2007 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final For Showjumping
Sapphire Gives Ward First Win
There was no shortage of drama in the opening competition of the 2007 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final in Las Vegas tonight (Thursday) where America's McLain Ward came out on top with a brilliant performance from Sapphire.
Drawn 32nd in a field that was reduced to 41 starters when Saudi Arabia's Prince Abdullah Al Saud decided to withdraw, the 31 year old New Yorker took all the chances and they paid off handsomely as he pinned Germany's Markus Beerbaum and Leena back into second ahead of defending champion Marcus Ehning and Gitania in third. However elimination for both Britain's Michael Whitaker and Portofino and America's Beezie Madden and Authentic left those in the know more than a little stunned, while another of the favourites, World No 1 Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, has a bit of ground to make up as she lies eighth with Shutterfly going into the second final competition tomorrow (Friday).
The first final competition is a Speed event and course designer Guilherme Jorge from Brazil insisted that his 13-fence track was not excessively difficult - "after the third fence every fence was 1.50m. I had to build for the not-so-experienced riders as well as the experienced ones so I did not overdo the height" he explained, and Marcus Ehning agreed that "it was not the biggest speed class I've jumped in a World Cup Final" - but it certainly proved testing.
The tight confines of the Las Vegas arena creates quite a course-building challenge and Jorge gave them plenty to think about with doubles at fences four, seven and nine. An incredibly tight turn to the vertical at 10 left many horse-and-rider partnerships struggling to hold their line to the following oxer at 11 which was further complicated by having a water tray beneath it, and Malin Baryard-Johnsson's round unravelled here when, second into the ring, the Swedish rider's veteran mare Butterfly Flip arrived in a state of confusion to leave the oxer on the floor in an otherwise good round. Patrick McEntee's Las Vegas adventure ended abruptly at the fourth fence when the Belgian rider's Every Mury Marais Z, who seemed to be overwhelmed by the electric atmosphere, stopped twice having already hit fence two and Rodrigo Pessoa's gelding Oasis also seemed a little unnerved when, despite the Brazilian's masterful riding, the 11 year old French-bred flattened the oxer at fence 5 and then demolished the Rolex oxer at fence 8 to leave them well down the order.
It was one of the two American wild-card holders, Californian Mandy Porter, who produced the first clear round when eighth into the ring with Summer but this excellent effort in a time of 73.62 seconds only left her on level pegging with Germany's Rene Tebbel and Coupe de Coeur who added four seconds for a fence down and Daniel Deusser and Air Jordan quickly shaved almost two seconds off that target. Another US contender immediately demoted the German partnership however when Schuyler Riley's 17 year old Ilian produced a fabulous run in 70.40 seconds but the Germans then suddenly roared into top gear. Firstly Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst and the game little mare Candy galloped around in 66.5 only to be overtaken right away by Markus Beerbaum and Leena, winners at the FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier in London last December. The twisting track suited the short-striding 15 year old mare but luck played a part in their survival as they rattled the front element of the double at 9 and the oxer at 11 while en route. However their new target of 65.29 seconds was going to take some beating and when, twentieth into the ring, Marco Kutscher and Cash stopped the clock in 69.41 the Germans had a stranglehold on the top three placings at the halfway stage.
Switzerland's Steve Guerdat edged his way into the line-up when taking a new line from the second element of the double at 7 to the Rolex oxer at 8 to break the beam in 65.93 seconds but Marcus Ehning nudged him down a place when taking another new line, this time turning sharply inside fence 8 on the run from fence 11 to 12 and crossing the line in 65.58. Christian Ahlmann and Coster, runaway winners of the highly competitive Western European League qualifying series, popped around in 66.82 seconds to keep themselves in the frame but Beerbaum's lead was never seriously in danger until McLain Ward set off with Sapphire.
The mare's jumping was smooth as silk and the partnership looked cool as ice as they easily negotiated both of the short routes to return home in 63.78 seconds and this proved too good for the rest. But there were still plenty more surprises in store. The crowd went wild when Michael Whitaker arrived into the ring with Suncal Portofino but their excitement quickly turned to shock when the mare ducked out to the left at the vertical at fence 6 and then, completely switched off, would have nothing to do with the double at 7. Whitaker rode her down to the first fence but she was having no more of it and there were gasps of dismay from around the arena as one of the most consistent partnerships of recent times were obliged to call it a day. As if there had not been enough excitement already however the biggest shock was yet to come. Beezie Madden's Authentic has long be considered one of the most talented horses in the world and the American rider's silver medal winning performance at last year's FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen was superb. Authentic's natural speed would normally give this duo a real edge against the clock but the 12 year old gelding arrived way off the oxer at fence five and, reaching for the poles, crashed to his knees on the landing side pitching Madden to the ground. Authentic wasn't quite finished however and, picking himself up, cantered on down to jump the following vertical before running wildly around the arena and then returning to the fence at which he had crash-landed and jumping it again. It took a considerable effort to catch one of the world's most valuable show jumpers and there was a massive sigh of relief when eventually he was stopped and led from the arena with apparently no damage done to horse or rider.
Last into the ring was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly who effortlessly clocked up 69.94 seconds to slot into eighth place and although she is significantly down the order the German rider may well be playing the percentage game. Some of the world's best riders had come off the worst of today's track and when it comes to the power-jumping of the next two final competitions then she has all the horse-power she needs and today's effort may well have been a clever move - but it is difficult to imagine all of those ahead of her falling apart over the next few days.
