Tag Archives: FEI World Cup

FEI Vaulting World Cup Finals: German and Colombian Podiums

Janika Derks, copyright PhotosLesGarennes.

The Grand Manège du Cadre Noir in Saumur, the world capital of equitation and equestrian arts, was full! Some 1500 people were present for the consecration of the new winners of the FEI Vaulting World Cup Final in Saumur 2019. The public at the international vaulting championships is said to be fantastic: the public in Saumur has once again demonstrated this. A thrilling atmosphere among the riders of the Cadre Noir!

First to go, the ladies were living an important moment in vaulting history. The queen Kristina Boe (GER), double current world champion, Europe champion, defending title of the FEI World Cup Vaulting Final, was doing her goodbye run on the majestic ring of the Cadre noir de Saumur. Second on the provisional ranking before this second round of the competition, the German falls off just a couple of seconds before the end, and finally finishes at the 4th place. “I think my horse decided to retire a couple of strikes before me,” she said, smiling. The misfortune of some makes the happiness of others: her compatriot Janika Derks, 1st in the provisional ranking, had a way free to present the energetic and athletic vaulting that represents her. For the first time in her career, Derks climbs on the highest step of the podium. Switzerland’s Marina Mohar is second and Switzerland’s Nadja Büttiker third.

For the males, the Colombian phenomenon Juan Martin Clavijo didn’t disappoint and made a freestyle like a virtuoso. Settled in Switzerland since October, running his first FEI Vaulting World Cup Final, he was sensational during these three days of competition in Saumur. The young Colombian explained during the press conference that he ran a freestyle on the theme of slavery on a Russian music with an evocative title of “Horses.” He outstrips some of the international championships vaulters: Germans Jannik Heiland, world champion in title in the nations cup and vice champion of the world individual, was second, and Thomas Brusewitz qualified for the third time in his career in the FEI Vaulting World Cup. Clément Taillez, only French vaulter qualified for this World Cup Final in Saumur, finishes at fourth place, reaching his goal of being in the top 5.

Last category running their FEI Vaulting World Cup Final, the pas-de-deux is won by the Germans Theresa-Sophie Bresch and Torben Jacobs, outstripping the Americans Haley Smith and Daniel Janes and Switzerland’s Zoe Maruccio and Syrra Schmid. Starting to be a habit for the German couple, who together have won two times this FEI Vaulting World Cup, Torben having it won even a third time with another partner. The pair decided also to say goodbye to the competition to focus on new projects.

JULIETTE FEYTOUT
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First Round of FEI World Cup Vaulting Final in Saumur

Juan Martin Clavijo, copyright PhotosLesGarennes.

The FEI Vaulting World Cup Final competition is now open in Saumur, the world capital of horseriding and equestrian arts. The first of the two rounds counting for the ranking was played, which will determine the winners of the Final in three categories: female, male, and Pas-de-deux.

In the females round, defending champion, Germany’s Kristina Boe, two-time world and European champion, disappointed in the warm-up. The first to set off on the Grand Manège of the Ecole Nationale d’Equitation, which generally hosts galas and demonstrations by the Cadre noir de Saumur’s riders, the vaulter has returned to her best form. There is only one chance left for her to shine in front of an international audience as Kristina Boe will retire from the sport at the end of the competition. She finished second behind her compatriot Janika Derks, already in the lead in the warm-up. In a more athletic and powerful vaulting than her rival, Janika won over the jury and the public. Third place goes to Switzerland’s Nadja Büttiker.

Among the men, let’s say there was the Colombian Juan Martin Clavijo and the others. This 19-year-old kid, who this year competed in his first FEI World Cup season in vaulting, competes in his first Final, is a phenomenon of grace and flexibility, a legend of equestrian sports in his country. All equestrian disciplines combined, he was the first (and only) Colombian to win world gold in a championship! “I had a lot of pleasure vaulting tonight,” he said after his performance. “That was my main goal.” The FEI World Cup format, which gives us an extra 20 seconds in our freestyle programs, is very welcome. “A star is born! Juan Martin Clavijo leads Germany’s Jannik Heiland in second and Thomas Brusewitz in third. On the French side, Clément Taillez, the only Frenchman to qualify for the FEI Vaulting World Cup Final, is in fifth place. Satisfied with his performance, the external resident of the Saumur’s vaulting Pôle France flew in front of his audience, on a delicate Ave Maria. “I promised myself a day of vaulting on an Ave Maria; I said to myself, ‘When I get strong, I’ll vault on it.’ I just had to wait until I was ready to face such a musical masterpiece.” The time for Taillez seems to have come and the Frenchman will be keen to aim for a podium, at the second round of this FEI World Cup Final.

