Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson galloped to victory in the third leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2011/2012 series in Lyon, France this afternoon. Riding Casall La Silla, the man who so deservedly won Individual gold at the FEI European Jumping Championships in Madrid, Spain last month snatched the lead at the halfway stage of today’s nine-horse jump-off and couldn’t be caught.
From the 40-strong field of world-class combinations, it was The Ukraine’s Katharina Offel and Cathleen who claimed runner-up spot ahead of Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat with Nino des Buissonnets in third, while host-nation hero Kevin Staut filled fourth place riding Zeta de Hus.
Course designer, Frank Rothenberger, produced a masterpiece – a 13-fence track that asked questions from start to finish but which produced a sparkling line-up for the second and deciding round against the clock in which rideability was tested to the very limit.
In round one - from the opening oxer, right through to the last - it was all about crisp communication and absolute obedience as riders had to both drive their horses forward and check them back quickly in order to leave the poles in place. In the jump-off, control was absolutely key to success, and Bengtsson’s proved to be the best of all.
The toughness of the track was not apparent at the outset, as pathfinder Guerdat and French veteran Michel Robert, riding Kellemoi de Pepita, both made little of it to return a zero score. However another 16 took their turn before Switzerland’s Werner Muff and Kiamon did likewise only to be followed by Bengtsson, then Ireland’s Denis Lynch with Lantinus, Staut, Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker with Viking, Offel and, finally, Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum with Gotha.
Two big oxers, with a long gallop between them, opened the jump-off track but it was the S-bend verticals mid-way round the new course that decided the result. Guerdat wasn’t the least intimated by the test ahead of him even though it was only the second Grand Prix ever in the career of his 10 year old gelding Nino des Buissonnets, and, setting off at a relentless pace, he really put it up to them when racing through the finish in 41.62 seconds. That was clearly going to keep him well in touch.
Robert seemed to be traveling at maximum speed when next to go, but the clock showed a deficit of almost two second as he steered his mare across the finish-line and when Muff’s gelding left two on the floor, the Swiss rider was still well out in front.
Changed All That
Bengtsson changed all that however with a blistering round from his 12 year old stallion, taking out a stride on the S-bend to take the lead in 40.88 seconds. Denis Lynch’s Lantinus hit the second fence, and although Kevin Staut produced a round of pure class from his 11 year old mare Zeta, he didn’t challenge for the lead when clocking up 42.64 seconds. Whitaker and the nine year old Viking, had two fences down but the penultimate partnership looked a real danger.
Offel’s bay mare is also only a nine-year-old but she had demonstrated that she relishes speed in the first round, and the Ukrainian rider has found a way of harnessing that energy to great effect – racing across the line just seven one-hundredths of a second slower than the Swede for second place. And that was where she stayed when Beerbaum’s Gotha hit the last.
“We came close in Oslo, but it was much better today” said Bengtsson who collected his first Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping points at the season-opener in Norway two weeks ago when placing tenth with a fence down in the jump-off.
“It has a been a four-fault weekend, so I didn’t go too fast in the first round but with Steve and Katharina in the jump-off I understood I had to go for it. I can go fast with Casall against the clock but I can’t go too fast with Ninja who is careful but not the fastest. I’m very lucky to have these wonderful horses” he added.
He has now moved into second place on the series leaderboard, behind Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer, ahead of next Sunday’s fourth leg in Verona, Italy. “My objective is to keep competing and to qualify for the Final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands), so today’s 20 points are most welcome. I have to qualify first of course, and then pick the horse afterwards!” he pointed out.
Runner-up, Katharina Offel, was smiling too. “My horse is still young and to compete in her first World Cup and to finish in second place is quite something!” said the Ukrainian rider who is based near Cologne, Germany. “Cathleen is owned by a great friend of the family, Frank Mueller, who has been supporting me with horses for many years. Atlanta, which I rode at the World Championships in Aachen, was also owned by him” she explained. Today’s result has encouraged her to change her competition-plan. “I don’t normally compete in the Western European League – I compete in the Central European League, but now that I know my mare can cope with this level of competition so well, I will try to do some more of the Western European League competitions because they are of such a high standard” she pointed out.
