The Rolex FEI World Cup made the weekend an undisputed success for the British riders– who have been dominating the show since the first class Thursday.
Sixteen riders out of 37 qualified for the jump-off; quite a large number for such a class. Among the sixteen, there was as many as three Whitakers - John, Michael and Ellen!
The jump-off offered plenty of opportunities to save some time and take chances. First out was Julia Kayser with the promising Valdato – an 8 year old by Emilion x Caretino I. She rode a safe clear-round, and even though she gave some speed it was a fair round for the young gelding. Second to go was the 28-year old Mario Stevens from Germany who is famous for being fast, but he surprised all when he went for a safe round with DÁvignon.
The first to ride against the clock was Robert Smith with the stallion Talan, but after one down on the second fence he fell to third position. Pascal Levy from Spain on the big chestnut Monark came in and took over the lead with 39.10 seconds. He soon lost it to John Whitaker on the 15 year old Casino that had a great deal of luck at the first fence, but who later showed he can jump and got a clear round on 36.27 seconds.
The World Cup class was sponsored by H&M, and very suitable their rider Malin Baryard-Johnsson made it to the jump-off. She was next to go and really went for it on her stallion H&M Tornesch, but the front rail on the last Rolex oxer fell. The speed specialist Guy Williams tried to go a bit too fast and took two rails with him, and the same destiny waited for Ellen Whitaker who looked determined to beat John who was still in the lead.
Marc Houtzager with his WEG-horse Tamino had a great deal of bad luck, since Tamino totally lost his hind legs in a turn just before the red and white vertical. The Dutch rider got that pole down, and even the last fell so Marc ended up way behind his partner Julia Kayser. After Marc, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson entered the arena with Ninja La Silla. Ninja really pushed the turbo-button and it looked like Rolf had some trouble getting him around the corners, but even though they ended up with the amazing time 34.42. The time didn´t help though, as the last fence fell to the ground. It turned out John Whitaker really put some pressure on the riders after him.
The next rider was from Netherlands, Eric van der Vleuten with the young VDL Groep Utascha SFN. Eric had the same problem as his team mate Marc. Utascha dropped her hind legs in one of the first turns, and after that Eric slowed down and took her beautiful to the end in a clear round.
Kevin Staut - who seems to win about everything - was next to go, this time with the bucking Le Prestige St Lois*de Hus. Kevin managed to shave off John’s time with the tiny margin off 0.01 seconds, and took over the lead with a time of 36.26. But it didn´t last to the end this time, because the next rider was in-form Billy Twomey on Tinka´s Serenade. They made the jump off look really easy, and crossed the finish line on 35.74 seconds. The joy for Billy ended rapidly though, with the next rider Michael Whitaker on the experienced GIG Amai. They got Billy’s time with 35.72, and the home crowd gave standing ovations to a smiling Michael – who also is Billy’s former trainer and boss.
Rik Hemeryk and Quarco de Kerambars wanted to take the victory home to Belgium, but one rail down made a quick stop to that. Albert Zoer with Sam was last to go, and Albert really let Sam canter. For a moment it looked like Michael had to watch out, but then the rails started to fall and they finished the round with eight faults.
So for the first time this year a British rider won a leg of the world cup in the western European league, and what could be more suitable for the home crowd in Olympia – now spoilt with British victories!
It must be said that Twomey and Staut continue to impress with their consistent form, and especially Kevin who seems to get the best out of every different horse that he sits on.
For total results click here.
The standings in the western European league after seven legs of the world cup:
1. Kevin Staut, 78 points
2. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, 57 points
3. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, 50 points
4. Billy Twomey, 44 points
5. Harrie Smolders, 41 points
6. Christian Ahlmann, 40 points
7. Rodrigo Pessoa, 36 points
8. Michael Whitaker, 35 points
9. Carsten-Otto Nagel, 33 points
10. Ludger Beerbaum, 31 points
It normally takes about 40 points to get to the final, so several of the riders in the top can already feel sure about going to Leipzig in the end of April. To see the total list,click here.
The winner of the first class of the day – a 1.40 speed class – put an end to the British and Irish dominance at the top. Norway’s Geir Gulliksen was 0.63 seconds faster than runner-up Ellen Whitaker aboard Rusedski II – a horse previously ridden by Robert Whitaker.
The H&M Ivy Stakes – the last class of the night set at 1.60 was won by Edwina Alexander on the 12 year old Darco-gelding Cevo Socrates. The course proved difficult enough, the fences came fast and the turns were tight. A line consisting of a triple bar to a combination gave trouble for many of the riders. Of the 30 riders, 12 went into the jump-off. Italy’s Lucia Vizzini and Princess to Heart have been very consistent this weekend, and opened with a clear round on 33.46. Marc Houtzager and Opium was next, and cut the time down to a 32.77 after a breathtaking moment at the vertical before the last fence. It was Edwina who stole the lead from the Dutch rider as she gave it all around the course, crossing the finish line on 32.44. Although the next seven riders chased her, no one could catch Alexander. The closest was Ben Maher with the incredible time 31.00 aboard Oscar IX – but the front plank on one of the oxer’s fell.
For full results click here.