Last category, the Pas-de-Deux, is led again by a German couple, Theresa-Sophie Bresch and Torben Jacobs, who are on track to win a second title in this FEI Vaulting World Cup Final, after their victory last year.

DANIEL KOROLOFF
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FEI Vaulting World Cup Final Warm-up in Saumur

Theresa-Sophie Bresch and Torben Jacobs, copyright PhotosLesGarennes.

Saumur, France hosted the warm-up of the FEI Vaulting World Cup Final. Even if the warm-up does not count for the final classification that will determine the winners of the FEI Vaulting World Cup Final 2019, it was important at least for two reasons: “The warm-up allows to determine the starting order for tomorrow’s test, the first test on the two which will be taken into account in the final classification,” explains Davy Delaire, coach of the French vaulting team. It was also very important for the familiarization of the horses with the environment of the competition. For the first time organized in Saumur, the competition takes place in the splendid Grand Manège, where usually the riders of the prestigious Cadre Noir de Saumur perform.

For the Female category, the surprise comes from Germany’s Kristina Boe, defending champion, two-time world champion (individual and in the Nations Cup) and reigning European champion, who runs in Saumur her last competition before retiring and points to the last place of this warm-up. But let’s repeat: this warm-up is not taken into account for the ranking that will determine the winner of the FEI Vaulting World Cup Final. Her compatriot Janika Derks, team world champion in 2014 and team European champion in 2015, finishes at the top of this warm-up. She is followed by Switzerland’s Nadja Buttiker, second, and Marina Mohar, Swiss vaulter as well, third. Nadja Büttiker finished second in the World Cup Final last year, behind Kristina Boe. Switzerland’s vaulter will be eager to take her revenge in Saumur.

On the men’s side of the competition, it was a great start for the one who broke all the acclaimed records, the Frenchman Clément Taillez, the only French representative in the three categories of this FEI Vaulting World Cup Final. He finishes at third place in the warm-up, behind German Viktor Brusewitz, second, and the surprise of the evening, the Colombian Juan Martin Clavijo, first. Juan Martin Clavijo was world champion in 2015 and 2017, and is a real star in Colombia: he is the first athlete who won gold in an international championship, all equestrian disciplines combined. He was vaulting on an orthodox choir of men: splendid!

Last category in this FEI Vaulting World Cup Final, the pas-de-deux. Germans Theresa-Sophie Bresch and Torben Jacobs won over their American competitors, Daniel Janes and Haley Smith, second, and Swiss Zoe Maruccio and Syra Schmid, third. Theresa-Sophie and Torben won the FEI Vaulting World Cup Final in 2018 and are also current European Vice-Champions.

DANIEL KOROLOFF
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M. : +33 (0)6 11 02 18 12
daniel@blizko-communication.com

Guerdat Shows Nerves of Steel to Seal His Third Title

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (centre) celebrates in style with his compatriot and runner-up Martin Fuchs (left) and third-placed Peder Fredricson from Sweden (right). (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (36) showed exactly why he is the No. 1 rider in the world right now when holding his nerve under the most intense pressure to take the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2019 title at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE). This was his third time to lift the trophy in the long history of the prestigious series, and his glorious win sees him join an elite group of three-time champions.

He had thrown down the gauntlet when topping Thursday’s opening competition, but a fence down on Friday saw him come into the two-round finale in third place, and two points off Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (35) at the head of the leaderboard. Guerdat wondered if his 11-year-old gelding Alamo was ready to step up to the level of sport they faced. The horse had never jumped courses as big as this before. Course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, set them an enormous test, but Alamo didn’t crumble.

“I was a bit unsure going to the final today as this is his first championship and I was a little nervous on Friday after the speed class, but in the end he has been amazing all week!” said the man whose won his first title in Las Vegas (USA) in 2015 and his second in Gothenburg a year later.

There were only five first-round clears, and Guerdat moved into pole position when Alvarez Aznar dropped out of contention with two fences down, and second-placed Swede, Peder Fredricson (47), faulted once with Catch Me Not at the bogey water-try vertical at fence 10 on the tough 13-fence track to the dismay of the crowd. But the home hero and reigning European champion was still very much in the hunt, in third carrying five penalty points as round two began with Guerdat at the head of affairs carrying two, but only a single point ahead of fellow-countryman Martin Fuchs (26) and Clooney who had three on the board.

