Cliff-Hanger in Prospect for Rolex Final Day

It’s the one that they want!  The Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping trophy.  Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton.
It’s the one that they want! The Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping trophy. Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton.

Tomorrow’s last leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 2012/2013 promises classic sport and a bright new champion at the end of a week of cutting-edge competition.  A total of 23 horse-and-rider combinations will battle it out over two more tough rounds, the numbers reduced following the withdrawal today of Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Bella Donna, who were lying 17th on the leaderboard, French rider Penelope Leprevost and Nayana who were in 21st spot and America’s Kent Farrington and Uceko who were 23rd.
Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and the 12-year-old gelding Lennox hold the advantage at the top of the leaderboard going into tomorrow’s decider, but with only four penalty points separating the top five, and three more cracking combinations just a single point further adrift, the closing event looks set to be a cliff-hanger. 
Steeped in Equestrianism
Brazilian-born Diniz has been steeped in equestrianism since childhood, initially following in her mother, Lica’s, footsteps by riding the family’s Dressage horse Marko.  Lica’s name is entered in the Guinness Book of World Records for eight consecutive wins in the Brazilian National Dressage Championships, and Luciana’s brothers, Andre and Fabio, inherited their father Arnaldo’s love of polo and are both high-goal players.
Diniz’s Jumping career began with victory in the Brazilian Children’s Jumping Championship at the age of 12, and she was Junior Champion at both 14 and 18 years of age. She then left Brazil to train with the legendary Nelson Pessoa in Europe for a year, and she has never looked back since. She moved on to ride with the late Alwin Schockemöhle in Germany before a period in the USA was followed by another move to Europe, and she is now based in Furstenau, Germany.  She is a devoted mother to her 11-year-old twin boys Pedro and Paulo.  
Consistently at the sharp end of the sport, she has come to the 35th FEI World Cup™ Final on the back of two important Grand Prix victories in Basel and Zurich, and will fly the Portuguese flag at the head of the field when the action gets underway tomorrow.
One Point Behind
America’s Beezie Madden lost her grip on top spot yesterday, but is only one point in arrears as the battle resumes. Like Diniz, she began riding as a small child and she made her Grand Prix debut in 1985. Four years of continued success followed, including participation on winning US Nations Cup teams and she was named the 1989 United States Olympic Committee’s Female Equestrian of the Year. 
She was the first woman, and first American, to reach the top three in the World Rankings (in 2004) and the first woman to pass the $1m mark in prize-money. Riding the brilliant Authentic, she helped the US team to gold at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens, took team and individual silver at the 2006 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Aachen, and returned to the German venue to clinch the Rolex Grand Prix in 2007. Once again with Authentic, she took team gold and individual bronze at the 2008 equestrian events of the Beijing Olympic Games in Hong Kong. In 2010 she again took the Aachen Grand Prix, this time with Coral Reef Via Volo, and in 2011 she claimed team gold and individual silver at the Pan-American Games.
Earliest Years
Third-placed Kevin Staut (FRA) is another whose achievements date back to his earliest years. He took individual gold at the French Junior Championships in 1995, at the age of 15, European Young Rider gold in 2000 and the Senior title at the FEI European Championships at Windsor (GBR) in 2009 as well as team silver at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky, USA in 2010. His record of success on the Western European League of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series is second to none, and in Silvana HDC he has one of the best mares on the international Jumping circuit. 
The leading bunch is like a “who’s who” of the sport, with reigning FEI European champion, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson lying fourth for the host country ahead of The Netherland’s Marc Houtzager in fifth, while Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat from Switzerland, rocketed up to joint-sixth place yesterday following his superb second-leg victory with Nino des Buissonnets. He is joined in sixth place by fellow-Swiss Pius Schwizer and America’s McLain Ward who have both claimed a step on the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping podium in previous years, but never the top one. With so little between the leading contenders however, anything can happen tomorrow in the battle for the trophy they all want to win. 
Standings going into Sunday's Final Competition: 1, Lennox (Luciana Diniz) POR 0; 2, Simon (Beezie Madden) USA 1; 3, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 2; 4, Quintero la Silla/Casall la Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) SWE 3; 5, Sterrehof's Tamino/Sterrehof's Uppity (Marc Houtzager) NED 4; 6, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 5; 6, Picsou du Chene/Verdi III (Pius Schwizer) SUI 5; 6, Super Trooper de Ness (McLain Ward) USA 5; 9, Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) ESP 8; 10, Cylana (Reed Kessler) USA 9.