Rolf Ludi had built a demanding course for the fourth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup in the Western European league. Of the thirteen fences, it was the treble combination at 11 a), b) – a double with a water tray - and c) that caused the most trouble for the riders in Verona. Almost half of the riders had faults somewhere in the treble combination, and Jonella Ligresti, Bernando Alves, Albert Zoer, Rodrigo Pessoa, Lars Nieberg, Marco Kutscher and last to go Jessica Kürten fell victims to this part of the course. This round proved to be extremely entertaining, and the Italians could boast of a really good field of riders.
Jose Larocca and the Contender-stallion Con Air opened the party with no less than 16 faults.The first to go clear was start nr. 5, Nina Braaten from Norway on the 10 year old Blue Loyd 12. Niels Bruynseels followed with another clear on Nasa (Cumano x prince d’Elle), but had an unfortunate time fault. It was Jeroen Dubbeldam and the Mr. Blue Gelding BMC Van Grunsven Simon who set the second clear of the day, and he was so accurate that it all looked pretty simple. Carsten Otto Nagel and his WEG-partner Corradina also made it look like a walk in the park with a clear round. It was nine riders that had their go before yet another clear came, and it was France’s Simon Delestre and the Baloubet du Rouet-son Napoli de Ry that had the honors. He was followed by the Irishman Billy Twomey on Tinka’s Serenade, and with a well ridden round Twomey gave proof to why he has rocketed up the world rankings lately. Steve Guerdat continued his good form from Lyon last weekend, and his Alligator Fontaine-mare Jalisca Solier looked as good as ever jumping a superb clear. Ludger Beerbaum – on start nr. 29 – rode a textbook clear on Chaman (another Baloubet-son), and secured his place in the jump-off yet again. Kevin Staut’s Le Prestige de Hus did was he does best; mess about between the fences and yet keeping them intact. It was a clear round for the world nr. 1. Sweden’s Rolf-Göran Bengtsson rode a beautiful clear round on his stallion Casall la Silla, and the last rider to join them in the jump off was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on the forever young Shutterfly who looked absolutely stunning as he popped around the course making the fences look a lot smaller than 1.60.
Out of the field of 40 riders, one fourth made it to the jump off and the fences was reduced to nine including a double at fence five (the last two parts of the former combination), and the turn to it was at 180 degrees. The jump-off course opened for a lot of galloping, but also some tight turns.
Norway’s Nina Braaten kicked off the jump off, and did the best of her position with a steady clear on Blue Loyd with a time of 44.70. Jeroen Dubbeldam held a high pace on BMC Van Grunsven Simon, a crossed the finish line on a clean sheet and the time 35.61. It rode much faster than it looked, and Dubbeldam put a lot of pressure on the other riders with his fast time. After the Dutchman’s ride it was hard to say where time could be shaved off to take the lead. The rest of the riders tried to catch Dubbeldam; Carsten Otto Nagel was behind with yet another clear round on 37.22 though, Simon Delestre took two fences with him and Billy Twomey was also unable to match Dubbeldam’s time when he finished on 37.35. Steve Guerdat tried his best though, and set off at a fierce pace – but it all went wrong at the first part of the double combination. Guerdat missed his line and stride, and Jalisca as a consequence jumped through the double making it impossible to clear of the second element. Beerbaum and Chaman had the b-element of the same combination down, although their time was good at 35.87. Kevin Staut went for a steady and controlled clear on his bucking-phantom, and ended up with a clear and a time of 38.93. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson made it clear that he was in Verona to win, and did all he could to catch Dubbeldam. It wasn’t enough though, and the Swede was 0.32 seconds behind on Casall la Silla. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum was last to go, and the only rider left to do something about Dubbeldam’s time. Although she and Shutterfly left no stone unturned in their effort to win, it was not to be their victory. Michaels-Beerbaum crossed the finish line 0.06 seconds behind Dubbeldam. So it was Dubbeldam who received 35.000 Euro, a new Rolex watch and 20 valuable points. The German spell of the first three rounds was broken, and Verona had a Dutch winner in former Olympic champion and his lovely horse BMC Van Grunsven Simon.