You could hear a pin drop when Fredricson returned to take on the simply colossal second-round track, but there was an explosion of sound when he brought his grey gelding home with nothing to add. The Swiss pair now had no breathing space: any mistake would ensure a Swedish victory, but Fuchs didn’t falter, Clooney showing all the class that secured individual silver for his talented young rider at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon (USA) last September.

Now Guerdat had no room for manoeuvre – nothing but a foot-perfect run would do. Alamo showed a little inexperience on the way but there’s nothing quite like a horse that gives you everything it’s got, and the Dutch-bred did just that to bring it home.

“It’s up to the horse to jump the fences, so I really tried to focus on my riding and give the him his best chance, and he responded really well,” Guerdat said. He’s growing ever-fonder of Alamo, although he admitted that the horse he holds closest to his heart will always be his great partner Nino des Buissonnets who carried him to Olympic glory in London seven years ago.

It was a bit of a frustrating result for Fuchs because he has now finished second in two major events, last year’s World Championship and the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final. “But if I have to be beaten it is great if Steve wins; he is my friend and training partner. Clooney was amazing; he jumped both rounds easy; he is one of the best horses in the world. Two times second place is already a great achievement, and I am already looking forward to the European Championships this summer!” he said. That top step of the podium will surely come their way very soon.

But it was Guerdat who reigned supreme, and he now joins an elite group of three-time World Cup winners that includes Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa, and Austria’s Hugo Simon, the man who won the very first title in Gothenburg in 1979.

“When I was young, I used to dream of winning the World Cup, and when I finished second twice I wondered if it would ever happen. So when I won in 2015 it was very special, and to win here in Gothenburg the next year was even better, because this is such a great show; the crowd is like nowhere else and the atmosphere is unbelievable. To win three times, and to do it in Gothenburg again today – this makes me very proud!” — Steve Guerdat (SUI)

Result here.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Graves Earns World Cup Silver for Third Time in Gothenburg

Laura Graves and Verdades (Shannon Brinkman Photo)

Gothenburg, Sweden – In the dramatic conclusion of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final, Laura Graves and her loyal mount Verdades piaffed their way to silver in front of an enthusiastic Swedish crowd of more than 11,500. Showing the strength of the American dressage program, all three U.S. combinations broke the top seven with scores over 80%.

“I was thrilled. [Verdades] was so rideable, and I was just really thrilled with his focus and his energy today,” said Graves. “Like Isabel [Werth] said, the crowd was amazing. They all have this ticker of a live score, and as riders you are going ‘yeah, this feels pretty good.’ You kind of hope that the judges are agreeing with [the crowd]. You hear the crowd clapping along and you think ‘okay, well at least everyone is enjoying it as much as I am,’ and that’s really special.”

With a final score of 87.179%, Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and her and Curt Maes’s 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding gave now three-time World Cup champion Isabel Werth (Germany) and Weihegold OLD a run for their money. With 10 combinations scoring over 80%, it was a tight race to the finish and Graves rode 14th in the order.

© 2019 US Equestrian Federation

Werth Proves Unbeatable One More Time

Isabell Werth. (FEI/Christophe Taniere)

In a competition that built to an incredible climax, Germany’s Isabell Werth (49) stood firm to win the FEI Dressage World Cup™ title for the fifth time in her extraordinary career. They came from all around the globe to take on the most successful equestrian athlete of all time and gave it everything they had, but she didn’t buckle under the pressure. That’s not her style.

As she entered the arena, second-last to go of the 18 starters, the crowd held its breath in anticipation. They had watched rider after rider throw everything they had at her, piling on the pressure as they also bid for the trophy they all want to win. The spectators were in a frenzy when Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven and Don Auriello drew the first half of the competition to a close with a breathtaking ride on her great Don Auriello, and they went into complete over-drive when it re-started with a new leading score from their own Patrick Kittel and Delaunay OLD.

But Laura Graves (31) blew the competition wide open when strutting to a score of 87.179 with just five left to go. As the American pointed out, her gelding Verdades, one of the five stunning 17-year-old horses who have graced this Final, is just getting better with age and she stayed out in front despite a spectacular ride for Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen (28) who didn’t hold anything back when steering the stallion Blue Hors Zack to a score of 85.468.

