Miranda Turns On The Magic In Geneva

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Brazil's Alvaro de Miranda claimed maximum points and set himself on the road to the series Final with a breath-taking victory riding AD Ashleigh Drossel Dan in the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League at Geneva, Switzerland this afternoon.  With 16 of the world's best horses and riders through to the closing stages, the second-round race against the clock was a thriller in which the lead changed again and again.  But with the advantage of being last to go, and with a superb round sprinkled with a little luck, the 38 year old rider and his 13 year old gelding scorched home to clinch it in style.

A measure of the quality of today’s competition was the prize-winning line-up, with 2011 European Champion Rolf-Goran Bengtsson from Sweden having to settle for runner-up spot despite a jump-off run with Casall la Silla that looked surely unbeatable.  And in third place was one of the fastest men on the planet, Patrice Delaveau from France who set the arena alight with Orient Express who seemed airborne from start to finish.  Today’s result boosts Bengtsson’s position at the top of the series leaderboard, but Miranda has climbed onboard in 18th place.  And the Brazilian is now altering his game-plan for the rest of the indoor season, with his sights shifted to earning a spot at the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2011/2012 final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands next April.

Big and Difficult
Rolf Ludi’s 13-fence first-round track looked big and difficult, but with so many horses and riders in top form the Swiss course designer once again saw a large number making it through to the jump-off.  On Friday night a massive 21  horse-and-rider combinations went against the clock in the Pre-Qualifier, and with 16 returning to the arena today it was a relentless gallop all the way.

The looping left-handed turn from the double, now third on the track, to the FEI vertical, and the roll-back from the first and second elements of the former triple combination to the new vertical three fences from home were highly influential.  Otherwise the jump-off course was simply a test of courage, speed and clean jumping, and it was Switzerland’s Werner Muff who set the pace with a sensible run from Kiamon that brought them home in 45.78 seconds.

It was clear that this was never going to be the winning time however, and fellow-Swiss competitor, Claudia Gisler, shaved a half-second off that target when fourth to go with Touchable.  Two horses later, the sole German contenders in the timed round - Marco Kutscher and the stallion Cornet Obolensky - put 44.91 on the board, but Ireland’s Denis Lynch, eighth to go, quickly showed there was still some significant room for improvement when bringing Lantinus through the finish in 44.55 seconds.

Blown Away
The Irishman had galloped all the way, but his effort was completely blown away when Delaveau set sail.  The Frenchman rode the big, imposing track like it was a speed competition, going flat to the boards and using his innate skill to make only the tiniest adjustments as Orient Express steamed home to set the new target in 42.42 seconds.  And when the great French master, Michel Robert, put in a storming performance with Kellemoi de Pepita but returned more than second off his fellow-countryman’s target time then it seemed Delaveau might well have done enough to clinch it.

Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood went as quickly as they could, but also fell short when stopping the clock on 43.50 seconds, and then came Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat whose fan-club of supporters brought the already-electrified atmosphere in the arena to a near-frenzy as he set off with Nino des Buissonnets.  The Swiss heart-throb finished third in the third leg of the series at Lyon, France in October with this sharp but talented 10 year old gelding who has all the speed in the world and a mind to match.  It seemed they might just be the ones to catch the French leaders, but, as Guerdat said himself afterwards he “lost time between the first and second fences, and then didn’t calculate well at the vertical (after the following double).  I lost time there” he pointed out.  It was still a super-fast round, stopping the clock on 42.69 to temporarily slot into second place.

Kevin Staut followed for France with Silvana de Hus, but 43.78 seconds didn’t threaten the leaders.  Third-last into the ring however, Bengtsson definitely would.

Purple Patch
The Swedish rider is enjoying a truly purple patch, his performances this season showing a level of calm comfort that most others can only aspire to.  And as he set off with his stallion, it was clear he was going to make an impression that would last. His roll-back to the big vertical three from home was a picture of quiet confidence, and Casall la Silla simply cruised down the last line to clear the big final oxer with consummate ease and snatch the advantage with 42.22 seconds on the clock.

It was far from over though.  The 1984 FEI World Cup Jumping champion, America’s Mario Deslauriers, has found a great new partner in Jane Clarke’s grey mare, Cella, who is still only a nine-year-old. And the man who was just 20 years of age himself when claiming the ultimate indoor title 27 years ago, showed he has lost none of his class when bringing her home in the competitive time of 42.70 seconds - he would definitely feature well in the final line-up.

Now only Alvaro de Miranda stood between Bengtsson and his second win of the current Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping season, but the Brazilian, who is based at Valkenswaard in The Netherlands, wasn’t in the least intimidated.  He knew he had all the odds stacked in his favour including the last-to-go starting spot and a horse with all the ability in the world.  And AD Ashleigh Drossel Dan didn’t let him down.  Setting off at a ferocious gallop they never hesitated once, although the super-tight turn to the vertical on their way home didn’t quite come up as planned.  “I knew after the double I had to go very tight, and I was lucky there, he rubbed the vertical but it didn’t fall and once he’s touches a fence he gets very careful so I knew I could take all the risks and gallop down to the last few fences!” he explained.  With 41.72 seconds showing on the scoreboard he had managed what had seemed the impossible task of shaving a half-second off Bengtsson’s time.

