After four tough rounds and a man to man jump-off it was Rich Fellers and Flexible who were crowned as winners in the Rolex FEI World Cup Final 2012 in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. The arena was packed with spectators, and fantastic riding by the top three from Friday – Pius Schwizer on Carlina, Steve Guerdat on Nino des Buissonnets as well as Rich Fellers on Flexible – kept it exciting to the very last fence was jumped.
The first round track consisted of twelve fences and included a combination at 8a and b – and a triple combination at the very end of the course. Most of the faults came at the latter; all of the German riders had faults here, Marco Kutscher, Marcus Ehning and Philipp Weishaupt experienced a small collective nightmare when they all had one fence down and it was the last element of the triple combination. The track demanded a lot of the horses, and scope and power was needed to produce clear rounds.
After an exciting first round in the third part of the Rolex FEI World Cup final, it was Pius Schwizer, Rich Fellers and Steve Guerdat who where in the lead with only one time penalty each. Only five of the 24 riders produced clear rounds over the demanding thirteen fence track; home rider Maikel van der Vleuten maybe had the most popular clear on VDL Groep Verdi (Quidam de Revel.
Then came Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on Casall La Silla (Caretino x Lavall I), Kevin Staut on Silvana *HDC (Corland x Widor), Steve Guerdat on Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) and Rich Fellers on the oldest horse in the competition – the 16 year old stallion Flexible (Cruising x Safari). The leader ahead of this round Pius Schwizer had one single time penalty on Carlina (Carvallo x Landgraf I) to add to his previous zero score.
While Maikel and Rolf climbed up on the result list, others fell down; Eric Lamaze had two down on Coriana van Klapscheut (darco x Hearbreaker), as did Rik Hemeryck on Quarco de Kerambars (Darco x Skippy II) and Beezie Madden on Cortes C (Randel Z x Darco).
Round two was also demanding, with a twelve fence track that included a triple combination at 8 a, b and c – as well as a combination straight out of the corner at 10 and b and a huge oxer as the last fence. Fit horses with power and condition were definitely needed.
Denis Lynch set the first clear of the second round on Abbervail van het Dingeshf (Nonstop x Jus de Pommes), but had too many faults to make any big climbs over all. Maikel van der Vleuten yet again rode a very good round, but unfortunately the front pole on the last oxer fell to the ground – and the crowds gave a huge and disbelieving ‘Noooooo!’ witnessing their home rider ending up at a total of 15 penalties.
Philipp Weishaupt rode a fabulous and controlled round on Monte Bellini (Montender x Ramiro), but was left with one time penalty to finish at a total score of 10 penalties which eventually would prove good enough for fourth place overall in the final. Rolf and Casall La Silla had the middle element of the triple combination down, and were out of the contest for the top with 12 penalties overall. Kevin Staut’s Silvana *HDC has jumped great throughout the week, but the mare seemed to run out of gas and finished with a disappointing two fences down to leave Kevin with 11 penalties overall; in the end finishing fifth in the final.
Then it was time for the top three. Steve produced another fantastic clear on Nino, who stilled was quick and fresh through the entire course – although the two had a little bit of a hairy moment at the last element of the triple combination. The crowds went wild with excitement when Steve crossed the finish line. Rich Fellers and Flexible have all the experience in the world, and put it into good use today. Although there was a little tension on the penultimate line from 10 a and b to 11, Fellers and Flexible managed to stay clear and a jump-off was secured! Pius Schwizer and Carlina was last to go, but unfortunately the first element at 10a fell to the ground and the two were left with a total of five penalties overall and third place.
Steve was first to go in the jump-off, and yet again left all seven jumps intact. Nino used a little time in the air on the second oxer and on the penultimate triple bar – and Steve didn’t go flat out to the last vertical either, but the time was still really good at 26.61 seconds and put a good amount of pressure on Rich.
You could hear a pin drop as Rich and Flexible set off. Flexible is a naturally quick horse both on the ground and in the air, which gave Rich that little advantage today together with the stallion’s experience. Tightening every turn as well as using the stretch down to the last fence to shave off valuable fractions of time, Rich and Flexible crossed the finish line on 25.97 seconds to finish 0.64 seconds ahead of Steve. A great showjumping pair earned a deserved World Cup title, while the roof lifted in the Brabanthalle as Fellers and Flexible where celebrated together with Swiss riders Guerdat who ended second and Schwizer who ended third.