With a beautifully balanced test during which her elegant horse Goerklintgaards Dublet looked like he could do one-tempi changes all day, another of the strong American contingent, Kasey Perry-Glass, slotted in behind him. So, Graves was still holding court at the head of the leaderboard as Werth set off. But it wouldn’t be for long.

“My ride was really fantastic; my mare did a perfect test and she really deserved the win!” said the lady whose trophy cabinet is laden with gold medals, including six from Olympic Games, eight collected at World Games, and 12 from European Championships who put 88.871 on the board. Werth is never altogether pleased when asked what still drives her, at almost 50 years of age, to still be hungry for success, but she replied simply, “I live what I do… and this is what keeps me so competitive!”

Reflecting on her performance she said, “I could take all the risks at extended canter and take her back and the pirouettes were great. We could not have been better!” Except, as she admitted, in the one-tempi changes where there was a little blip. “I was arrogant there, so that was my fault!” she said.

She may have been brilliant once again, but the prize for the most exciting test went, without a shadow of doubt, to her compatriot and 2013 champion Helen Langehanenberg who finished third on a mark of 86.571 after a performance that, quite literally, ended with onlookers gasping in disbelief. None more than Judge at C, Magnus Ringmark, whose expression was priceless as the German rider’s 17-year-old stallion Damsey FRH exploded down the centreline in a massive extended trot, halting only inches from his table. “I thought he was going to end on my lap!” the Swedish Ground Jury member laughed afterwards.

“The sport has changed a lot since I won my first Final,” Werth reflected. That was 27 years ago, also in Gothenburg riding a horse called Fabienne. “We now have such a professional team around us, and there are great improvements on all sides. It is very important for us to keep the respect for the horse for the future and it’s great to see so many older horses still performing at this level; it shows how well they are cared for and how much respect their riders have for them,” she said.

Both runner-up Graves and third-placed Langehanenberg were riding two of those 17-year-olds, still full of the joys of life and still intensely competitive. Langehanenberg said of the hard-pulling Damsey FRH, “I am thankful and really proud of him. The clapping motivated him at the end of the test and I think he would have been quite happy to start all over again!”

This didn’t just mark Werth’s fifth victory; it was also her third in succession and, each time over the last three seasons, it has been Graves who she has had to pin back into runner-up spot.

“Like Isabell said, it is our duty to take care of our horses and try to keep them healthy. My horse likes his job and never puts a foot wrong when I ride him, although at the barn he knows he’s the boss! He was so rideable today, the crowd was amazing, and I hope everyone enjoyed it as much as me!” said the American.

The greeting the riders received in the prizegiving suggested that the crowd most certainly did.

Result here.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Graves Takes Second in FEI Dressage World Cup Final Grand Prix

Laura Graves and Verdades (Photo by Shannon Brinkman Photo)

Gothenburg, Sweden – In an exciting day of competition, U.S. dressage and jumping combinations found their rhythm at the FEI World Cup™ Finals. Laura Graves and Verdades earned second in the FEI Dressage World Cup Final Grand Prix, while Beezie Madden and Breitling LS advanced to fourth after the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final II.

With poise and grace, the U.S. dressage combinations trotted down centerline on Friday ready to represent American dressage. Their hard work and dedication paid off, resulting in all three combinations placing in the top eight in the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final Grand Prix. Laura Graves and Verdades led the way for the U.S., placing second on 80.109% closely behind Germany’s Isabel Werth.

Graves (Geneva, Fla.) and her own and Curt Maes’s 17-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding found their rhythm in the large Scandinavium Arena in front of a knowledgeable Swedish audience.

“I thought [feeling super]. He was super rideable today,” said Graves. “I think tomorrow will be an interesting competition for everyone, and, hopefully, my horse gives me the same great feeling that he did today… I feel really, really confident in how we have prepared him for this competition.”

Madden Moves Up, Tied for Fourth after Round II of Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final

With ground to cover, the U.S. combinations headed into Friday evening’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final II looking to improve their positions in the second round of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final. Round II saw a shift in the leaderboard, and Madden and Breitling LS jumped a commanding and nearly flawless round to place fifth in the class and fourth overall.

After jumping a clear round on a time of 76.41 seconds, Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.) and Abigail Wexner’s 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion headed into the jump-off with seven other top combinations. Their jump-off time of 34.75 seconds was the fastest of the round but a rail at the final jump cost them the double-clear. Sitting on just three penalties, and tied for fourth with Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels and Olivier Philippaerts, as well as Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, Madden and Breitling LS sit less than one rail from the current leader headed into Sunday’s final.

