Dutch win in Olympia World Cup jumping round

December 22, 2009

Eric Van der Vleuten rocketed up to the top of the leaderboard after a superb victory with VDL Groep Tomboy in the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series at Olympia, London, on Sunday (GMT).

Ireland's Cian O'Connor set the target with Rancorrado in the 11-horse jump-off but was pipped at the post by the Dutchman's second-last-to-go ride, while Penelope Leprevost claimed third with Mylord Carthago.

The winner has amassed 57 points this season, so is already guaranteed a place at next April's Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Geneva, Switzerland but he had to fight hard for those maximum 20 points yesterday.

Eric Van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Tomboy. © Kit Houghton
The first-round track proved a bit of a puzzle in the early stages, the tight confines of the Victorian Grand Hall at the central London venue once again proving a challenge when the fences were raised by course designer Frank Rothenberger. Balance and rhythm were key to success, but Germany's Max Kuhner lost both of these when dislodged from Acantus GK at the vertical fence seven. He found himself running alongside his horse with a look of complete surprise on his face after Acantus jumped awkwardly and he was the only rider eliminated on the track. Two retired, but with 11 through against the clock it was always going to be a tough one to win.

Norway's Geir Gulliksen was pathfinder in the jump-off with L'Espoir but left one on the ground as did Sweden's Svante Johansson and Saint Amour. Third into the ring this time around was Johansson's team-mate Malin Baryard-Johnsson who had produced the most immaculate clear from the volatile mare, Actrice, first time out, but the Swedish star, who gave birth to her second child, Edward, just a few short weeks ago, saw her chances disappear with two fences on the floor.

Verona winners, Michael Whitaker and GIG Amai, were roared on by the home crowd but also fell victim to the double and it was O'Connor who returned the first zero score. Aileen Bryan's scopey 11 year old gelding covers a lot of ground and the Irishman left out a stride between the first two fences. He was a little careful to the double but still stopped the clock on 35.66 seconds to put it up to the rest of them.

Two medal winners from this summer's Alltech FEI European Jumping Championships followed him into the ring but Italy's Natale Chiaudani was a little cautious with SNAI Seldana di Campalto while Switzerland's Pius Schwizer didn't take too many chances either with his lovely eight year old Carlina. Britain's Ben Maher and Robin Hood looked like a real threat to O'Connor's lead but despite taking a stride out to the last they only broke the beam in 36.07 and when European individual gold medallist Kevin Staut from France left one on the ground with Le Prestige St Lois, who insisted on bucking his way around the ring, only two more stood between the Irishman and victory.

The Netherlands' Eric Van der Vleuten pictured with his Rolex watch after winning the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series at Olympia, London riding VDL Groep Tomboy. © Kit Houghton
Van der Vleuten's VDL Groep Tomboy was in a silly mood too, and also threw in a few bucking moments, but this 10 year old Emilion gelding is a speed machine and scorched home regardless in 35.08 seconds to clearly stamp his authority on the class. And although Penelope Leprevost's good nine year old Mylord Cathago was quick and clear they still had to settle for third in the final analysis.

"My horse has been great for the last six months," said the winner afterwards, "and we've had a fantastic run in the World Cup this season". They finished eighth at the opening leg in Oslo, Denmark, third at the next leg in Helsinki, Finland and fourth at both Lyon, France and Verona, Italy over the last few weeks so today's result is not altogether a huge surprise.

Eric said he doesn't worry when Tomboy throws a buck "because it just means that he's feeling good. He only does it when he's very fit, and when you ask him to go faster against the clock - he's not trying to be difficult, it's just his way of playing a bit. He's a sharp kind of horse, and sometimes you might think that the bucking will lose you some time on the course but he's very fast and you don't want to stop him from enjoying himself!" the rider added.

Tomboy will now have a few weeks rest before coming back out for Amsterdam Show in the new year "and then maybe we will do a few more shows just to get ready for the final in Geneva. I'll make the plan with our Dutch Chef d'Equipe so we can be sure we are ready - I'm looking forward to it already!"

The stats

11 horse and rider combinations qualified for the jump-off

The youngest horses in the competition were both 8 year olds and were both ridden by Swiss riders - Carlina with Pius Schwizer and LB Rendam ridden by Christina Liebherr.

The 8 year old Carlina jumped double-clear to finish fifth.