Christian Ahlmann wins the 9th leg of the FEI World Cup in Leipzig (GER)…

Christian and Taloubet Z

Christian and Taloubet Z

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.

Olivier Philippaerts (BEL)

Olivier Philippaerts (BEL)

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 (POR) and Lennox

Luciana Diniz (POR) and Lennox

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.

Pius Schwizer was faster with 40.56 seconds

Pius Schwizer was faster with 40.56 seconds

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.

Kevin was last to go but unfortunatley got dislodged at the 3rd fence

Kevin was last to go but unfortunately got dislodged at the 3rd fence

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!

Results….

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

Christian Ahlmann takes over the World #1 spot…

Christian Ahlmann

Christian and Taloubet Z at Spruce Meadows this year for their win of the $350,000 BMO Nations Cup with Team Germany

Sorry Steve but it seems that Germany’s very own Christian Ahlmann has taken over the top spot on the new Rolex Rankings, just out.

Christian, winner of the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final last Friday in Geneva, has taken over as World Number One in the Rolex Rankings, published today.

With 2,555 points, Ahlmann has jumped up from third place into the top spot, bumping Olympic champion Steve Guerdat (SUI) to second place on 2,455 points.

Ahlmann’s countryman Marcus Ehning has also moved up the Rolex Rankings, going from seventh into third place, with Frenchman Kevin Staut now placed in fourth position.

Christian+Ahlmann+FEI+World+Cup+Finals+2011+khC630txFkglIt was in 2003 that he really caught the attention of the media when claiming team and individual gold at the European Championships in the German city of Donaueschingen.

The following year, he was part of Germany’s bronze medal team at the Olympic Games in Athens and also took team bronze at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Aachen in 2006.

In July of this year, Ahlmann and his partner Judy-Ann Melchior, who rides for Belgium, celebrated the birth of their son, Leon. Next week, the new world number one will also be marking his 38th birthday.

Ahlmann is currently lying sixth in the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2012/2013 standings, halfway through the series, and will no doubt be setting his sights on repeating his Rolex FEI World Cup 2010/11 win at the Final in Gothenburg next year.

 

Christian wins for Hickstead…

“The one who could fly without wings and conquer without sword”

The biggest and perhaps, the class laden with the most emotion, was this evenings Hickstead Memorial Prix dedicated to Canada’s Olympic gold medal winner Hickstead. The Olympic stallion, that tragically passed away during the World Cup in Verona last year just after the first round, found himself back in the ring at Verona in a lovely evening of remembrance and recognition.

Due to the tragic and sudden death, the class last year was cancelled and the prize money was set to be shared amongst all the riders. Instead, the riders suggested that a class be created in Hickstead’s memory the following year, and tonight we see that consideration come to life in the most fitting recognition of the amazing stallion’s tragic death.

Tonight’s Hickstead’s Memorial Prix 100,000 Euro was won by Christian Almann and Taloubet Z.

The top 3 rider’s in tonight’s memorial Prix were in fact all German riders. Ludger Beerbaum came in 2nd with his stallion Chaman while Marco Kutscher landed in 3rd place with his gelding Cornet’s Cristallo. It was a full class, with 42 top international riders and what better way to remember one the world’s greatest horses then a Prix with his past competitors.

100,000 Hickstead Memorial Prix Results

A bit of History of the World Cup…

Well we just finished the 3rd leg of the FEI Rolex World Cup in Lyon, France and getting to talk with everyone I was curious how everything started.
Well it started in 1978 and now 30 years later the FEI World Cup has spanned the globe. The FEI World Cup series began in 1978 with show jumping, and was then extended to Dressage in 1985, Driving in 2001 and Eventing in 2003.

The FEI World Cup was set up with the 1978/79 indoor season thanks to the insight of Max Amman, a Swiss journalist considered by sector specialists to be an authentic “guru”, and the impetus of the International Riders Association.

The International Equestrian Federation found the keys to bring the sport of show jumping from niche spectator attendance to the overall public at large.

The sport of show jumping needed a competition formula that, in the wake of highly successful events in other sports disciplines such as Formula 1 for example, could ensure a loyal following of enthusiasts, expand interest beyond the mere scope of competitors and harmonize technical content by formalizing a circuit embracing events of spectacular status. It helped riders as well as sponsors, who sought new investment opportunities in this sport, to formulate a year round competition schedule, thus uping the competition anty if you will.

The World Cup took the sport from the large open-air arenas to Sports Centers and from natural grass fields to courses with sand and synthetic materials. Techniques also had to keep pace with developments: shorter courses, narrower fences, lighter barriers and variable time allowed. Horses had to achieve greater elasticity and speed. Riders had to accept new approaches to management and resources in order to support a full time, year round show schedule. The World Cup marked a major change in the sport of international show jumping.

The countries generally considered as the “major powers” in world of show jumping all took up the challenge: France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Switzerland and Holland immediately stepped forwards as candidates to host the Western Europe “League” that since 2007/08, together with the Final, has been named the Rolex FEI World Cup.

The United States, Canada, Argentina, Mexico and Brazil simultaneously formulated their own response to the Old Continent. This challenge was later taken up by other countries in Eastern Europe, Asia and even the Southern Hemisphere.

The International Equestrian Federation celebrated thirty years of the FEI World Cup by joining forces with the prestigious name of Rolex, now the sponsor of the European League and the Final.

The leading names in international show jumping respond every year from five continents: the Leagues (Currently fourteen) qualify only the best ‘pairs’ for the highly-awaited final. In 2010, for the first time, the final was held in Geneva, Switzerland. In 2011, the final three were Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and his stallion Taloubet Z. Canada’s Eric Lamaze and his famous mount Hickstead in second and Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED) was third with BMC Van Grunsven Simon.

As regards the winners of the 34 finals so far, American and German riders stand out in the roll of honor respectively with eight and nine victories. German riders have dominated the scene in the third millennium. American-born German rider, Meredith Michaels Beerbaum, boasts three victories, of which two consecutive (2005, 2008 and 2009), on a par with Marcus Ehning (2003, 2006 and 2010). Germany’s Christian Ahlmann claimed the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2011 title for Germany on his home ground in Leipzig with his stallion, Taloubet Z.

This spring it was Rich Fellers who took the Rolex FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final title at s-Hertogenbosch with his long-time partner Flexible. For the first time in 25 years, a U.S. rider has won the World Cup. The previous US victory, goes way back to 1987 with Katharine Burdsall. Second place was this year’s Gold medalist Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets. Third was another Swiss machine, Pius Schwizer and his mare Carlina.