By US Equestrian Communications Department

Spain’s Alvarez Aznar Jumps into Lead, but Sweden’s Fredricson Steals the Show

Peder Fredricson and Catch Me Not. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

When the first-round winner, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, said the second competition at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2019 in Gothenburg (SWE) would shake up the leaderboard, he wasn’t wrong. A single mistake tonight sees him go into Sunday’s two-round title-decider lying third on the leaderboard, but only two points behind Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar at the head of affairs and a single point behind Peder Fredricson who set the Swedish crowd alight with a sensational home victory this evening.

Defending champions, America’s Beezie Madden and Breitling, posted by far the quickest time in the eight-horse jump-off but, like many others, fell victim to the turn the very last. She has moved right into contention, however, up from tenth to equal-fourth place in the overall rankings alongside Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels and Olivier Philippaerts and Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs. And there’s only a single fence between Poland’s Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski and the top of the leaderboard. It’s really tight and all to play for going into the finale which is guaranteed to be a thriller.

Yesterday Fredricson looked forlorn as he sat at the post-competition press conference as best Swedish rider after finishing in eleventh place with H&M All in, but what a difference a day makes. Tonight’s victory with the aptly-named grey, Catch Me Not, has changed everything.

“I was so disappointed yesterday and was not expecting to win today, so I’m really happy tonight!” said Fredricson.

Austria’s Max Kuhner and Chardonnay led the way against the clock and set a sensible target when clear in 39.44 seconds. “First to go is never easy. As my horse is not really a naturally fast horse the strategy was to be fast enough and clear,” he explained. Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum and Cool Feeling hit the first fence when next to go but Frenchman Olivier Robert made it all the way to the last before faulting there.

Skrzyczynski’s 10-year-old mare, Chacclana, was foot-perfect in a time of 39.68 before Fredricson nearly lifted the roof off the Scandinavium Arena when scorching in to take the lead in 37.94 seconds. Madden was almost three seconds quicker coming to the last, only for that to fall and when Bruynseels suffered the same fate with Delux an T&L; only Alvarez Aznar was left to threaten Fredricson for the win.

“Going into the jump-off I felt it was safer to be in the top places for the final on Sunday so I didn’t risk all,” he explained afterwards, but his time of 37.97 was still plenty good enough for runner-up spot ahead of Kuhner in third and Skrzyczynski in fourth place. “I was not expecting to be leading tonight but to have a good round. My horse is not the fastest, but he is very consistent,” said the modest Spanish rider who finished sixth at last year’s Longines Final in Paris (FRA) and who now has the best of the draw for Sunday’s finale.

“I want to be on the podium of a Championship and I am now in a good position, but I have to stay focused and have a good ride on Sunday,” he added.

His compatriot, course-designer Santiago Varela, pointed out that the game is far from over yet.

“I want to say congratulations to the riders; they did a great job tonight. Today was a new day but a lot can change on Sunday because we have two more rounds. We are only half-way through this evening – there’s a lot more jumping to do,” he warned.

Result here.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Werth Wins Grand Prix, but Runner-Up Graves Looks a Powerful Threat

Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

The legend that is Germany’s Isabell Werth (49) steered her wonderful 13-year-old mare, Weihegold OLD, to victory in the Grand Prix as the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2019 got underway at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE).

But the World No. 1 rider, and the most decorated athlete in the history of equestrian sport, is taking nothing for granted as she chases down her third consecutive, and fifth overall, World Cup title.

“I can feel the breeze on the back of my neck!” she admitted, after the World No. 2 combination of America’s Laura Graves (31) and Verdades slotted into second place on a day when US riders were highly impressive.

Indeed, the deciding Freestyle competition looks set to be another thriller, and the sold-out stadium will be throbbing with excitement. Third-placed Dane, Daniel Bachmann Andersen, said it suited his stallion Blue Hors Zack when the crowd clapped enthusiastically as they came into the ring. But Judy Reynolds’ Vancouver K didn’t feel the same way, spinning around with fright and boiling over at times when they were first to go. The Irishwoman, whose Freestyle programme is a big crowd favourite, just shrugged it off after finishing 14th of 18 starters. That blip is already confined to history as far as she is concerned.

It was America’s Kasey Perry-Glass and Goerklintgaards Dublet who headed the leaderboard with a score of 77.267 at the halfway stage after a performance that oozed partnership between horse and rider. And when Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Damsey posted 76.957 as the second-half action began, the US rider was still out in front. But then Werth set off with Weihegold and the big scores just kept coming in, the precision and quality of the mare’s work seeing them post 81.755 to soar out in front.

