Christian Ahlmann and Aragon Are Victorious in Verona

Elisa Gasparini, Brand Manager Longines Italy, presents Christian Ahlmann with his winner’s watch after the German rider won the thrilling third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2013/2014 at Verona, Italy today riding Aragon Z.  Photo: FEI/Stefano Secchi.
Elisa Gasparini, Brand Manager Longines Italy, presents Christian Ahlmann with his winner’s watch after the German rider won the thrilling third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2013/2014 at Verona, Italy today riding Aragon Z. Photo: FEI/Stefano Secchi.

Germany’s Christian Ahlmann was a very happy man after winning today’s third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League series at Verona in Italy.  The 2011 FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion borrowed a horse from his partner, Judy-Ann Melchior, at the last moment, and he could hardly believe how well the 12-year-old gelding, Aragon Z, performed for him in front of the packed house of wildly enthusiastic spectators this afternoon.
 
“Judy has loaned me her horse for two shows - Verona and Doha - because my top horse had a rest and just before Verona was not ready to come here.  With Aragon it has been working really well from our very first moment together, so I’m delighted!” said the 38-year-old rider who fended off some fearsome opposition in a thrilling 12-horse jump-off against the clock.
 
Great Britain’s Scott Brash lined up second with Ursula Xll while Italy’s Luca Moneta pleased the home crowd when slotting into third with Neptune Brecourt.  It was a ferocious battle for maximum points today, but Ahlmann looked completely in control and looks well set for another strong campaign on the winter-long Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping circuit.  Brash, meanwhile, moves to the top of the Western European League leaderboard having already accumulated 41 points after his opening leg win in Oslo and his prominent finish today.
 
Plenty To Think About
Course designer, Italy’s Uliano Vezzani, gave them plenty to think about this afternoon with a track that required a clear understanding of each horse’s stride-capacity and attention at every turn.  Ahlmann said, “there were faults everywhere but, when I walked the course, I thought the most difficult part of the track was the triple (combination).  It was big enough, and the white planks (fence 12) were really big.  The last fence was a big oxer into the corner, and the black fence (vertical at four) didn’t jump so well yesterday or again today, but it was a good course and really fair and we had a really great jump-off” he pointed out.
 
It was the triple-bar at fence five that provided the early drama however, when, second to go, three-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, ended up on the ground after her lovely mare, Bella Donna, uncharacteristically jammed on the brakes after an attempted take-off.  But the biggest surprise was the number of horse-and-rider combinations who made it all the way to the final oxer, fence 13, only to leave that one on the floor.  Its high-profile victims included Germany’s Marco Kutscher with Cornet’s Cristallo, Canada’s Eric Lamaze with Powerplay, Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson with H&M Tornesch, last year’s Verona winner Sergio Moya from Spain, this time riding Carlo, German super-star Ludger Beerbaum with Chiara and Brazil’s Doda de Miranda with AD Uutje.  It was like the “who’s who” of the sport all faulting at exactly the same point.
 
Another whose luck was out today was the promising young Italian, Lorenzo de Luca who won a class earlier at the show.  He seemed en route to record just the third clear round of the competition until the 11-year-old Vignet Cooper suddenly switched off on the turn to the narrow oxer at fence 11.  Once the lines of communication opened up again the chestnut horse jumped on effortlessly, but six faults would leave the 26-year-old rider well down the order in the final analysis.
 
Red-Hot Bunch
The 12 who made it through to the jump-off however were a red-hot bunch and Moneta instantly threw down the gauntlet with one of his trademark caution-to-the-wind rides.  The 45-year-old and his top horse, Neptune Brecourt, have enjoyed a superb year and finished 10th individually at the PSI FEI European Championships in Herning, Denmark this summer.  Skilled against the clock, they posted a tremendous target time of 44.93 seconds, and now it was up to the rest to catch them if they could.  And it wouldn’t be easy.
 
