Switzerland's Steve Guerdat produced a supremely confident victory in the ninth leg of the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series on his home turf at Zurich, Switzerland this afternoon. Last to go in a thrilling nine-horse jump-off he swept the rest aside with a blistering run from Tresor whose natural speed gave him a winning margin of almost one second ahead of Germany's Lars Nieberg with Levito.
Guerdat was delighted with today's result, but also much-relieved. "This season I've been trying really hard to get the points so that I can compete at the final in Geneva in April, but things have not been going right for me. Maybe now it will get better" said the 28 year old who has now risen to 22nd place in the series rankings, still headed by The Netherlands' Eric Van der Vleuten.
Winners have a habit of describing courses as "good" and "fair", and that was Guerdat's description of Rolf Ludi's 13-fence track which included 17 jumping efforts and a double figure-of-eight as it flowed nicely around the arena. However he also added that it was "plenty technical - enough to be sure there were many mistakes, but not bad ones that worried the horses. It was nice to ride, and the course gave us great sport today" he pointed out.
He said it wasn't over-big, but there were plenty of poles standing at 1.60m and the massive wall at fence 10 was a full 1.62m, although it created few difficulties. It was the triple combination at fence 8 that tested them most - a two-stride distance from the first oxer to the middle element, and then a single stride to the final oxer just didn't quite come up right for a large number of the 37 starters. In fact 16 horses lowered at least one element of this.
Sydney Olympic champion, Jeroen Dubbeldam from the Netherlands, showed it was quite jumpable however when leaving all the timber intact when fourth to go with BMC Van Grunsven Whisper and he set the pace against the clock with a good clear in 38.39 seconds. And when the host country's Niklaus Schurtenberger and Cantus clipped the final element of what had been the triple combination first time out, now reduced to a double, it was still all to play for.
The crowd had been delighted when Austria's Hugo Simon had brought Ukinda home clear in the first round. This elder statesman of the sport remains highly competitive 31 years after he won the inaugural World Cup series back in 1979. He was 36 years old then, but two months ahead of his 68th birthday he can still cut it with the best of them and he was unlucky to lower both elements of the double after a great roll-back from the wall.
With two members of Switzerland's 2009 Alltech FEI European Jumping Championship gold medal winning team through to the decider the home fans had plenty to cheer for, and Clarissa Crotta set the arena alight when next in with the enthusiastic Westside v. Meerputhoeve. The 11 year old chestnut shows all the flamboyance of his famous sire Baloubet du Rouet and seemed to be just playing around when clear first time out. Against the clock the horse was still having fun, and a clear in 38.63 seconds put this partnership into second place temporarily.
Snatching the Lead
Sweden's Svante Johansson changed the order when snatching the lead with a great run from the gutsy little Saint Amour who crossed the line in 38.20 seconds but was instantly demoted by Germany's Lars Nieberg who scorched home with Levito to re-set the target in 36.70 seconds. Timothee Anciaume and Lamm de Fetan were considerably quicker when stopping the clock in 36.22 but, really going for it down the final line, clipped the last for four faults, and when Beat Mandli picked up eight - hitting both the planks three from home and the final oxer - the crowd groaned in frustration. But their moment was yet to come.
Guerdat rode into the ring with the look of a determined man. He knows Tresor so well, this is a horse with extraordinary speed and all he had to do was ensure the fences would stay up. The set of his jaw as he aimed for the first fence told the full story, and although they rattled the planks before turning to the double, they stayed in place and his run down to the final oxer was a thriller. The crowd went wild as he broke the beam for a clear win in 35.93 seconds.
A Good Chance
"I knew I had a good chance when I was going in" he said afterwards. "I didn't need to see the others - I knew this was a good jump-off course for my horse and that the time was no so fast. My plan was to bring the horse home clear and not worry about the time" he added, but you wouldn't have guessed it.
Nieberg had to do with second place ahead of Johansson in third while Dubbeldam slotted into fourth and Crotta into fifth.
