Steve Guerdat sent Swiss hearts soaring with a superb victory in the second leg of the 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final in Geneva tonight riding the feisty stallion Tresor. The cream really came to the top in this class, and the 27 year old rider from Zurich set the early target in the jump-off and could not be caught, pipping America's McLain Ward and Sapphire by just over a second.
Third place went to fellow-American Mario Deslauriers whose dream of taking the coveted title he last won 26 years ago at the tender age of 19 is coming ever-closer to a reality. But tonight's clash of the giants saw the Germans flex their not-inconsiderable muscle to greater effect, with Marcus Ehning slotting into fourth with Plot Blue and Ludger Beerbaum finishing seventh with Gotha, while Rolex World No. 1 Pius Schwizer was fifth for Switzerland with Carlina and Olympic silver medallist Rolf-Goran Bengtsson took sixth with Quintero la Silla in a truly sparkling line-up. For first-day winner America's Rich Fellers however it was deep disappointment when eight first-round faults saw him plummet down the leaderboard with Flexible.
Course designer Rolf Ludi asked plenty of big questions, and the double of water trays - a vertical to oxer - claimed a huge number of scalps, as did the 1.70m-wide oxer that followed the 1.60m "Big Cheese" wall at fence eight, and the final narrow planks that punished many on a less-than-perfect stride. This last of the 12 obstacles saw the elimination of both Estonia's Rein Pill with Virgin Express and Canada's Karen Cudmore with Southern Pride - the horses declining to take it on a second time after arriving on an awkward distance at their first attempt. For Patrice Deleveau however the top plank refused to come down despite swinging wildly after a good clip from Katchina Mail. The Frenchman was one of two from the 42-strong startlist - the other being Italy's Natale Chiaudani with the extravagant SNAI Seldana di Campalto - who picked up a frustrating single time fault to miss out on the nine-horse second-round race against the clock.
Led The Way
It was the host country's Daniel Etter and Peu a Peu, winners of the opening two legs of this season's Western European League, who led the way in the timed round but the big gelding did not show his normally clean style when leaving three on the floor for 12 faults. Guerdat was next to go however and he was determined to make up for a bad day yesterday when he finished 24th with Jalisca Solier after hitting the last two fences in the speed leg. "I was so disappointed by that, but I knew that all I could do today is to be the best I could be from now on, and to go in and do my job right this time" said the man who is his own greatest critic. And that he did, as Tresor, with his usual buck and spring along the way, scorched home to set a super-tough target in 36.12 seconds.
Bengtsson is making the very best of his late call-up for the final, but his 12 year old stallion Quintero la Silla hit the FEI vertical, now second on the course, and when Beerbaum's mare Gotha hit the first element of the bogey double of water ditches and Marco Kutscher's Cash hit the final fence on a careful tour of the track the Swiss rider was still well out in front. His fellow-countryman Schwizer didn't threaten Guerdat's lead when taking a cautious pull before the double to go into second place in 39.87 seconds, but he wouldn't stay there long as the real action was now only getting underway.
Ehning and his stallion pushed him down the line with another very easy tour of the track in 38.85 seconds, and then Schwizer slipped a further place when Deslauriers, enjoying every moment under the Geneva spotlight, cruised in with Urico who, at just nine years of age and with limited experience at this level, is coping with it all like an old hand. His time of 37.50 seconds seemed as close as anyone would get to Guerdat's target but last man in was 2009 runner-up McLain Ward with Sapphire.
"I pushed as hard as I could when I went in early because I know how fast McLain's mare can be" Guerdat said. Sapphire was quick alright, but it was testimony to Tresor's talent for covering the ground at surprising speed that Ward's time was more than a second slower as he broke the beam in 37.13 seconds to slot into runner-up spot. Guerdat's result has changed his plan for Sunday. "It wasn't Jalisca's fault that things didn't go well yesterday, that was all my fault, but I've decided to ride Tresor in the last competition because he's obviously in fantastic form" he explained.