Vezzani this time set them turn upon turn around the ring, and then asked for a strong gallop down to the infamous black vertical that Ahlmann earlier described.  Second to go, Athina Onassis de Miranda chose a cautionary approach with her lovely mare AD Camille Z, jumping clear but collecting three time penalties, and when Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood hit the first of the two remaining parts of the former triple combination and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Ego van Orti picked up one time fault it was definitely not going to be a lady’s day today.
 
A Real Threat
Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Cornet d’Amour looked a real threat as they scorched home more than a second up on the clock, but the top pole on the last fence rolled in the cups and then hit the floor for four tiresome faults.  Ireland’s Denis Lynch has often spoken of his childhood dream of riding on a racetrack and, putting All Star into over-drive even before the start-line, he was well in contention until hitting the oxer at fence two, now the penultimate obstacle on the jump-off track. Simon Delestre and Valentino Velvet were next to go, and they guaranteed themselves some valuable qualifying points when clear, but not quite fast enough, in 46.78 seconds. 
 
Ahlmann would reset the target however when next in with Aragon Z who didn’t seem to be under any pressure at all when cruising home in 44.38 seconds.  Now they were the ones to beat, and when The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Verdi were clear in 47.12 seconds it was down to the the final three to upset the German rider’s celebration party.  The formidable Swiss, Pius Schwizer, didn’t succeed when stopping the clock on 45.09 with Picsou du Chene, but Ahlmann’s fellow-countryman, Marcus Ehning, was well ahead on time with Plot Blue only to hit the bogey black vertical at the end of the course. Now only Olympic team champion, Great Britain’s Scott Brash, stood between the 2011 FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion and his first win of the new season.  Setting off at a cracking pace, it seemed he might just do it, but, as he later explained, he took a cautionary pull going to the last with the 12-year-old mare Ursula, and when he broke the beam in 44.47 seconds he would have to settle for runner-up spot.
 
Brash is attempting to curb the acute competitiveness which has brought him so much success but which, he believes, needs to be kept in check.  Today, for him, was all about self-control.  “It was important for me because in the past I have been inclined to go as fast as I could to try to win but I’ve matured a bit more and now I try to only do what the horse is capable of at that moment in time, so today we weren’t quite right and I took an extra stride to the last which cost me time” he explained. 
 
More Than Pleased
Ahlmann, meanwhile, was more than pleased to stand at the head of the line-up. The last German winner at Verona was Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst with Lord Luis in 2008 and Ahlmann said “it was really time we had another German winner here!” He complimented his horse who, he said, “helped me a lot!” and explained, “we got Aragon 18 months ago and from the very start he was fantastic.  He won the Grand Prix at Spangenberg and the championship at Estoril and produced many good results in a very short time.  Judy then bought him and won a Grand Prix with him, he’s a really nice horse and he’s fast.  You can win without taking all the risks with him, I’m really happy to get him back for a few very important show and he allows me to be competitive - I didn’t expect we would come together so well so quickly - I’m really delighted!” he said.
 
Brash was quite satisfied with his second placing.  At the post-competition press conference, it was announced that a record crowd of 160,000 spectators attended the gigantic Fieracavalli horse fair this year, and Brash said “this is my first time in Verona and I’ve really enjoyed the show - the public here are fantastic, and I think all 160,000 of them were shouting for Luca in the jump-off, but they were really nice and got behind everyone else too!”  He said he fully intends to compete at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Lyon, France next April.  “Yes, this year is it my aim to go to the Final.  In the Olympic year (2012) I was qualified but I didn’t go, but I do plan to do it this time” he said.
 
Moneta was his usual modest self, declaring his amazement at finding himself at the press conference table with riders of such a high calibre.  But this is a man who has clearly demonstrated, over the past 12 months and more, than they are indeed his peers.  “I’m very excited because it is a very great pleasure to be again double-clear.  I was under a lot of pressure because the public really needed me to do a good job today.  Yesterday was a very bad day for me, but I talked to my trainer (Italian team manager Hans Hoorn) and he told me I have nothing to prove - he said “just ride your horse and do your best”, and that was what I did today” he said. “I’m very proud to be here” he added.
 
He is now lying 12th on the Western European League table as the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 series moves on to Stuttgart, Germany next weekend.
 