Really Fast
"With so many in the jump-off it gets really fast and everybody was going the fastest they could” said Bengtsson afterwards.  “We had to take risks everywhere, otherwise you couldn’t beat it, and of course Doda was last - so he could win it!” the Swedish rider explained.

Miranda, who came to Europe in 1995 and trained for many years with Nelson and Rodrigo Pessoa, is better known to his friends and colleagues as Doda.  He said “the course was difficult and I never thought there would be 16 clear rounds.  I was very lucky to be last to go, because I know my horse is very speedy”.  Drossel Dan will now take a well-earned rest. “This is his last show for the year, he will start again in Basel in January and my main aim with him is the Olympic Games next year so he won’t be doing the World Cups.  I would love to jump him in London - my schedule is to get him to the Olympics in the best possible form” he explained.  But he added that, following his win today, he is designing a “Plan B” for the rest of his winter season.

“I have a new horse, Bogeno by Baloubet, he is 11 years old and he has a lot of quality, I like him a lot and I will try to qualify for the Rolex Final with him.  I will take him to La Coruna (Spain) next week and then see how we go” he pointed out.  If today’s performance is anything to go by, he will be a man to watch as the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2011/2012 series moves into another new year.  Before that, the next leg takes place at the world-famous Olympia Horse Show in London, Great Britain next Sunday followed by the eighth round at Mechelen in Belgium on 30 December.     

For further information on the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2011/2012 at Geneva visit website www.chi-geneve.ch or contact Press Officer Corinne Druey, Email druey@syntagme-lausanne.ch or Tel +41 79 226 78 59. The next leg takes place at Olympia, London on Sunday 18 December.  For details of the British fixture go to www.olympiahorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Jo Peck at Email jopeck@hpower.co.uk or Tel +441753

Result: 1. AD Ashleigh Drossel Dan (Alvaro Miranda) BRA 0/0 41.72; 2, Casall La Silla (R Bengtsson) SWE 0/0 42.22; 3, Orient Express HDC (Patrice Deleveau) FRA 0/0 42.42; 4, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 42.69; 5, Cella (Mario Deslauriers) USA 0/0 42.70; 6, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 43.50; 7, Kellemoi de Pepita (Michel Robert) FRA 0/0 43.66; 8, Silvana de Hus (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 43.78; 9, Lantinus (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/0 44.55; 10, Cornet Obolensky (Marco Kutscher) GER 0/0 44.91; 11, Touchable (Claudia Gisler) SUI 0/0 45.24; 12, Kiamon (Werner Muff) SUI 0/0 45.78; 13, Nuage Bleu (Pilar Cordon) ESP 0/4 43.00; 14, Mylord Carthago (Penelope Leprevost) FRA 0/4 44.26; 15, Uptown Boy (Janika Sprunger) SUI 0/4 45.71; 16, Chilli Van Dijk (Stefan Eder) AUT 0/12 46.06.  Full results at www.scgvisual.com

Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2011/2012 Western European League – Standings after Round 6 at Geneva, Switzerland:
1.    Rolf-Goran Bengtsson  59
2.    Steve Guerdat    51
3.    Nick Skelton     48
4.    Scott Brash   43
5.    Denis Lynch, Patrice Deleveau   42
7.    Emilie Martinsen    41
8.    Pius Schwizer    40
9.    Kevin Staut    32
10.  Ludger Beerbaum   30
11.  Marco Kutscher   27
12.  Luciana Diniz, Maikel van der Vleuten  26
14.  Harrie Smolders  24
15.  Malin Baryard-Johnson, Michel Robert, Philipp Weishaupt  22
18.  Alvaro de Miranda   20

Facts and Figures:
40 starters
Riders from 15 nations including 10 from Switzerland, 6 from France and 5 from Germany.
16 clear in first round
12 double-clear performances
Course designer was Rolf Ludi (SUI)
First element of double at fence 7 proved bogey in first round
Two riders missed out on the second-round jump-off when picking up just a single first-round time penalty - Great Britain's Guy Williams (Titus) and Italy's Natale Chiaudani (Almero 12).

Switzerland’s Werner Muff, first to go in the jump-off and 12th place finisher to day - “This show is just so good and I did really well!  This is my favourite show, and if anyone had told me on Monday that I’d be successful in Geneva I would never have believed it!”.
Patrice Delaveau who finished third for France - “In the jump-off there was an option of turning short to the FEI vertical and it looked like a good option but it actually wasn’t so quick.  I preferred, like most of the others, to go the longer way.  The order-of-go was so important in that jump-off.  If any of us here at the top table had been first to go I’m not sure we would be here now!”.
Patrice Delaveau, responding to a question to Alvaro de Miranda about whether he lives in Brazil or Europe, joked - “it’s a pity he doesn’t spend more time in Brazil!”.