One of the best-loved horses in the sport showed exactly why he is such a huge favourite with the public all around the globe when the diminutive 16 year old Cevo Itot du Chateau carried Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander to victory in the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League series at Geneva, Switzerland today.
The big guns were out in force, with the start-list including 14 of the top 20 in the current Rolex World Rankings list and the reigning Olympic, World and European champions, but only eight made it through to the second round jump-off. And the little chestnut gelding led them a merry dance with a superb run against the clock that left Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya and Carlo having to settle for runner-up spot ahead of Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and Magnus Romeo in third while host nation representative, Janika Sprunger, slotted into fourth with Palloubet d’Halong.
“This was so special” said Tops-Alexander, “Itot is in such great shape and I really wanted him to win here in Geneva. He was already special in the way he jumped when we were second in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on Friday, but to win the World Cup qualifier, in such a tough class, he is just fantastic!” the 38 year old rider pointed out.
The result has rocketed the Australian rider up to tenth spot on the series leaderboard. But Moya, who was sharing pole position with Frenchman Kevin Staut following the previous leg at Stuttgart, Germany last month, has now forged way ahead of the rest of the field going into the next leg at Olympia in London (GBR) in two weeks’ time.
No Day for the Faint-hearted
Today was no day for the faint-hearted, with the first-round course set by Switzerland’s Rolf Ludi demanding courageous, forward riding and plenty of horse-power. The double at fence four claimed plenty of victims as some riders tried to shorten their turn to it and paid the price, often at the tricky planks at the second element. The following oxer was enormously big and wide and that too proved influential, but it was the the triple combination at fence six that penalised the greatest number - 12 in total from the starting field of 40 - with its very short single stride between the first two elements followed by two very long ones to the oxer on the way out. And with 14 fences on the course, the horse-and-rider partnerships were less than halfway round the track at this stage.
A looping line from the oxer at fence seven to the wall at eight which was adorned with knockable dairy cows, and then another oxer at nine led to a sweeping turn-back to the narrow gate at fence ten and on to the massive triple bar at fence 11.
The water under the oxer at 12 proved a distraction for some just three fences from home and was followed by the FEI vertical and, finally, another big oxer to finish.
Adding further pressure over the tall, bold track was the cleverly-measured time-allowed of 79 seconds that was perfectly achievable for those capable of jumping out of a rolling, forward stride. But this was not a course for taking a pull, or indecision of any kind, and there were three retirements. Britain’s William Funnell called it a day after his gelding, Billy Angelo, took off a stride too soon at the triple bar, three-time Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion Marcus Ehning from Germany retired with Noltes Kuchengirl after lowering both elements of the double at fence four and US star, Richard Spooner, pulled up after two mistakes with Cristallo.
America’s Kent Farrington and Uceko were one of just two horse-and-rider combinations to collect an agonising single time penalty to miss the cut. And the packed stadium of home spectators groaned in dismay when their hero, London 2012 individual Olympic gold medallist Steve Guerdat, produced a sparkling round from Nino des Buissonnets only to break the beam almost a half-second over the time.
Well-Crafted but Cautious
It was a home runner who was first to go against the clock however, Janika Sprunger and her nine year old gelding son of the great Baloubet du Rouet, Palloubet d’Halong, setting the pace with a well-crafted but slightly cautious clear in 42.88 seconds. Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and Magnus Romeo shaved more than a half second off that to go into the lead but still seemed to leave the door open for those who followed, and when Ireland’s Denis Lynch and Abbervail van het Dingeshof left two fences on the floor it was clearly still for the taking.
Tops-Alexander brought the competition to a whole new level when next to go. A great left-handed turn to the oxer at fence seven, which was now halfway around the new track, and a strong run on to the oxer at fence nine was followed by a very tidy turn-back to the narrow gate at fence 10, and little Itot’s deceptively long stride saw him well up on the clock going down to the penultimate triple bar after which the Australian pair galloped to the final vertical to race through the finish in 40.40 seconds to set the new target.
