French riders took a firm grip of the leaderboard at the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping 2016 Final in Gothenburg, Sweden on Saturday night when Penelope Leprevost rode Vagabond de la Pomme to victory ahead of compatriot Simon Delestre riding Qlassic Bois Margot in the opening Speed competition.
A good position at the end of the first of the three deciding classes is every rider’s aim, but as third-placed Daniel Deusser pointed out this evening the race for a good early result needs to be tempered with caution.
“Today’s goal was to be in top five, six or seven horses because in the next two rounds anything can happen. I was very careful today because of the experience I had last year where one mistake was very costly and I finished in 15th place,” said the German rider who claimed the 2014 Longines FEI World Cup title with Cornet d’Amour.
And the top three have every reason to keep looking over their shoulders because fourth spot went to defending champion Steve Guerdat from Switzerland who sneaked home 0.1 seconds faster than Belgium’s Nicola Philippaerts, while the third member of the powerful French contingent, Patrice Delaveau, lined up in sixth spot.
There were 35 starters when Great Britain’s Laura Renwick decided to withdraw Bintang, and it was Delaveau who set the early target over the 13-fence track set by Spanish course designer Santiago Varela. As Technical Delegate Louis Konickx said, it was a clever track with plenty of options for the riders to choose from, and it presented a great opening-day challenge resulting in a very exciting competition.
Delestre blew the class wide open when stopping the clock on 66.04 seconds and after that he was the man to beat.
None came close until the penultimate rider, Leprevost, set off with the 13-year-old stallion whom she has been specifically aiming at this World Cup title. And Vagabond, whose pedigree includes the super-stallion Vigo d’Arsouilles and the great For Pleasure, showed his class when cruising home effortlessly in 63.78 to shave more than two seconds off her compatriot’s target time.
Not even the defending champion Guerdat could challenge that when last to go, but there’s no doubting the threat he will pose when the action resumes on Sunday night.
Leprevost described her horse’s performance as “amazing”, but was already feeling fairly confident after a good start to the week. She brought Vagabond to the 2015 Longines FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas (USA) as a 10-year-old and he finished second, so this is clearly a horse that thrives indoors.
If a French rider does succeed in taking the title on Monday then it will be for only the second time in the 38-year-history of this series which includes many of the greatest legends of the sport on its roll of honour. The only previous French champion was Bruno Broucqsault who sprang a big surprise when coming out on top with Dileme de Cephe at the Final in Milan (ITA) back in 2004. But there are two more tough rounds to go before we will know the destiny of the 2016 title.
• The youngest horse in the competition was the eight-year-old bay mare Cristalline ridden by Australia’s Chris Chugg. The pair jumped clear and slotted into 17th place.
The oldest horse was the 20-year-old stallion Flexible ridden by Rich Fellers of the USA. They had two fences down to finish 24th.
Result: 1, Vagabond de la Pomme (Penelope Leprevost) FRA 63.78; 2, Qlassic Bois Margot (Simon Delestre) FRA 66.04; 3, Cornet d’Amour (Daniel Deusser) GER 66.54; 4, Corbinian (Steve Guerdat) SUI 66.93; 5, H&M Forever D Arco Ter Linden (Nicola Philippaerts) BEL 66.94; 6, Lacrimoso 3 HDC (Patrice Delaveau) FRA 66.96; 7, Querida de Treho (Romain Duguet) SUI 67.46; 8, Cornado NRW (Marcus Ehning) GER 67.60; 9, Carella (Niklas Krieg) GER 67.81; 10, VDL Wizard (Callem Solem) USA 67.99.