Germany's Christian Ahlmann and the stallion Taloubet Z made it two-in-a-row when storming to victory in the second leg of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series at Helsinki, Finland this afternoon. "I'm very lucky to have such a quick horse" said the 35 year old rider who, having already taken the main honours in the opening leg at Oslo, Norway a week ago, has now accumulated 40 points and is well on the road to the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final on his home turf in Leipzig, Germany next April.
From a starting field of 39 there were 11 into the jump-off today, and Ahlmann set the pace at the halfway stage and simply could not be caught. Further reinforcing the strength of the German challenge, it was fellow-countryman Philipp Weishaupt who slotted into runner-up spot with Catoki while Holland's Leon Thijssen and Tyson finished third. The Dutch duo look set to make a big impression on this indoor jumping season as the 10 year old stallion, who finished fifth a week ago, was again one of the real eye-catchers of the competition.
The 13-fence first-round track set by Finnish course designer Aki Ylanne was made all the more challenging by the close confines of Helsinki's Hartwall Arena, and the bogey fence proved to be the middle element of the penultimate triple combination. However there were plenty of questions earlier in the track too, and it was the vertical at fence six that put paid to the chances of Belgium's Niels Bruynseels when his grey mare Nasa, who had been jumping superbly until then, suddenly ducked out to the left on the approach and unshipped her rider in the process. Three others retired, including Great Britain's William Funnell whose horse, Billy Congo, ended up on his belly in a pile of poles after a change of heart on take-off at the second element of the treble. They left the arena looking a little puzzled, but apparently none-the-worse for their little drama.
Accuracy, agility and control were key to a place in the jump-off against the clock, and Sweden's Malin Baryard-Johnsson was first to go in the timed round. The arena looked considerably less crowded with only eight sets of timber in place this time out, including a new first fence, a 1.57m vertical, which was followed by the original opening oxer, the oxer at fence 7, the double at fence four and the following triple bar before the last line that included the first element of the bogey triple combination followed by a long run to the Rolex oxer.
While Baryard-Johnsson and the stallion H&M Tornesch returned in a good time of 35.52 seconds they left the first part of the double on the floor and, second to go against the clock, it seemed Susana Epaillard was about to create a major sensation as she galloped to the last with Hello Piereville. The Spanish rider, who is married to French team member Julien Epaillard and who only rides part-time because she works as Professor of Political Science at Madrid University, was justifiably ecstatic when fault-free first time out. But the telepathy between herself and her horse suddenly disappeared at the final oxer and he stopped, leaving her with 15 faults to add after they circled and popped over without the slightest hesitation at their second attempt.
The Netherlands' Wout-Jan Van der Schans (Eurocommerce Seoul) faulted at the same fence as Baryard-Johnsson, and when World No. 3, Switzerland's Pius Schwizer (Nobless M) and World No. 1 Kevin Staut from France (Banda de Hus) also collected four faults apiece there were still no double-clears on the scoreboard. However next in, Ahlmann changed all that with a crisp, clean tour of the track with Taloubet Z who wasted no time to cross the line in 34.36 seconds and go well into the lead.
As so often happens, once the first clear was recorded several others followed suit and Thijssen was also foot-perfect as he slotted temporarily into second place when breaking the beam in 35.40 seconds. He sees himself as slightly hampered by the sheer extravagance of the jump produced by his stallion Tyson, but he was more than happy at the end of the day. "My horse spends too much time in the air over the fences - he over-reacts to everything, not just the fences, but he's getting so much faster every time he goes out, I'm delighted with him!" the Dutch rider said.
With just four left to go the hopes of the home crowd were lifted when Nina Fagerstrom also made it to the end of the track without incident - until the back rail of the Rolex oxer wobbled, fell back into the cups and then dropped on the floor. The cheers that had begun to ring out around the arena turned to gasps of despair as the home heroine's chances were dashed. Weishaupt and Catoki however demoted Thijssen to third spot when slotting in behind Ahlmann as he raced through the finish with a clear in 35.13 seconds and when Frenchman Julien Epaillard (Mister Davier) and Germany's Lars Nieberg (Levito) both faulted, the final line-up was decided.
Having also won Saturday night's Grand Prix it was clear that the Hartwall Arena is very much to the liking of Ahlmann's horse Taloubet Z. "It's a small ring, but that was no problem for him last night or today" the rider pointed out. "He was a bit careful here on the first day but he was really happy yesterday and today" he explained. He said the Grand Prix competition was "good, but no World Cup" and that today's competition was "much more tough". And he added that the double of successes he has enjoyed over the last week means he can relax a bit now - "the pressure (of collecting points in the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series) is a little bit less now - I will have a chance to pick up a few more points later in the season" he pointed out.
Taloubet Z can now look forward to a break until Stuttgart at the end of November, and Ahlmann feels his partnership with the 10 year old stallion is now truly cementing. "He is getting better and better all the time and he is able to jump anything and everything. At the beginning with him it was not so easy, but now we understand each other completely" he explained.
Second-placed Weishaupt joked that "it is good that we went clear but we got beaten by one rider and that is one too many. I really wanted that Rolex watch!" he insisted. He will have to wait another week before he can try again at Lyon in France where the next leg of the series takes place on Sunday 31 October.