Third-place Steve Guerdat was keen to thank the owner of his horse Nino des Buissonnets, Urs Schwarzenbach. “We bought this horse ten months ago but we have not been doing big classes because there were little problems, partly because he is so careful” Guerdat explained. “I’ve been working quietly with Nino though, and he’s been getting better and better – I’m grateful to Mr Schwarzenbach for his patience over the last few months and really happy with the way things went today” the Swiss rider added.
The capacity crowd in the Lyon arena enjoyed great sport this afternoon, and much of the talk over the weekend was about the staging, at this very popular venue, of FEI World Cup™ Jumping and Dressage Finals in 2014 – both the organizers and the riders are very excited about that.
But the man most satisfied today was the quiet and charming Swede, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, whose horsemanship and competitiveness gave him the edge on a thrilling afternoon of great sport. The reigning European Champion looks well on the road to being a major contender for the 2011/2012 Rolex FEI World Cup™ title.
For further information on the third leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2011/2012 check out website www.equitalyon.com or contact Press Officer Pascal Renauldon, Email email@example.com or Tel +33 344 620 621. The next leg takes place in Verona, Italy on Sunday 6 November 2011. For details of the Italian fixture visit website www.jumpingverona.com or contact Press Officer Caterina Vagnozzi, Email firstname.lastname@example.org or Tel +39 335 6107070.
Result: 1. Casall La Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) SWE 0/0 40.88; 2, Cathleen (Katharina Offel) UKR 0/0 40.95; 3, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 41.62; 4, Zeta de Hus (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 42.64; 5, Kellemois de Pepita (Michel Robert) FRA 0/0 43.56; 6, Lantinus (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/4 41.06; 7, Gotha FRH (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 0/4 41.74; 8, Kiamon (Werner Muff) SUI 0/8 43.16; 9, Viking (Michael Whitaker) GBR 0/8 44.24. Full results at www.scgvisual.com
Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2011/2012 Western European League – Standings after Round 3 at Lyon, France:
1. Pius Schwizer SUI- 40
2. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson SWE – 27
3. Maikel Van Der Vleuten NED – 26
4. Denis Lyncn IRL – 23
Eq. 4 Kevin Staut FRA – 23
6. Malin Baryard-Johnsoon SWE – 22
7. Steve Guerdat SUI – 21
8. Patrice Delaveau FRA – 19
9. Angelica Augustsson SWE – 18
10. Philipp Weishaupt – 17
11. Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS – 15
Eq. 11 Luciana Diniz – 15
13. Nina Fagerrström FIN – 13
Eq.13 William Funnell GBR – 13
15. Michel Robert FRA – 12
16. Daniel Deusser GER – 11
17. Billy Twomey IRL – 10
Eq. 17 Ludger Beerbaum GER – 10
Eq. 17 – Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum – 10
Facts and Figures:
9 into the jump-off
5 double-clear rounds
Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson (H&M Tornesch) missed out on a place in the jump-off when just fractionally over the time-allowed in the first round.
3 retired – Ireland’s Shane Breen (Luikka), Germany’s Marcus Ehning (Noltes Kuchengirl) and Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt (Souvenir).
1 elimination – Germany’s Daniel Deusser (Untouchable).s
Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat – “It’s great to have a course that doesn’t leave horses struggling from the first fence to the last and making them stop and not want to jump anymore. There were mistakes everywhere on today’s course – but it was a fine course.”
Ukraine’s Katharina Offel – “Last weekend Cathleen was second in the Rider’s Tour at Hannover and at the beginning of the season we won the 3-Star Grand Prix at Arezzo. She’s very forward-going, she’s different to other horses, but I know her for the last two years, I have been competing her since she was seven, and we understand each other very well!”
FEI TV – Re-live the excitement fo today’s competition, and enjoy highlights, interviews and archive footage at www.feitv.org
Photo Caption: Rolf-Goran Bengtsson steered Casall La Silla to victory in the third leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series at Lyon, France today. The Swedish partnership are pictured during the prize-giving presentation with Mr Phillipe Schaeffer, Director General Rolex France. Photo: FEI/Kit Houghton.