Colombia’s Carlos Lopez and Prince de la Mare seized victory in the sixth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League in Madrid, Spain, on Sunday.
The 49-year-old rider who took team bronze at the FEI Central American and Caribbean Games on home turf in Bogota in 2006, and who finished 18th individually at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games 2014 in Normandy, was fourth to go in the electrifying 11-horse jump-off.
And despite their most gallant attempts, the rest just couldn’t catch him, with Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander coming closest with a last-to-go run partnering Lintea Tequila. Talented young Frenchman, 23-year-old Alexandre Fontanelle, slotted into third with Prime Time des Vagues, while Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano and Admara 2 lined up fourth.
This was the first time for Madrid to host to a leg of the FEI World Cup Jumping series, and the action took place at the Fiera Exhibition Centre close to the airport.
Course designer, Spain’s Javier Trenor, presented a track filled with challenging oxers and demanding attention to detail all the way. The triple-combination at fence six – oxer, vertical, oxer on a two-stride to one-stride pattern – claimed plenty of scalps, while another influential obstacle was the double at fence 10.
It was a truly international jump-off with two representatives from Spain and the remaining nine flying the flags of different nations.
Lopez set off like the world was on fire, and the Colombian never took his foot off the accelerator and galloped through the finish in 38.69 to really put it up to the rest of them.
Fontanelle came dangerously close, with a super-smooth run from the 11-year-old gelding Prime Time des Vagues that included a masterful turn to fence seven, but they were 0.22 off Lopez’s target. And when Norway’s Dag Ove Kingsrod (Dimaro), Spain’s Sergio Moya (Carlo) and reigning Longines FEI World Cup Jumping champion Daniel Deusser from Germany (Pironella) each left a pole on the floor the Colombian was still out in front.
With just three left to go, Italy’s Gaudiano set off at a terrific pace with his nine-year-old Admara who crossed the line in 39.14 seconds. But as Britain’s Robert Whitaker set sail, he looked even more of a threat. Turning the 11-year-old Catwalk IV down the final line he appeared to be up on the clock, but the stallion grabbed the bridle and hung to the right, leaving his rider desperately fighting for control, and when they arrived at the final oxer Whitaker couldn’t straighten him up enough, so the horse ran through the gap between the right-hand upright and the edge of the arena while the crowd gasped in disbelief.
Only Tops-Alexander stood between Lopez and victory now, and the 40-year-old Australian gave it her best shot with Lintea Tequila who broke the beam 0.01 seconds quicker than Fontanelle to claim runner-up spot but leaving Lopez in pole position.
It was a glorious result for the Colombian whose partnership with the horse previously competed by Italy’s Juan Carlos Garcia is clearly in the ascent. Successful earlier in this career, Lopez was missing from the top end of the sport for 12 years when based back in Colombia, but two years ago decided to make a comeback and it seems it is working out pretty well.
“The sport has changed a lot while I was away,” said the rider who is now based south of Lyon in France. “When I was in Colombia I ran a farm and did some coaching while competing at national level,” he explained. His return has coincided with the appointment of Marcel Delestre, father of French Jumping star Simon Delestre, who led the Colombian team to a creditable 10th-place finish in Caen. And he has found a great equine partner in Prince de la Mare.
“I saw him and fell in love with him, he is very careful and has the heart of a fighter although he has his problems,” Lopez said of his horse. “He wasn’t broken too well and I didn’t try him before we bought him which is always risky, but he is much better now,” Lopez said.
Asked if he thought he would win from his fourth-to-go jump-off run he answered, “no, I didn’t, I thought I might be in the first three because I didn’t start too fast and I had a problem with the hackamore on the turn to fence seven so I knew I had to gallop from there! That’s the sport, sometimes you are lucky, sometimes not, and little things make a big difference,” he said.
The next leg takes place at Olympia, London (GBR) on Sunday, December 21.
1, Prince de la Mare (Carlos Lopez) COL 0/0 38.69;
2, Lintea Tequila (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 38.90;
3, Prime Time des Vagues (Alexandre Fontanelle) FRA 0/0 38.91;
4, Admara 2 (Emanuele Gaudiano) ITA 0/0 39.14;
5, As Cold as Ice Z (Judy-Ann Melchior) BEL 0/0 41.80;
6, Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) ESP 0/4 38.27;
7, Pironella (Daniel Deusser) GER 0/4 39.13;
8, Castlefield Eclipse (Paul Estermann) SUI 0/4 39.17;
9, Nuage Bleu (Pilar Cordon) ESP 0/4 39.51;
10, Dimaro vd Looise Heide (Dag Ove Kingsrod) NOR 0/4 41.71;
11, Catwalk IV (Robert Whitaker) GBR 0/8 51.00.
Western European League – Standings after Round 6:
- Steve Guerdat SUI – 57
- Harrie Smolders NED – 47
- Kevin Staut FRA – 40
- Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS – 37
- Jur Vrieling NED – 33
- Lucy Davis USA – 30
- Reed Kessler USA – 30
- Martin Fuchs SUI – 28
- Marcus Ehning GER – 28
- Pius Schwizer SUI – 27
- Daniel Deusser GER – 26
- Francois Mathy Jr FRA – 25
- Bertram Allen IRL – 24
- Marco Kutscher GER – 24
- Gerco Schroder NED – 24
- Alexandre Fontanelle FRA – 23
- Marlon Zanotelli BRA – 21
- Carlos Lopez COL – 20
- Roger Yves Bost FRA – 20
- William Whitaker GBR – 20