Kevin Staut and Silvana de Hus scorched to victory today in the sixth leg of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series at Geneva in Switzerland. The 30 year old Frenchman, who continues to hold the No. 1 spot in the Rolex World Rankings and who was already leading the Western European League series going into today's competition, produced a last-to-go run that squeezed Olympic champion Eric Lamaze from Canada out of the top spot while Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson finished third ahead of Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum in fourth.
It was a special afternoon for the German rider, as her three-time Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping winning partner Shutterfly - now 17 years old but looking as fresh and keen as ever - showed he is right back to his best. And for Staut, today's victory was further confirmation of the quality and class of the 11 year old mare which helped him claim team silver at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky two months ago. "I have her one-and-a-half years now and this is the first big Grand Prix I have won with her - I have learned to know her a lot better over the last few months and she is a really top horse" he pointed out.
Bengtsson described the first-round course as "difficult", and only eight of the 40 starters managed to leave it intact. Swiss course designer, Rold Ludi, made good use of the expanse of the Palexpo arena and created a series of questions while demanding big jumping. The massive triple bar at fence six - 1.55m high and 2.10m wide - was at the beginning of a tough line that included the following wall and then a vertical to oxer double over water-trays. Those who cleared the triple bar too extravagantly often paid the price by hitting one of the knockable cows that adorned the top of the wall, while others made it past these two tricky obstacles only to find themselves stretched too far at the double.
The planks at fence nine then demanded plenty of respect while the triple combination at fence 10 was jumped off another curving line which increased the degree of difficulty. One of the biggest surprises however was the manner in which the line from the penultimate vertical to the final oxer left many off-balance and reaching, desperately, for the last. 2000 Sydney Olympic champion and winner of the fourth leg of the current Western European League series, Jeroen Dubbeldam from The Netherlands, made it all the way here only to find his bay gelding BMC Van Grunsven Simon drifting so far to the right that he couldn't properly make his approach and he had to circle, consequently collecting six expensive faults without touching a pole.
There were two retirements in the opening round, Switzerland's Marie Pellegrin-Etter (Admirable) and the man who won the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title at the inaugural final way back in 1979 - Austria's Hugo Simon (Ukinda). Amazingly, the legendary Simon is a full 50 years older than the youngest competitor in today's competition - 18 year old Martin Fuchs from Switzerland who picked up eight faults with the horse that won the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping title for fellow-countryman Beat Mandli in Las Vegas in 2007, Ideo du Thot. There would be no luck for the Swiss today however. The host nation fielded nine of the 40 starters, but not one of them managed to qualify for the jump-off.
Led The Way
It was Portugal's Luciana Diniz who led the way against the clock with the nine year old bay gelding, Lennox, which she co-owns along with Edouard de Rothschild. And she threw down the gauntlet with another clean tour of the track in 34.39 seconds. There were two Spanish riders in the final shake-up, and Pilar Cordon was the first of these when next in with her chestnut nine year old Nuage Bleu. But despite improving the target time to 33.99, her mistake at the triple bar, now the third fence on the track, ensured she wouldn't be claiming the coveted Rolex winner's watch today. Her compatriot, Sergio Alvarez Moya, produced yet another great round from his handsome 10 year old stallion Action-Breaker but his more cautious time of 37.48 seconds posed no threat to Diniz's lead either. However the following partnership certainly did. Lamaze and his Olympic ride Hickstead came out with all guns blazing and in typical style they galloped through the timers in 32.65 seconds to re-set the parameters.
Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly were not far behind when breaking the beam in 33.28 to go temporarily into second place, and the US-born rider was clearly delighted with her great old warrior who seemed to be revelling on his return to the big-time indoor circuit after the birth of Meredith's first baby earlier this year. Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson however edged the German partnership down the leaderboard with a superbly flowing round from Quintero la Silla who stopped the clock on 32.88 seconds, and when Holland's Harry Smolders mare, Regina Z, hit the first part of the former triple combination which was now reduced to two jumping efforts then it seemed Lamaze had it in the bag.
But that wasn't accounting for the inimitable skills of Staut whose turn to the penultimate oxer was particularly tight - "I was really short to the triple bar and I tried everything at the last fence as well" he pointed out after registering 32.50 seconds to pip Lamaze by just 0.15 seconds.
Lamaze wasn't at all fazed by being pipped at the post. Asked afterwards if he thought he had won with his superb fourth-to-go effort against the clock he said "No I certainly didn't, knowing the riders who were coming after me - there's always someone who is going to try harder and Kevin rode brilliantly" he pointed out. But Staut admitted he wasn't sure he could oust the Olympic champion from pole position. "Eric was so quick I really didn't know if I could beat him going into the ring so I just went as quickly as I could!" he said. He had the advantage of watching the others however. "I watched Eric and Meredith on TV so I knew what they had done" he added.