Guerdat now heads for Bordeaux next weekend in search of some of those points which have proven so elusive this season. He has competed in seven of the nine rounds to date, but still has plenty to do if he is to get to the final. He needs to put up at least another 20 points on the leaderboard. "I've got to keep the pressure on myself for the next few weeks. I'm definitely going to Bordeaux and Vigo but I don't plan to go to Gothenburg" he said. He has three good horses to take to the next two legs of the series and is really pleased that Jalisca is back in action again. His gold medal winning ride had to undergo an operation when a break in his metacarpal bone was discovered last September. "It's great to have Jalisca back" he said.
The next leg of the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series will take place at Bordeaux, France from 5-7 February. For all information on the French fixture check out website www.jumping-bordeaux.com or contact Press Officer Marie-Sol Fournier at (mobile) + 33 556 11 99 43 or (email) email@example.com.
Result:1, Tresor (Steve Guerdat) Sui 0/0 35.93; 2, Levito (Lars Nieberg) Ger 0/0 36.70; 3, Saint Amour (Svante Johansson) Swe 0/0 38.20; 4, BMC Van Grunsven Whisper (Jeroen Dubbeldam) Ned 0/0 38.39; 5, Westside v. Meerputhoeve (Clarissa Crotta) Ita 0/0 38.63; 6, Lamm de Fetan (Timothee Anciaume) Fra 0/4 36.22; 7, Cantus (Niklaus Schurtenberger) Sui 0/4 44.47; 8, Louis IV (Beat Mandli) Sui 0/8 36.0; 9, Ukinda (H Simon) Aut 0/8 38.63; 10, Ideal de la Loge (Roger Yves Bost) Fra 1 flt.
Full results at: http://eventcontent.hippoonline.de/458/458zeitplanDEU.htm
ROLEX FEI WORLD CUP™ JUMPING - Standings after Round 9 at Zurich, Switzerland:
1. Eric van der Vleuten - 57
2. Jessica Kuerten - 53
3. Pius Schwizer - 48
4. Penelope Leprevost - 47
5. Ludger Beerbaum - 46
6. Kevin Staut - 45
7. Marcus Ehning - 44
8. Natale Chiaudani - 43
9. Rodrigo Pessoa - 41
10. Daniel Etter - 40
11. Marco Kutscher - 40
12. Philipp Weishaupt - 40
13. Michael Whitaker - 39
14. Svante Johansson - 39
15. Edwina Alexander - 34
16. Albert Zoer - 34
17. Beat Mandli - 30
18. Patrice Deleveau - 29
19. Ben Maher - 28
20. Dermott Lennon - 28
21. Lars Nieberg - 27
22. Steve Guerdat - 26
Complete standings at www.feiworldcup.org
Facts and Figures:
37 starters after the late withdrawal of both Michael Whitaker/GIG Amai (GBR) and Marco Kutscher/Cornet Obolensky (GER)
Roger Yves Bost from France missed out on the jump-off when picking up just one time penalty in the first round with Ideal de la Loge
A total of 13 horse-and-rider combinations collected just 4 faults in round one.
Two horses were retired in first round - Randgraaf ridden by Philippe Rozier for France and What's Next ridden by Spain's Sergio Alvarez Moya.
There were 13 fences, with 17 jumping efforts, on the first round track.
Course designer was Switzerland's Rolf Ludi.
The bogey fence on the course was the triple combination at fence eight - 16 horses lowered at least one element of this fence.
A total of 9 qualified for the second-round jump-off against the clock - of these four were from Switzerland while there was also one each from The Netherlands, Italy, Austria, France and Sweden - a total of 6 nations.
12 of the riders in the first round were from the current top-20 in the Rolex World Rankings but none of those 12 qualified for the jump-off.
Steve Guerdat - "There is nothing more important to me right now than to qualify for the final in Geneva - its a final in my home country and I really want to be there"
Steve Guerdat - "Winning in front of the home crowd is always very special - the crowd were fantastic today!"
Photo Caption: Pedro Reiser, Rolex Area Manager, Switzerland, presents Switzerland's Steve Guerdat - the winning rider of today's Rolex FEI World Cup qualifier at Zurich, Switzerland - with a Rolex watch. Photo: Dirk Caremans.