Ward was the clear winner ahead of Markus Beerbaum in second, Ehning in third, Guerdat in fourth and Pollmann-Schweckhorst in fifth ahead of Ahlmann in sixth. A nice clear in 67.16 seconds was good enough to slot Holland's Leopold Van Asten and VDL Groep Fleche Rouge into seventh ahead of Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, who was celebrating his 33rd birthday, said today's competition was all about risk-taking. "The inside turns were very sharp and I was not planning to go the short way to the second-last but I got a good turn and decided to take it" he pointed out. Only Ward and Switzerland's Beat Mandli took both of the short-turn options however and while Mandli, who finished ninth, had one fence down Ward left them all up. He admitted that he was a little surprised that his time was so good. "Sapphire has been getting much faster though" he pointed out, "she's more experienced and things went my way today". However there was something quietly confident about the defending champion and it feels like there is plenty more excitement to come as the 29th World Cup Jumping final continues to unfold.....
RESULT: (NOTE - first figure is time faults, second figure is World Cup points calculated at end of competition) - 1, Sapphire (McLain Ward) USA 63.78/42; 2, Leena (Markus Beerbaum) Ger 65.29/40; 3, Gitania (Marcus Ehning) Ger 65.58/39; 4, Tresor (Steve Guerdat) Sui 65.93/38; 5, Candy (Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst) Ger 66.75/37; 6, Coster (Christian Ahlmann) Ger 66.82/36; 7, VDL Groep Fleche Rouge (Leopold Van Asten) Ned 67.16/35; 8, Shutterfly (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) Ger 67.53/34; 9, Ideo du Thot (Beat Mandli) 67.84/33; 10, Casadora (Lauren Hough) USA 68.63/32; 11, Cash (Marco Kutscher) Ger 69.41; 31; 12, Chinobampo Lavita (Alberto Michan) Mex 69.59/30; 13, Ilian (Schuyler Riley) USA 70.40/29; 14, Kroon Gravin (Molly Ashe-Cawley) USA 71.34/28; 15, Air Jordan (Daniel Deusser) Ger 71.78/27; 16, Eurocommerce Milano (Gerco Schroder) Ned 72.27/26; 17, Hidden Creek's Quervo Gold (Margie Engle) USA 72.53/25; 18, Summer (Mandy Porter) USA 73.19/24; 19, Team Harmony Coupe de Coeur (Rene Tebbel) Ger 73.62/23; 20, Butterfly Flip (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) Swe 73.82/22; 21, Promised Land (Christine McCrea) USA 75.50/21; 22, Callisto (Jill Henselwood) Can 76.19/20; 23, Kaskaya (Jill Humphrey) USA 77.09/19; 24, Camiro (Tony Andre Hansen) Nor 77.22/18; 25, Ritus (Lukasz Jonczyk) Pol 77.85/17; 26, Grande Dame Z (Judy-Ann Melchior) Bel 78.11/16; 27, Gyro (Rich Fellers) USA 78.27/15; 28, Lowina (Albert Zoer) Ned 79.66/14; 29, Warlord (Gavin Chester) aus 80.69/13; 30, Archie Bunker (John Pearce) Can 81.12/12; 31, Isovlas Pialotta (Edwina Alexander) Aus 81.23/11; 32, Vent du Nord (Kate Levy) USA 81.83/10; 33, Campino (Santiago Lambre) mex 83.41;9; 34, Hof Schretstakens Quamiro) Krzysztof Ludwiczak) Pol 85.12/8; 35, Cristallo (Richard Spooner) USA 85.46/7; 36, Caitano (Taizo Sugitani0 Jpn 87.47/6; 37, Oasis (Rodrigo Pessoa) Bra 94.48/5; 38, VDL Nantes (Denis Gouvea) Bra 108.49/4; Equal 39, Ever Mury Marais Z (Patrick McEntee) Bel, Suncal Portofino (Michael Whitaker) GBR, Authentic (Beezie Madden) USA Eliminated; Al Saad Khaled (Abdullah Al Saud) KSA withdrawn.
For further information on the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals in Las Vegas check out website www.worldcuplasvegas.com. Show President is Pat Christenson, Show Director is Robert Ridland, Show Secretary is Stephanie Wheeler and Press Officer is Marty Baumann, Tel: +7028951089, email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
SEE IT ON TV -
- Saturday 28 April 14.00, 19.00, 23.00, Sunday 29 April 12.00, 23.00
YOU CAN DOWNLOAD THE RULES FOR THE FEI WORLD CUP™ JUMPING RIDERS FROM FEI WEBSITE www.feiworldcup.org
FEI World Cup™ Jumping has entered its 29th season. The series, created in 1978, today comprises 14 leagues on all continents. The best riders from 132 preliminary competitions will qualify for the final in Las Vegas, USA which takes place from 19 to 22 April 2007. The title-holder is Germany's Marcus Ehning.
The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), founded in 1921, is the international body governing equestrian sport recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and includes 133 National Federations.
Equestrian sport has been on the Olympic programme since 1912 with three disciplines - Jumping, Dressage and Eventing. It is one of the very few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms It is also the only sport which involves two athletes - horse and rider. The FEI has relentlessly concerned itself with the welfare of the horse, which is paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences.