Well, the enthusiastic German crowd certainly got quite a show yesterday for the 9th leg of the Western European World Cup series held in Eastern Germany. The world number one ranking rider proved his worth yet again when he finished first, ahead of a very competitive field in Leipzig. A total of 40 top-combinations consumed the start list, with nine of the top ten riders in the World Rankings in attendance. The only top-ten ranked rider not in attendance was Nick Skelton, so with the likes of Pius Schwizer, Steve Guerdat, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, Edwina Tops-Alexander and Kevin Staut warming up, we knew it would be a tight competition from start to finish.
Belgium’s much-talked about Olivier Philippaerts was first in the ring with his grey stallion Cabrio van de Heffinck. The proven combination made the technical track look very smooth, coming out with only 4 faults. Their single fence fault “was more of a reflection of his growing partnership with Cabrio van de Heffinck than an indication of the difficulty of the track” said Louise Parkes of FEI. Cabrio’s scopey stride and elastic nature proved well suited for the track, so any rider’s looking for an early giveaway on the course’s difficulties would have to wait a little longer.
The first clear came with Sweden’s Jens Fredricson aboard the aptly-named Lunatic and shortly after, seventh on the start list, 24 year old Dutch Silver medalist Maikel van der Vlueten would also join the list for the jump off with his Olympic stallion VDL Groep Verdi. Maikel attacked the course head on, with the same confidence this young superstar shows at every event. In case you didn’t know, Maikel was the youngest rider to grace the Olympic podium last summer in London. You wouldn’t guess the young Dutchman is as young as he is, when speaking to him he displays a clear and quite-confidence that exudes older years and yet, Maikel will turn only 25 years old next month.
Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue, who was the oldest horse of the competition at 16 years young, jumped an exceptional round for the home crowd but had an unfortunate 4 faults. Next in for Sweden, was Malin Baryard-Johnsson with the adorable H&M Tornesch. A frustrating time fault would keep this competitive duo from joining the jump off. The same fate would wait for Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and the talented Bella Donna, who also jumped a picture perfect round but suffered a single time fault at the end.
Luciana Diniz and Lennox, winners of last week’s first CSI5* event of the year, executed a strong clear for Portugal while Edwina Tops-Alexander and her 9 year old Belgian-bred gelding Ego van Orti gave the 1.60 track plenty of room. I know Edwina would have been very happy with that round, mentioning before the course walk, that she had hoped to jump Ego a bit more during the 4 days in Leipzig as to manage the young gelding’s blood but alas, the combination tackled the track very well. Serving up yet another top World Cup finish for the leading lady rider.
After Edwina and Ego, clear rounds followed in quick succession with Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer, Germany’s Christian Ahlmann, Dutchman Marc Houtzager, Ireland’s Denis Lynch, Dutchman Gerco Schroder and France’s Kevin Staut.
With the Western European series moving into the final stages, all but three further qualifiers remains, the battle for a qualifying spot at the Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April is intensifying with every round and yesterday was no exception. With a ten horse jump-off, the Leipzig World Cup winner would have to fight for the title.
A hopeful Jens Fredricson and Lunatic started things off for Sweden, as the first combination in the jump off. Fredricson made it all the way to the third element of the former triple combination before earning a fault. Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten was only one fence from home when VDL Groep Verdi gave it a slight rub. Unfortunately for Portugal’s Luciana Diniz, Lennox touched two rails to earn a score of 8 faults, leaving everything wide open for the remaining seven riders.
Edwina, winner of the sixth leg in Geneva with the lovely Itot du Chateau, issued out the first fault free round with a moderate time of 41.21 seconds. Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer followed suit, picking up the pace only slightly, with a time of 40.56 seconds.
Christian Ahlmann, currently ranked number one in the world, made a breath-taking turn to fence three that gave Taloubet Z only two strides on approach. The number one ranked rider, who was not fashioning his Rolex armband, attacked the course from start to finish. Taloubet Z, ears forward, handled the pace with ease, stopping the clock at an amazing 36.45 seconds. The time was sure to put the pressure on the remaining four riders. Would Christian win for a second year in a row?
Marc Houtzager and Tamino Z, winners of the World Cup event in London Olympia before Christmas, had two down while Ireland’s Denis Lynch and Abbervail van het Dingeshof handled the quick pace well. Denis’ time was strong enough to put him into second place, despite being more than two seconds off the pace with his big bodied gelding.
Marc’s Olympic team mate Gerco Schroder was also clear but slightly cautious with a time of 39.53 seconds with his kind-hearted stallion London. Last to go was Frenchman Kevin Staut, who is currently second on the World cup standings under Sergio Alvarez Moya. The number one ranked Frenchman set his pace early, aboard his trusty grey mare, Silvana HDC.
The mare, who crushed the opposition in the thrilling fifth leg at Stuttgart, Germany in November, was looking strong enough to catch Taloubet Z. Unfortunately, Kevin took a wide turn back to fence three and, arriving on awkward distance, Silvana reached out and paddled through the red poles before accidentally dislodging Kevin. Luckily, the Frenchman landed on his feet and made a quick but smooth exit. (Both horse and rider were fine).
It was all over! Christian had won for the home crowd of 9,000 spectators and ensured his second World Cup win in a row in Leipzig, Germany. A perfect way for Taloubet Z to end his winter season, the stallion now goes to stud for a few months, before returning to work later in the spring.
“For sure, he was in great shape today, he was amazing in the first round”, said Ahlmann. “He gave me such a super feeling, so I tried to take all the risks in the jump-off because of that. In Mechelen we were placed (10th) and I took him to Basel last week but we had a bad Grand Prix so it is great to finish the season in such good shape!” he added.
Referring to Taloubet’s extraordinary record of success at this show in Leipzig, Christian said “it’s a super, super show, everything is perfect for the riders and the horses and Taloubet always goes unbelievably well here!” The world’s number one rider plans to compete at Zurich next Sunday, “I will probably ride Codex there” he pointed out, but he is unsure what horse he will take to the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April. “Maybe Taloubet will be ready again, who knows, we will wait and see!” he concluded.
Well done Christian and his team for this wonderful win! See you in Zurich!
1, Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/0 35.45; 2, Abbervail van het Dingeshof (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/0 38.65; 3, London (Gerco Schroder) NED 0/0 39.53; 4, Picsou du Chene (Pius Schwizer) SUI 0/0 40.56; 5, Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 41.21; 6, Lunatic (Jens Fredricson) SWE 0/4 38.48; 7, VDL Groep Verdi (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED 0/4 39.29; 8, Sterrehof’s Tamino (Marc Houtzager) NED 0/8 38.92; 9, Lennox (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/8 40.34; 10, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/Elim.
Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2012/2013 – Standings after Round 9 at Leipzig (GER):
1. Sergio Alvarez Moya ESP – 75
2. Kevin Staut FRA – 69
3. Pius Schwizer SUI – 59
4. Christian Ahlmann GER – 57
5. Jens Fredricson SWE – 48
6. Denis Lynch IRL – 41
7. Luciana Diniz POR – 41
8. Marcus Ehning GER – 40
9. Roger-Yves Bost FRA – 39
10. Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE – 38
11. Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS – 36
12. Jeroen Dubbeldam NED – 35
13. Marc Houtzager NED – 34
14. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER – 34
15. Maikel van der Vleuten NED – 33
16. Penelope Leprevost FRA – 33
17. Steve Guerdat SUI – 30
18. Gerco Schroder NED – 26