With four still left to go, and every one of them speed experts, it seemed possible that might be beaten, but reigning individual FEI European champion Rolf-Goran Bengtsson from Sweden faulted with Casall La Silla when attempting to take a stride out to the oxer at nine. And the same fence claimed the chances of Germany’s Marco Kutscher and Spartacus, while Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost and his Helsinki winner Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois had a temporary lapse of communication on the approach to the following gate for another four-fault result.
Now only Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya, winner at Verona last month, stood between Tops-Alexander and victory. And, armed with the former Nick Skelton ride Carlo, it seemed quite possible that this burgeoning partnership could oust the Aussies from the top of the order. They gave it their best shot, but Moya’s stride adjustment on the run to the final fence saw them stop the clock in 41.64 seconds which would only be good enough for second place.
The Spanish rider wasn’t in the least down-hearted in the aftermath, knowing that he is already well-qualified for the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Gothenburg, Sweden next April. He gave all credit to the winning partnership of Tops-Alexander and Cevo Itot du Chateau - “they were really fast, and I am very happy with second place!” Moya insisted.
The winning rider explained that she was “planning on seven strides from fence one to two but I didn’t quite get it so I thought I have to get moving now, because I’m already behind!”. She admitted that she “took a big risk to the big oxer (fence nine) before the skinny (fence 10) and to the last” but pointed out that “I had nothing to lose at the end of the day!”.
Talking about her wonderful little horse, who is still jumping so superbly at 16 years of age, Tops-Alexander said “it’s great to see him still at the top of his game!” She pointed out “it’s really easy with him, you just need to keep him fit and well. He loves competition. When he comes into the ring he feels the crowd and he is really happy to be at shows. At home he’s quite lazy!”.
Asked how it is that he can out-run much bigger horses, she replied, “he just has this really elastic stride, so you can take him back or ask him to go forward so easily. He’s so good and so clever, and he’s always rooting for you, he’s so very, very brave”.
She had not included the 2012/2013 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in her schedule for next spring, but thinks she might change her mind about that after today’s win. “I wasn’t planning on it, but I just might have to go for it now!” she said. If she does, the rest had better watch out, because an on-form Edwina and Itot have proven, time and again, that they are one of the most formidable horse-and-rider partnerships in the world.....
For further information on the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2012/2013 at Geneva, Switzerland go to website http://www.chi-geneve.ch or contact Press Officer, Corinne Druey, at Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +41 213 128222/ +41 79226 7859. The next leg takes place at Olympia, London on Saturday 22 December. For all information on the British fixture check out website www.olympiahorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Jo Peck, Email email@example.com or Tel +44 1753 847 900.
Result: 1, Cevo Itot du Chateau (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 40.40; 2, Carlo (Sergio Alvarez Moya) ESP 0/0 41.64; 3, Magnus Romeo (Hans-Dieter Dreher) GER 0/0 42.11; 4, Palloubet d'Halong (Janika Sprunger) SUI 0/0 42.88; 5, Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois (Roger Yves Bost) FRA 0/4 41.18; 6, Spartacus (Marco Kutscher) GER 0/4 42.48; 7, Casall La Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) SWE 0/4 42.73; 8, Abbervail van het Dingeshof (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/8 40.88; 9, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 1/79.54; 10, Uceko (Kent Farrington) USA 1/79.88;11, Verdi III (Pius Schwizer) SUI 4/74.91; 12, Cylana (Reed Kessler) USA 4/75.68; 13, Mylord Carthago (Penelope Leprevost) FRA 4/76.06; 14, Citizenguard Cadjanine Z (Gregory Wathelet) BEL 4/76.18; 15, Lennox (Luciana Diniz) POR 4/76.28; 16, Tripple X (Ben Maher) 4/76.68; 17, Zinedine (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 4/77.69; 18, Neptune Brecourt (Luca Maria Moneta) ITA 4/78.56; 19, Principal (Martin Fuchs) SUI 4/78.59; 20, BMC Utascha SFN (Jeroen Dubbeldam) NED 4/ 78.67.
Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 - Standings after Round 6 at Geneva (SUI):
1. Sergio Alvarez Moya ESP - 75
2. Kevin Staut FRA - 58
3. Pius Schwizer SUI - 38
4. Jeroen Dubbeldam NED - 35
5. Roger-Yves Bost FRA - 32
6. Christian Ahlmann GER - 30
7. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER - 29
8. Marcus Ehning GER - 28
9. Scott Brash GBR - 26
10. Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS - 24
11. Denis Lynch IRL - 24
12. Luciana Diniz POR - 23
13. Maikel van der Vleuten NED - 23
14. William Funnell GBR - 23
15. Marco Kutscher GER - 23
16. Hans-Dieter Dreher GER - 22
17. Jens Fredricson SWE - 22
18. Olivier Philippaerts BEL - 22
19. Penelope Leprevost FRA - 21
20. Manuel Anon ESP - 20
Facts and Figures:
The sixth leg at Geneva brought the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League qualifying series to the halfway stage.
40 horse-and-rider combinations started in today's competition, including 14 of the top 20 in the current Rolex World Rankings.
The current Olympic champpionSteve Guerdat SUI, World champion Philippe Lejeune BEL and European champion Rolf-Goran Bengtsson SWE were all in action.
9 Swiss riders competed.
The competition was staged in the Palexpo Arena, close to Geneva Airport.
37,800 spectators, 1,000 more than last year, attended CHI Geneva which was celebrating its 51st anniversary this year.
The attendance figures are particularly impressive as a massive snowfall led to the closure of Geneva airport last Friday.
Course designer was Switzerland's Rolf Ludi.
14 fences on the first-round track, with 17 jumping efforts.
8 first-round clears.
Two riders missed out on a place in the jump-off when picking up just a single time penalty - reigning Olympic champion Steve Guerdat (SUI) with Nino des Buissonnets and Kent Farrington (USA) with Uceko.
The youngest horse in the competition was the 8 year old Zinedine ridden by Germany's Ludger Beerbaum.
The oldest horses were both 16 years old - the little chestnut gelding Cevo Itot du Chateau who together with his rider, Edwina Tops-Alexander, claimed victory for Australia and the first horse to go in the competition, the grey gelding Principal ridden by Switzerland's Martin Fuchs.
The next leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League series takes place at Olympia in London (GBR) on Saturday 22 December.
Edwina Tops-Alexander when asked if some victories are more important than others - “every victory is a great feeling, that’s what you aim for, whether it’s a 3-Star Grand Prix with a young horse or a World Cup. I’ve had a lot of success with Itot. I have won the Global Champions Tour Final twice and this is my second World Cup win with him.”
Hans-Dieter Dreher - “It was a very tough course today but very nice. The horses jumped well and it was a good day for me. Thanks to the organisers for inviting me!”
Janika Sprunger - “I’m super happy with my horse. He is only nine years old and, like me, he doesn’t have so much experience in fast jump-offs. I look at the superstars like Edwina who do this all the time and I know I just have to keep working hard and to try until we reach that standard.”
FEI Jumping Director, John Roche - “Congratulations to the Organising Committee here at Geneva, and thanks to Rolex and the supporting sponsors.”
Geneva Show Director, Alban Poudret - “We are very happy with the number of spectators, 37,800 overall with virtually a full house over Friday, Saturday and Sunday despite the weather on Friday (when it snowed heavily)”.
Photo Caption: Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and the brilliant little Cevo Itot du Chateau, winners of the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 series at Geneva, Switzerland today, pictured during the presentation with Arnaud Boetsch, Communication and Image Director, Rolex. Photo: FEI/Hippo Foto.