For more information on the third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2013/2014 series at Verona, Italy go to www.jumpingverona.it or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, c.vagnozzi@gmail.com, Tel: M +39 3356107070.
 
The next leg of the series takes place at Stuttgart, Germany on Sunday 17 November.  Details of the German fixture at http://stuttgart-german-masters.de/aktuell/ or contact Press Officer Joerg Klopfer, Email joerg.klopfer@in.stuttgart.de, Tel: +49 (0)7 11 / 95 54 - 31 28.
 
Result:  1, Aragon Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/0 44.38; 2, Ursula Xll (Scott Brash) GBR 0/0 44.77; 3, Neptune Brecourt (Luca Moneta) ITA 0/0 44.93; 4, Picsou du Chene (Pius Schwizer) SUI 0/0 45.09; 5, Valentino Velvet (Simon Delestre) FRA 0/0 46.78; 6, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED 0/0 47.12; 7, Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/1 52.59; 8, AD Camille Z (Athina Onassis de Miranda) GRE 0/3 54.12; 9, Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/4 43.41; 10, Cornet d'Amour (Daniel Deusser) GER 0/4 43.43; 11, All Star 5 (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/4 43.92; 12, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/4 47.41.
 
Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League - Standings after Round 3 at Verona (ITA):
 
1. Scott Brash GBR - 41
2. Steve Guerdat SUI - 34
3. Luciana Diniz POR - 30
4. Patrice Delaveau FRA - 23
5. Marcus Ehning GER - 23
6. Simon Delestre FRA - 22
7. Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS - 21
8. Christian Ahlmann GER - 20
9. Maikel van der Vleuten NED - 20
10. Pius Schwizer SUI - 19
11. Athina Onassis de Miranda GRE - 19
12. Luca Moneta ITA - 15
12. Shane Breen IRL - 15
14. Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE - 13
15. Geir Gulliksen NOR - 12
16. Kevin Staut FRA - 12
17. Julio Arias ESP - 11
18. Michael Whitaker GBR - 10
19. Marlon Zanotelli BRA -   9
19. Martin Fuchs SUI -   9
21. Frank Schuttert NED -   8
 
Facts and Figures:
Jumping Verona is the highlight of the world-famous Fieracavalli, an annual equestrian extravaganza that includes competitions, demonstrations and a massive trade fair and which has been running since 1898.
40 riders competed in today's third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League.
19 nations were represented - Australia, Austria, Brazil, Canada, Colombia, Egypt, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Sweden and Switzerland.
12 qualified for the second-round jump-off against the clock.
6 horse-and-rider combinations jumped double-clear.
Today's winner was Germany's Christian Ahlmann who claimed the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title in 2011.
The winners of the first two rounds of the current series also competed in today's third leg - Great Britain's Scott Brash who came out on top at the opening fixture in Oslo, Norway with Hello Sanctos, and Patrice Delaveau who topped the line-up for France at the second leg in Helsinki, Finland partnering Orient Express HDC. 
After taking runner-up spot today, Olympic team gold medallist, Great Britain's Scott Brash, takes over from individual Olympic champion Steve Guerdat from Switzerland at the head of the leaderboard ahead of the fourth round of the series at Stuttgart, Germany next weekend.
Marcus Ehning rode the oldest horse in today's competition, the 16-year-old stallion Plot Blue which helped the German rider secure his third FEI World Cup™ Jumping title in 2010.
Course designer for today's third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping series was Italy's Uliano Vezzani who also designed the courses for the last season's Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 Final will take place in Lyon, France from 17 to 21 April 2014.
 
Quotes:
Luca Moneta (ITA) talking about Connery, the horse he rode in the previous qualifiers at Oslo and Helsinki - “I was riding in a bad way but I need to improve my relationship with him - it is not the horse’s fault, it is my fault if I cannot ride him.  I must work to do better with him”.
 
FEI Jumping Director, John Roche - “Congratulations to the riders and also to Uliano Vezzani for a fantastic course and top-class sport.  And congratulations to FiereVerona and FISE and all the sponsors, in particularly Longines who do so much for our sport - it’s been another great day!”




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