The next leg of the series takes place at Lyon, France next Sunday 31 October 2010, and for details on the French fixture you can check out website www.equitalyon.com or contact Press Officer Pascal Renauldon, Email -P.email@example.com, Tel: + 33 60 875 9407.
1, Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/0 34.56 ; 2, Catoki (Philipp Weishaupt) GER 0/0 35.13; 3, Tyson (Leon Thijssen) NED 0/0 35.40; 4, Mister Davier (Julien Epaillard) FRA 0/4 34.79; 5, H&M Tornesch (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) SWE 0/4 35.32; 6, Eurocommerce Seoul (Wout-Jan Van der Schans) NED 0/4 35.83; 7, Talent (Nina Fagerstrom) FIN 0/4 35.87; 8, Nobless M (Pius Schwizer) SUI 0/4 36.46; 9, Banda de Hus (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/4 36.51; 10, Levito (Lars Nieberg) GER 0/4 37.57; 11, Hello Pierville (Susana Epaillard) ESP 0/15 51.58.
Full Results at http://www.scg-nl.nl/
Facts and Figures:
Course designer at Helsinki was Finland's Aki Ylanne
Riders from a total of 14 nations competed in today's leg of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series at Helsinki
11 qualified for the second-round jump-off including husband and wife Susana Epaillard who competes for Spain and Julien Epaillard who rides for France.
This was the second consecutive victory for Germany's Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z who also won the first leg in Oslo, Norway, seven days ago.
The bogey obstacle on the 13-fence track was the middle element of the penultimate triple combination at fence 12.
A total of 39 horse-and-rider partnerships started the competition.
1 rider was eliminated for a fall - Belgium's Niels Bruynseels whose horse, Nasa, ducked out at the vertical at fence six.
3 riders retired - Great Britain's William Funnell after his horse, Billy Congo, got into trouble at the middle element of the triple combination, Denmark's Thomas Velin after his horse, Godsend du Reverdy, had two fences down and Holland's Eric Van der Vleuten who didn't present his horse VDL Groep Kaid to the second element of the triple combination.
Today's competition was the 197th appearance in an FEI World Cup™ qualifier for German ace Ludger Beerbaum.
Christian Ahlmann GER, talking about his winning jump-off round - "There were lots of turns and with his scope I was able to turn very short without having to worry. I did not have to take all the risks and luckily it was enough today, even though I did not expect to win!"
Germany's Philipp Weishaupt, who finished second with Catoki, talking about his jump-off round "We jumped the first 4 or 5 jumps really well but I put in too many strides to the last - I wanted to keep him safe to the last but I was really trying to win that Rolex watch!".
Finland's Nina Fagerstrom, who finished seventh with Talent "When I crossed the finishing line I felt almost like I had won it, even though the last fence fell. It was just one of those light touches with no apparent reason. We just did not have that last little bit of luck today!"
Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2010/2011 Western European League - Standings After Round 2 at Helsinki (FIN):
1. Christian Ahlmann GER - 40
2. Leon Thijssen NED - 27
3. Philipp Weishaupt GER - 24
4. Malin Baryard-Johnsson - 23
5. Lars Nieberg GER - 22
6. Kevin Staut FRA - 21
7. Julien Epaillard FRA - 18
8. Ludger Beerbaum GER - 17
9. Ludo Philippaerts BEL - 15
10. Marco Kutscher GER - 13
10. Nina Fagerstrom FIN - 13
12. Wout-Jan Van der Schans NED - 11
13. Jessica Kuerten IRL - 10
14. Pius Schwizer SUI - 9
15. Edwina Alexander AUS - 7
16. Susana Epaillard ESP - 6
17. Daniel Deusser GER - 4
18. Alexander Zetterman SWE - 3
19. Shane Breen IRL - 2
20. Nina Braaten NOR - 1
CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR WESTERN EUROPEAN LEAGUE: 1, Oslo (Norway) 14-17 October; 2, Helsinki (Finland) 21-24 October; 3, Lyon (FRA) 27 Oct-1 November; 4, Verona (Italy) 4-7 November; 5, Stuttgart (Germany) 17-21 November; 6, Geneva (Switzerland) 9-12 December; 7, London-Olympia (Great Britain) 14-20 December; 8, Mechelen (Belgium) 26-30 December; 9, Zurich (SUI) 28-30 January; 10, Bordeaux (France) 4-6 February; 11, Vigo (Spain) 10-13 February; 12, Gothenburg (Sweden) 24-27 February; 13, ‘s-Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands) 24-27 March; FINAL - Leipzig (Germany) 27 April-1 May.
Broadcast Schedule can be downloaded from www.feiworldcup.org
Photo Caption: Germany's Christian Ahlmann and the stallion Taloubet Z made it a back-to-back double of victories when coming out on top again at the second leg of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series at Helsinki, Finland this afternoon. He is pictured being presented with his Rolex watch by Magali Dubois Vaucher from Rolex.
FEI TV - Re-live the excitement of today's competition and enjoy highlights, interviews and archive footage at www.feitv.org