Steve Guerdat, pictured with Casper Gebeke, Longines Sweden country manager. (FEI/Roland Thunholm)
Gothenburg (SWE), 1 March 2015 – Olympic champion, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, produced a brilliant performance from the 12-year-old mare, Albfuehren’s Paille, to record his second victory of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League at the final qualifying round in Gothenburg, Sweden today. In a desperate battle for those chasing the last remaining points that would earn them a place at the Longines Final in Las Vegas, USA in April, it was Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson who lined up second with Casall Ask while Germany’s Marco Kutscher clinched third with Cornet’s Cristallo ahead of The Netherlands’ Jur Vrieling and Zirocco Blue NOP in fourth place.
Guerdat had no fears about qualification when earning his place in the 13-horse jump-off, as he was already lying third on the league leaderboard as the day began. However, his result today has boosted him to the top of the Western European League table, demoting young Irishman, Bertram Allen, to second place.
Found the key
Course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, set them a tough first track, but 13 of the 39 starters found the key.
The triple combination took its toll, as did the oxer at fence eight and the vertical at fence 11 which was three from home. The final two fences, however, proved particularly interesting as riders had to negotiate the Longines double, a 1.80m-wide triple bar followed by a vertical, and then take a careful left-bending line to the final oxer which often came up on a difficult stride.
It was Italy’s Francesco Franco who led the way against the clock with Banca Popolare Bari Cassandra, but it was third to go, Belgium’s Judy-Ann Melchior and her lovely grey mare, As Cold as Ice Z, who set the early target with the calmest of clear rounds in 47.62 seconds. This time always looked beatable, but Varela’s jump-off track was inviting to those prepared to take more risk, and Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer was almost two seconds faster when faulting at the very last with Toulago when next into the ring.
Olympic silver medallist, The Netherlands’ Gerco Schroder, looked set to go well out in front until also lowering the final fence with Glock’s London, but Guerdat and Paille made no mistake. There’s always excitement in the air when the Swiss rider sets off against the clock, and this 12-year-old chestnut mare seems to relish the pressure, lowering her head as she picks up speed and galloping home to really put it up to the rest of them when breaking the beam in 43.13 seconds.
Couldn’t better that
And try as they would, the remaining seven couldn’t better that. Home-side hero, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, came closest when next to go with his great stallion Casall Ask who crossed the line in 43.49, and although Kutscher’s turn to the penultimate oxer was superb, the talented 12-year-old Cristallo was fractionally slower when clear in 43.89 seconds.
Vrieling also left all the fences intact as did Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (Cantinero), but with their times not challenging for the lead only last man in, Kevin Staut from France, looked like threatening Guerdat. Staut’s great 16-year-old mare, Silvana, has competed at five FEI World Cup™ Jumping finals during her long and sparkling career, but when the penultimate oxer hit the floor they would have to settle for seventh place today.
After another extraordinary Longines season, however, the Frenchman sits third on the Western European League table which he has continuously dominated in recent years, and he is well on the road to Las Vegas.
About his winning horse, Guerdat said this evening, “She arrived at my stables 10 months ago having already jumped quite successfully with another Swiss rider, Alexandra Fricker. It took a while to get to know her, but she jumped clear in her very first Grand Prix and this is her first very big win with me.”
Looking ahead to Las Vegas, he said, “I’m not exactly sure which horse I will take, but Paille would be my first choice because she’s been very good during the entire indoor season and I’d like to save Nino for the Championships this year. Nino would be my second choice for Las Vegas though.”
His Longines season has certainly been a spectacular one. From nine starts he earned a massive 77 points, but it wasn’t all plain sailing as he only collected points from five events beginning with third place in Oslo (NOR), victory in Helsinki (FIN), third again in Stuttgart (GER) – all with Nino – a 10th place with Paille in Verona (ITA) and then his win today with the same chestnut mare.
Make the cut
A total of 18 riders qualify for the final from the Western European League, and one to lose out today was The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders who collected 56 points on the US circuit but needed to add some Western European League points today if he was to make the cut.
As defending champion, Germany’s Daniel Deusser is automatically qualified even though he has finished in tenth place, while the results for America’s Lucy Davis and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander, who finished fourth and sixth respectively in the WEL series, are transferred to their own regional leagues. Bengtsson today confirmed that he will not travel, so that opens the door of opportunity for Belgium’s Jos Verlooy who currently lies in 24th position.
For further information on the 12th leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League series in Gothenburg, Sweden, check out website www.gothenburghorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Mayvor Thorin, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +46 31 368 4349.
The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 2014/2015 will take place in Las Vegas, USA from 15 to 19 April. For details of the event, visit www.worldcuplasvegas.com or contact Press Officer Marty Baumann, Email email@example.com, Tel +1 508 698 6810.
Full result here.
Facts and Figures:
The Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden hosted the 12th and last qualifying leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League today.
Course designer was Spain’s Santiago Varela.
13 fences on today’s course, time-allowed 75 seconds in first round.
7 of the top 10 riders in the Longines rankings participated.
13 horse-and-rider combinations qualified for the jump-off, including three from the host nation.
Winner was London 2012 Olympic champion Steve Guerdat from Switzerland riding the 12-year-old mare Albfuehren’s Paille.
Gothenburg has a long link with the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series. The first Final was staged in the Swedish city in 1979 when Austria’s Hugo Simon came out on top.
The FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final has been staged in Gothenburg 13 times during the 37-year history of the event.
The Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg stretches 69 metres in length but only 39 metres in width.
18 riders from the Western European League qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 which will take place in Las Vegas, USA from 15-19 April.
Steve Guerdat SUI: “This is only my third time to compete in Gothenburg, and both of the other times I was competing in World Cup finals. My last time to be here was in 2013 when I finished second in the Final.”
Henrik von Eckermann SWE: “I knew I couldn’t catch Steve but I wanted to do my best for the crowd, in the end I had to stay realistic for my horse and I’m very happy to finish sixth!”
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson SWE: “My horse has been very consistent and I’m very proud of him today. It would have been very nice to win in front of the home crowd today – it was a very good course.”
Marco Kutscher GER: “I was lucky in the first round because we touched a few rails but they stayed up! In the jump-off I wanted to do one stride less between the first two fences, but I had to change my mind after we started.”
Full standings here.
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