Of his winning horse, Dubbeldam said:”I have always known Simon had the talent to become a really top horse, but at first he was almost too careful and took some time to bring on. But now he has learnt the way to do things, and he has become the horse I was sure he could be from the beginning.”
Jeroen was understandably jubilant about scoring his first World Cup win. “I have had this horse for three years and in the beginning he was over-careful and it took time to get confidence, but I wasn't thinking about that as we galloped to the last today! I knew Meredith and Rolf were to come, and I had taken one more stride between the second and third than they would - so I had to go for it down that last line!”
Of being the runner-up, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum said: "My last show with Shutterfly was five months ago, so I am just delighted to be here. I didn't know whether I would ride him in today's class, I was planning on Checkmate. But actually it was Jeroen who said Shutterfly jumped so well on the first day; you must ride him. That is why I slowed down and let Jeroen win!! It is a great day for me and for Shutterfly. In 2002, he was second here and so it is quite amazing to come here eight years later and be second again!”
Swedish hero of the day, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson said "I am very happy to have two such good horses as Ninja and Cassall. Today we were all in the 35 second mark so the one that thought backwards at any point would come off worst. Today that was me!!"
On Saturday Jumping Verona offered the riders the opportunity to win a share of a 50.000 Euro prize fund when competing in the headline class, the Premio Antonio Carraro Small Grand Prix.Fences fell all over Rolf Ludi's course in the first round. Thirteen riders jumped clear in the first round and for the jump off track, the Swiss course builder cleverly left only two turns where time could be made up so fortune really did favor those brave enough to gallop. France's Simon Delestre was second to go, and set an excellent standard of 36.72 on Napoli Du Ry without appearing to go especially fast, although he did make very balanced turns. It was looking as if he wouldn't be caught at all, but 12th to go was the by now familiar figure of Bernardo Alves. Bridget turned like a polo pony to take nearly a second off the time and 35.91 was good enough to give the Brazilian his second win in two days. “Yesterday, I loved Bridget, now I love her more” laughed Bernardo. Argentina's Jose Larroca was delighted to be third on a back to his best on Royal Power.
Penelope Leprevost and Belle Dame won Saturday’s opening class. The stylish Leprevost made a risky turn into fence eight, and that paid off for the French pair. They crossed the finish line on 57.14. However the home crowd did get something to cheer for when Paulo Zuvadelli steered Rodiamond round in 57.30 to take second place. “There is much less pressure on me here compared to riding in France in Lyon last week so I can enjoy the show more! It doesn't affect Belle Dame though; it is only me that gets more tense,” said Leprevost after her win.
Italy finally got a deserved home win in the Fondaria SAI Accumulator which closed proceedings on day two of Jumping Verona. The fastest time belonged to Italy's dual silver medalist Juan Carlos Garcia, who got a standing ovation from the packed stands. “It is so special to win in Italy, for me this is the best feeling,” said Garcia – who also competes in eventing at international level.
Friday’s featuring class was the Premio Acqua Cutolo Rionero, worth 12.500 Euro for the winner. Seventeen riders got through to the second round. Steve Guerdat and the appropriately named Ferrari were fifth in the ring and with an immaculately ridden round took three seconds of the previous best. The others then all had to play catch up! Jeroen Dubbledam and BMC Van Grunsven Simon ended up second best with a time of 35.16 and Rodrigo Pessoa was third on Champ in 35.94. “Ferrari is very fast, but we have not won that many classes as we often miss in the jump off because he wants it as much as I do and this makes him hard to ride sometimes. But we have worked on this recently and so I rode him with more confidence today but I was not expecting to be as fast as that,” the Swiss rider said of his win.
Finland’s Nina Fagerström should probably get a price as the most eager rider, as it took her a lot to get to Verona: “I fell off in Helsinki and broke two ribs and punctured a lung, so when I got out of hospital I was not allowed to fly home. But I really wanted to come to Verona (even though my doctor doesn't think I should be riding either!) so I came by boat and train. 28 hours on the boat and 17 on the train to be precise!”
Full results of all classes can be found here.
Source: Press release from Jumping Verona 2010 by Lulu Kyriacou.