champion, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, lost his grip at the head of the leaderboard.
Just four horse-and-rider combinations produced double-clear rounds, and they earned the top four places, with Longines World No. 1 rider, Great Britain’s Scott Brash, slotting into third while Germany’s Marcus Ehning just missed the podium in fourth place while Guerdat lined up fifth.
“When I went into the second round I knew I had to be clear and you see could at fence number one – I nearly knocked it straight away! But I got my concentration and tried very hard, although I have to admit I was happy when I was finished!” he said. His win has brought the German tally of wins in this series to ten.
Following the withdrawal of joint-leader Patrice Delaveau from France, Guerdat was heading the leaderboard on a zero score as the competition began. Just six points separated the top nine, leaving no room for error.
Daniel Deusser interview In German
Guerdat started on a zero score, while Deusser was carrying two points after the first two competitions followed by Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer (Toulago), Beerbaum (Chiara) and defending champion Beezie Madden from the USA (Simon) with four apiece. The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten (VDL Groep Verdi) and Germany’s Christian Ahlmann (Aragon Z) were next in line on five while Ehning (Cornado NRW) carried six into the decider.
Course designer Frank Rothenberger tested them in both rounds but the quality of jumping was exceptional. As he said: “the day to me was perfect, we didn’t see big mistakes, just faults on the verticals and the back poles of the oxers”.
Ehning’s spectacular first-round clear ensured he would move up the order as did Brash when doing likewise, but Ahlmann’s chances were dashed by a refusal at the first element of the double at six and a total of 12 faults. Van der Vleuten was penalised for his pace with just a single time fault while Madden’s hopes of retaining her title were undermined by a pole down at the middle element of the triple combination at fence eight.
Beerbaum’s clear was followed by a mistake for Schwizer at the oxer three from home, but when, second-last to go, Deusser’s stallion produced another flawless performance then all the pressure was on Guerdat. And the Olympic champion made it all the way to the penultimate oxer before Nino des Buissonnets got too deep and caught the front pole on take-off. His grip was gone, and he went into round two lying second and on level-pegging with Beerbaum carrying four faults, while Brash was close behind still carrying five. Deusser was now out in front.
Rothenberger’s first-round test had been stiff enough, with the triple combination quickly followed by a double of verticals and a strong pace required to keep inside the 76-seconds time-allowed.
Second time out the time was set at 72 seconds which was also a brisk enough pace over another 13-fence track which began with a tall vertical followed by two big oxers and a left-hand turn to a vertical at four before the triple combination at five. The front element here proved the bogey in this round, the yellow pole falling eight times.
Van der Vleuten was removed from contention here, but both Brash and the 13-year-old mare Ursula and Beerbaum and his 11-year-old mare Chiara left all the timber in place to keep the pressure on the final two. And the crowd gasped when Guerdat’s Olympic gold medal winning gelding fell foul at the triple combination in an otherwise foot-perfect run.
As Deusser started out last to go you could hear a pin drop, so the noisy rattle of Cornet d’Amour’s hooves hitting the top pole of the first fence led to a big intake of breath around the arena. When the fence stayed up then Deusser steeled himself for the remainder of the course. There was another touch at the second element of the double at fence nine, and the pair arrived very deep at the following vertical, but this would be Deusser’s day as he cleared the finish line to a wall of applause. His big smile told the full story.
He has been riding Cornet d’Amour since June 2012, and in their first big show together at Spruce Meadows in Canada they jumped double-clear in the Nations Cup. However the horse was injured in November of that year and out of action for two months.
“In the end the break was maybe good for him because he came back out in February last year to win the Grand Prix at Wellington in Florida. We had a great year in 2013 including finishing fourth in the Grand Prix of Aachen!” said Deusser. Cornet d’Amour also claimed the German Championship title at Balve before taking team silver and fifth place individually at the PSI FEI European Jumping Championships in Herning, Denmark last August.
Clearly this was a partnership on a mission. Yet the German hadn’t banked on going to the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final until winning the Western European leg qualifier at Mechelen in Belgium in December.
Deusser and his girlfriend, Caroline Wauters, live in Mechelen. Cornet d’Amour is jointly owned by Stephan Conter of Stephex Stables in Belgium and Hunter Harrison of Double H Farm in Connecticut and Florida. Harrison is President and Chief Executive Officer of Canadian Pacific Railway.
Second-placed Beerbaum said he was “really happy, I came here as the very, very, very last rider from the reserve list, it was a rush to get here because I only knew I was coming a week ago. My horses were planned to go outdoors and they came here with no training for indoors so it is hard to believe the way it has worked out. The whole week could not have been better, and well done to Daniel, his performance with his horse the whole way through was incredible – I have no problem to be second to that – well done!”
Ludger Beerbaum interview In German
Third-placed Brash said “If I knew before I came here that I would finish third I would have been very happy! On the first day I had the last fence down and it really cost me, after that we would struggle to get on the podium so it’s nice to be sitting here today. Ludger and Daniel were fantastic today as usual.”
Scott Brash interview
US Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland was pleased with the effort put forward by all the American entries throughout the week, as his riders earned strong finishes for the United States for a second consecutive year.
“Our objective was to get as many in the money as possible (top 16) and we had five again in the money. A couple things didn’t go our way on Friday and again today, but we had a great second leg,” said Ridland. “We had a great mix of veterans and new riders, so to see these results, I’m pretty happy.”
Leading the way for the US were the 2014 World Cup champions Beezie Madden and Simon, finishing in seventh place on a total of 12 faults. Finishing in ninth place overall was US team veteran McLain Ward on a total of 17 faults with Rothchild. Charlie Jayne finished directly behind Ward in 10th place with Chill R Z on 23 faults. Completing the 2014 Final in 15th, 16th, and 17th place were Katie Dinan, Leslie Burr Howard, and Lucy Davis, respectively.
FEI Jumping Committee Chairman, John Madden, congratulated the riders and show organisers. “This is a fantastic venue and at the end of the day I have a feeling of deep appreciation and gratitude for all the teams that allowed us to enjoy fantastic sport. I’m happy to represent the FEI, and also very much appreciate the people who produced such a fine event, like Longines who brought the prizemoney up to the right level for this type of championship – and the riders of course.”
All images © Paul Harding / Lewis Harding Photography
Result – Final Classification:
1, Daniel Deusser (GER) 2;
2, Ludger Beerbaum (GER) 4;
3, Scott Brash (GBR) 5;
4, Marcus Ehning (GER) 6;
5, Steve Guerdat (SUI) 8
6, Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) 10;
7, Beezie Madden (USA) 12;
8, Pius Schwizer (SUI) 12;
9, McLain Ward (USA) 17;
10, Charlie Jayne (USA) 23.
Additional reporting: USEF