He talked about Silvana, and how grateful he is to her owner Xavier Marie. "I'm really grateful to him for his support and for his belief in me" he pointed out. He said he rested Silvana for six weeks after Kentucky and that he will now aim her at the ninth qualifying round of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series in Zurich, Switzerland at the end of January but he has a punishing schedule ahead for himself before that which includes next week's tournament at Olympia in London, then Mechelen in Belgium followed by two days off before heading to Basel, Switzerland and then Zurich followed by Bordeaux, France. "I will take Le Prestige to London" he explained, and it seems quite possible that he will shoot even further ahead at the top of the Western European League table on which he already holds a 13-point lead over Michaels-Beerbaum in second and Bengtsson in third.
For Lamaze however it is time to pack his bags and head for the US circuit and time for a holiday for his super-stallion Hickstead. "I'm going to Wellington and Hickstead will come with me but the next time he will compete will probably be at the end of Wellington " he pointed out. Reflecting on 2010 he said "I couldn't have asked for much better this year even though I had a bit of a setback when I broke my foot in Aachen. At the Masters in Spruce Meadows and at the WEG my foot wasn't in good shape but I still won in Aachen and now I've been second in Geneva so I'm not complaining! I'm better and fitter since the World Games - before that I was taking the cast off every day when I was riding but now I don't have that anymore so it's great!" he added.
Staut today reflected on how quickly his career has developed over the last two-and-a-half years and said he gained the discipline with which he conducts himself during the time he spent working in Switzerland some years ago. "I learned then about structure, and method, although as I see it I still have a lot to learn. I only really arrived into this sport two-and-a-half years ago and I am still learning, and so are my horses" he said. The learning process for the man who leads the Rolex World Rankings and who has very definitely booked his place at the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Leipzig, Germany next March will continue in the Grand Hall at Olympia next weekend.
For further information on the Swiss fixture go to website www.chi-geneve.ch or contact Press Officer Corinne Druey at Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel (mobile) +41 79 226 78 59. The next leg takes place at Olympia in London (GBR) on Sunday 19 December. For all details on the London fixture go website www.olympiahorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Kelly Smith, Email email@example.com, Tel + 44 1753 847 900.
Result: 1, Silvana de Hus (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 32.50; 2, Hickstead (Eric Lamaze) CAN 0/0 32.65; 3, Quintero La Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) SWE 0/0 32.88; 4, Shutterfly (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) GER 0/0 33.28; 5, Lennox (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 34.39; 6, Action-Breaker (Sergio Alvarez Moya) ESP 00 37.48; 7, Nuage Bleu (Pilar Lucrecia Cordon Muro) ESP 0/4 33.99; 8, Regina Z (Harrie Smolders) NED 0/4 35.86; 9, LB Casanova (Christina Liebherr) SUI 4/73.98; 10, Cash (Marco Kutscher) GER 4/74.09. Full Results at www.scg-nl.nl
Facts and Figures:
--This was the 50th anniversary show for CHI Geneva which has a long connection with top sponsors, Rolex.
--8 jumped clear in first round
--10 riders completed with just four faults in the first round
--The home nation of Switzerland was represented by nine riders, but none made it through to the jump-off against the clock
--The youngest rider competing today was 18 year old Martin Fuchs from Switzerland
--The oldest rider was Austria's Hugo Simon, the man who won the very first FEI World Cup Jumping title in 1979. He was then 36 years of age, he is now 68.
--The youngest horse in the competition was the 8 year old gelding Kiamon, ridden by Switzerland's Werner Muff.
--The oldest horse in the competition was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum's three-time Rolex FEI World Cup™ champion Shutterfly who is now 17 years of age. This combination finished fourth today.
Kevin Staut - "There has been great personal satisfaction for me today in finishing ahead of Eric and Rolf-Goran - two great riders"
Kevin Staut - "I'm really proud of Silvana today - its incredible that she could beat Hickstead and Shutterfly!"
Kevin Staut - "Le Prestige has not jumped for a long time so I will take him to London and Mechelen - he should be fresh and happy!"
Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2010/2011 Western European League - Standings After Round 6 at Geneva SUI:
1. Kevin Staut FRA - 63
2. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER - 50
3. Rolf-Goran Bengtsson SWE - 49
4. Harrie Smolders NED - 41
5. Christian Ahlmann GER - 40
6. Rodrigo Pessoa BRA - 36
7. Carsten-Otto Nagel GER - 33
8. Ludger Beergaum GER - 31
9. Sergio Alvarez Moya ESP - 29
10. Gerco Schroder NED - 28
11. Robert Whitaker GBR - 28
12. Billy Twomey IRL, Leon Thijssen NED - 27
14. Philip Weishaupt GER - 24
15. Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE - 23
16. Marco Kutscher GER - 23
17. Lars Nieberg GER - 22
18. Jeroen Dubbeldam NED - 20
19. Marcus Ehning GER - 20
20. Nina Braaten NOR - 20
ROLEX FEI WORLD CUP™ JUMPING 2010/2011 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.
Photo Caption: Kevin Staut from France, riding Silvana de Hus, accepts a Rolex watch from Mr Jean-Noel Bioull of Rolex as winner of today's sixth leg of the 2010/2011 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series in Geneva, Switzerland. Photo: Kit Houghton.