Bachmann Andersen’s Blue Hors Zack did a lovely test. “He’s just getting better and better!” said the Danish star who temporarily slotted into second when putting 78.152 on the board, but Werth’s lead looked very vulnerable when Graves followed him into the ring, fourth-last to go. Some big early scores suggested the American just might oust the defending double-champion, but there was a little mistake in extended trot and the final scoreline of 80.109 left Werth in pole position.

The German superstar and multiple champion knows the story is far from over, however, and Graves reminded her of that at the post-competition press conference. You could tell that the American meant it when she said, “I’m incredibly hungry to be at the top of the podium and I’ll do my very best tomorrow. I know there is a real chance; I believe in this horse – he’s 17 but in the best shape ever!”

But Werth has been to battle, and won, so many times before, and as she said, “Gothenburg holds great memories for me.” It was here that she posted her very first FEI Dressage World Cup Final win with Fabienne in 1992. Can she do it again 27 years later? As she said, “Tomorrow is a whole new game – we will have to wait and see.”

Result here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46

Guerdat Seizes Early Advantage with Alamo

Steve Guerdat with Alamo. (FEI/Liz Gregg)

Former double-champion, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat (36), scorched into the lead as the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2019 Final kicked off at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE). Before he cantered into the ring, third-last to go with Alamo, the leaderboard looked like a Belgian whitewash with Pieter Devos (33), Olivier Philippaerts (25), and Francois Mathy Jr (48) holding the top three places after brilliant runs over the 13-fence course set by ace Spanish course designer Santiago Varela.

Defending champions, America’s Beezie Madden (55) and her 13-year-old stallion Breitling LS, had just dropped the very last fence, so with three seconds added to their super-fast time of 60.74 seconds would have to settle for tenth spot at the end of the day. But Guerdat cut a completely clean path to break the timers in 61.28 seconds for the win, squeezing Devos and his gelding, Apart, out of pole position by just three-hundredths of a seconds.

It was the perfect beginning to the seasonal finale that brings together riders from all around the globe, some making a very career-defining debut at the top end of the sport after qualifying from their regional series. So Varela’s challenge was to build a track that not only tested Guerdat, confirmed this week as World No. 1 rider for the fourth month in a row, but also suitable for others much further down the order including Chile’s Rodrigo Carrasco, who is ranked 1,465 but who returned with his brave grey, Acapulco FZ, with just six seconds to add to their tally.

The action began with a dramatic dismount for Guerdat’s good friend and team-mate Beat Mandli who tried a very difficult turn inside the first fence on the approach to the planks at fence 11. His 11-year-old mare Dsarie just couldn’t make it and stopped, unshipping her rider. Guerdat admitted that he had been tempted to take that turn too, but after Mandli’s elimination decided against it. “It was really bad luck for Beät. I felt sorry for him and it killed a bit of the options. And I didn’t need to do it,” he pointed out.

His decision to bring the less-experienced Alamo to these Finals instead of his top ride, Albfuehrens Bianca, wasn’t an easy one to make.

“Bianca is my number one choice for the (Olympic) Games next year, so I thought maybe on the way to there she doesn’t need to do all the Championships. I thought if I have a slightly small chance with Alamo, I will take it!” — Steve Guerdat (SUI)

Alamo proved he is made of the right stuff, presenting his rider with a lot more than a small chance.

“I’m very happy; he jumped well. I had a fast round without taking too much out of the horse. I know that this horse does not go as fast as my other horses, but I know he is quite quick, so I just tried to stay focussed on my plan and what I wanted to do. I didn’t think too much about the others were doing,” he said.

The London 2012 individual Olympic champion has won the coveted Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title twice before, first under the bright lights of Las Vegas (USA) in 2015 and then again the following year in Gothenburg. His recollection is that he was lying “fourth or fifth” after the first competition on those occasions, but he modestly insisted that holding the top spot going into the second competition may prove irrelevant.

“We can expect a lot of places to move around; it always changes a lot on the second day,” he pointed out. “I think a mistake is much more important tomorrow than today. Everything looks good today, but everything can look much different tomorrow!” said the man who is hoping to make his 13th Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final another winning one.

Watch highlights here.

By Louise Parkes

Media contact:

Shannon Gibbons
Media Relations and Communications Manager
shannon.gibbons@fei.org
+41 78 750 61 46