He will be lying equal-ninth as the last competition begins (see note below), but the man no-one can discount now is 45 year old Deslauriers who, after 25 years living in the USA, transferred last December from riding for his native Canada to fly the stars and stripes instead, and who is now armed with a great string of horses owned by Jane Clarke. As the results of the first two legs of the 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping final are converted into points he's the one who holds the lead ahead of Ehning in second, Schwizer in third, Deleveau in fourth and Portugal's Luciana Diniz in fifth.
Result: 1, Tresor (Steve Guerdat) Sui 0/0 36.12; 2, Urico (Mario Deslauriers) USA 0/0 37.50; 3, Plot Blue (Marcus Ehning) Ger 0/0 38.85; 4, Carlina (Pius Schwizer) Sui 0/0 39.87; 5, Quintero la Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) Swe 0/4 37.97; 6, Gotha (Ludger Beerbaum) Ger 0/4 38.38; 7, Cash (Marco Kutscher) Ger 0/4 38.50; 8, Peu a Peu (Daniel Etter) Sui 0/12 38.71; Equal 9, SNAI Seldana di Campalto (Natale Chiaudani) Italy, Katchina Mail (Patrice Deleveau) Fra 1 flt. Full results at www.scg-nl.nl
Steve Guerdat, when asked about his plans coming to the 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping final in Geneva - "my strategy was to win!"
Mario Deslauriers - "After living in the USA for 25 years it wasn't such a big change becoming an American".
Mario Deslauriers talking about how happy he is in his life right now - "I recently remarried, I have three great kids and a great new horse-owner in Jane Clarke".
Facts and Figures:
- 42 riders started in tonight's competition after the withdrawal of Saudi Arabia's Abdullah Sharbatly
- A total of 5 former World Cup champions are competing in this final - Germany's Marcus Ehning, America's Mario Deslauriers, Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa, Germany's Ludger Beerbaum and Switzerland's Beat Mandli.
- Three former champions - Beerbaum, Ehning and Deslauriers - qualified for tonight's jump-off
- Two riders were eliminated - both at the final obstacle, the 1.60m planks - they were Estonia's Rein Pill (Virgin Express) and Canada's Karen Cudmore (Southern Pride)
- 9 qualified for the second-round jump-off against the clock
- It is 24 years since the USA last took the World Cup title
- Mario Deslauriers won the World Cup title 26 years ago with Aramis in Gothenburg.
For further information check out website http://www.worldcupgeneva.com/
CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR WESTERN EUROPEAN LEAGUE: 1, Oslo (Norway) 9-11 October; 2, Helsinki (Finland) 15-18 October; 3, Lyon (FRA) 28 Oct-1 November; 4, Verona (Italy) 5-8 November; 5, Stuttgart (Germany) 15-22 November; 6, London-Olympia (Great Britain) 15-21 December; 7, Mechelen (Belgium) 26-30 December; 8, Leipzig (Germany) 21-24 January; 9, Zurich (SUI) 28-31 January; 10, Bordeaux (France) 5-7 February; 11, Vigo (Spain) 11-14 February; 12, Gothenburg (Sweden) 25-28 February; 13, s'Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands) 25-28 March; FINAL - Geneva (Switzerland) 14-18 April.
Audio Links from today's second leg of the 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final in Geneva:
Steve Guerdat: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/RGEGuerdatrd2.mp3
Mario Deslauriers: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/RGEdeslauriers.mp3
Watch the Excitement Unfold on FEI TV
The provisional FEI TV broadcasting schedule from the Palexpo Arena in Geneva is as follows:
Saturday 17 April 2010 - 22.10 to 23.15 CEST, FEI World Cup™ Final, Driving
Sunday 18 April 2010 - 13.25 to 16.45 CEST, Rolex FEI World Cup™, Jumping
Photo Caption: Switzerland's Steve Guerdat and Tresor delighted the home crown when winning the second leg of the 2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Geneva tonight. Photo: Kit Houghton.