“It was a great course that was challenging enough,” Heineking said. “I’m very happy. The time was really close and luck was on my side today.”
Seven riders ultimately advanced into the jump off in the fifth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2016/2017 North American League (Western Sub-League) with Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez setting the time to beat midway through the order. Gonzalez and the 9-year-old mare Chacna won the third leg of the Western Sub-League in October and looked to be on form to repeat victory.
Immediately following the class favorites, Egypt’s Nayel Nassar piloted Lordan to a blistering fast time of 36.86 seconds, shaving nearly a second off Gonzalez’s time. But the tighter turn to the short course’s double combination cost Nassar a rail, and he finished in sixth. Earlier in the order, Tina Yates (USA) and 12-year-old stallion Zelote VDL delivered an efficient double clear to finish in third.
As the dust settled in the Thomas and Mack Center, it was clear the night belonged to the penultimate pair to test the track designed by Guilherme Jorge (BRA): Heineking and 12-year-old gelding Aje Cluny made all the right decisions by angling into the double combination—without repeating Nassar’s mistake of cutting the turn too short—and by opening up to a big gallop to the final fence to clock in at 37.82 seconds, 1/100th of a second faster than Gonzalez.
“On the way from the combination to the wall, my horse was bucking a little bit, so that can be 1/100th of a second right there,” said Heineking about his track. “Cluny has been with us for the past two-and-a-half years, and he developed from a nice prospect to a really competitive grand prix horse. He just got more experience over the time and tonight was his night. He keeps going better and better and is more comfortable with the height. I’m very excited about the win and very proud of him.”
In the first round, 33 starters attempted the fair, yet technical, course. Time didn’t appear to be a factor for the first few riders before it was shortened, which then caused a handful of time faults to accrue. Large oxers flowed to careful verticals, testing the rideability of the horses. A triple combination of a tight one stride from a vertical to vertical to a longer two strides to an oxer forced faults from over one-third of the field.
Following tonight’s event, Enrique Gonzalez (MEX) now holds the top position in the Western Sub-League standings. The next Western Sub-League event will be on Saturday, 28 January 2017.
1, Aje Cluny (Christian Heineking) GER 0/0 37.82
2, Chacna (Enrique Gonzalez) MEX 0/0 37.83
3, Zelote VDL (Tina Yates) USA 0/0 39.50
4, Luebbo (Jamie Barge) USA 0/0 39.67
5, Parkmore Lux (Hanna Mauritzson) SWE 0/0 42.07
6, Lordan (Nayel Nassar) EGY 0/4 36.86
7, Qinghai (Guido Klatte, Jun.) GER 0/retirted
8, Balou du Reventon (Ljubov Kochetova) RUS 1/82.20.