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Lamaze and Hickstead back on top, McVean knocking

April 30, 2011

by Lulu Kyriacou

A thrilling six-horse jump-off in Leipzig saw Canada's Olympic champion Eric Lamaze and Hickstead make up for their slightly disappointing first day with a win that elevates him to fifth in the overall standings and within a point of the World Cup crown.

Eric Lamaze and Hickstead won the second World Cup round in Leipzig. © Lulu Kyriacou

Katie McVean and Delphi on their way to a clear round and eighth place, to end up fourth overall. © Lulu Kyriacou

But just above him is none other than Katie McVean. The Kiwi rider fell victim to the clock, coming home .72 of a second outside the time allowed, after jumping clear on Delphi. This left the pair eighth in this round but the points system for the overall standings rewards consistency and her two good results have left her in fourth - almost touching a podium finish.

In front of a packed house she kept her nerve while others such as World Number One Kevin Staut and defending champion Marcus Ehning faltered. Despite Marcus having two rails on Sabrina, the Germans are still dominating. Christian Alhmann came within a couple of tenths of a second of snatching victory from Eric and his second place makes sure he is equal leader with Marco Kutscher overall. Marco took a bit of an unnessecary risk into the third jump off fence which didn't pay off and left him 6th on the day when a safe but slow clear would have consolidated his lead.

McVean has created quite a sensation this week, and has ridden her home-bred 10-year-old mare with extraordinary confidence and panache. Despite not making the cut into the timed round, she is lying in fourth place, just behind The Netherlands' Gerco Schroder, going into Sunday's decider after the result of the first two competitions have been calculated into points.

Initially dismayed with her time fault, McVean soon realised the magnitude of her achievement and was thriled with her horse.

She has recieved congratulations and encouragement from New Zealand's other super hero of recent days, Mark Todd.

"Yes, it has been quite a week for us Kiwis," she laughed.

The 24-year-old is being supervised by father, Jeff, who was nervously puffing on his famous pipe.

"But it is quite funny because he has to keep running outside to do it," McVean said.

Home-bred Delphi was taken home for a holiday after the World Championships and had competed in only two shows since. The bay mare is out of Jeff's World Cup mare Flower Power.

"Today I went for a steady clear. She is very excitable and I need to leave a bit left for Sunday. I can't really believe that I have now been placed twice at such a competition and am sitting in a press conference with riders like Eric and Marco," McVean said.

"I'm very excited to be here amongst these riders. I came to Europe specially for the World Cup final and I am based near Eindhoven in Holland with a friend. Delphi had five weeks quarantine after the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky but we won two World Cup qualifiers and so I decided we should come here - it's been great so far!"

Her efforts have propelled her to New Zealand's most successful World Cup result, right up there with Daniel Meech's 12th placing at the Athens Olympic Games and on the back of her notching New Zealand's best ever World Equestrian Games result with her 38th individual placing in 2010.

Lamaze, currently ranked number two in the world, said it was early in the season for him "so I didn't arrive already thinking I've got a shot of winning."

"We had some ground to make up after Thursday so we had no choice. Hickstead felt really good in Thursday's speed class, but there were two options that were difficult and he is not really in top gear yet, so I just wanted to have a good clear round. Unfortunately, he had a cheap rub where many times the rail would have stayed up, but it came down. It put us far back in the standings, so the win today is going to go a long way.

"It was a difficult course; it was big and technical and the jumps came up quickly," said Lamaze of the track set by German course designer, Frank Rothenberger. "The World Cup Final usually has more clears on the second day, so that speaks to the level of competition and the difficulty of the course.

"I am confident that Hickstead is going to give me a really good effort on Sunday. I am happy with the result today, and we will see what Sunday brings. Anything can happen."



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