It was sheer delight for Germany's Heinrich-Hermann Engemann and heart-break for fellow-countryman Marcus Ehning in the first leg of the 2007/2008 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping final in Gothenburg, Sweden this evening where the former headed the line-up with Aboyeur W while the 2006 champion was eliminated with Sandro Boy.
Engemann's sizzling ride over Rolf Ludi's speed track just before the half-way stage really put it up to the rest of them, and he goes into tomorrow's Jump-Off class with the edge. But he will have to work hard to maintain his two-point lead over Switzerland's Steve Guerdat who lies second and the three-point lead he has established over third-placed Jessica Kuerten from Ireland. The big test has only just begun, and there is an army of top names breathing down his neck.....
Britain's Michael Whitaker had the unenviable task of guiding the 39 starters around the 13-fence track presented by Swiss course-designer Rolf Ludi when first into the ring, but his lovely clear with Suncal Portofino proved a little too careful. His time of 75.05 seconds proved very beatable and, third to go, the home side's Malin Baryard-Johnsson and the veteran Butterfly Flip shaved almost four seconds off that to reset the parameters.
Then America's Peter Wylde and Esplanade took the lead when crossing the line in 71.31 seconds but the picture changed even more dramatically when Engemann set about his business. Always extra-competitive in speed classes Aboyeur set off at a cracking pace and, keeping the pressure on the whole way round, Engemann asked for a huge stand-off at the penultimate vertical before galloping down to the final oxer and through the beam in a staggering 68.37 seconds.
"My horse was really concentrated - he was fantastic!" the 48 year old rider said afterwards.
Three horses later however, Switzerland's Steve Guerdat also finished inside the 70-second zone when clearing the line in 69.88 with Tresor and that was always going to guarantee a strong finishing spot. Marcus Ehning was next to go with Sandro Boy and was looking good over the early part of the track. He had successfully negotiated the triple combination at fence nine and the following vertical but as he turned right-handed toward the double at fence 11 the horse suddenly stuck in his toes and resisted his rider's instructions to go forward. Ehning circled and re-presented, but the stallion was determined he was not going to jump and the man who claimed the title in Las Vegas in 2003 and again in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia two years ago had to accept elimination to the astonishment of the crowd.
Then one of the other favourites fell by the wayside when the great Oki Doki left two fences on the floor for Holland's Albert Zoer. With time added for fences down, mistakes were penalised heavily, but things brightened up again with a lovely clear round from Germany's Ludger Beerbaum and his new star All Inclusive NRW. Their time of 71.31 was no challenge to the leader however.
Switzerland's defending champions, Beat Mandli and Ideo du Thot, ensured a prominent position when registering a fault-free performance in 70.99 and Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum did likewise when her 2005 champion, Shutterfly, made it all look fairly academic as he cruised effortlessly round the track in 70.49 seconds but nobody seemed prepared to take the risk that might oust Engemann from pole postion until the final two contenders came into the arena.
America's Rich Fellars was riding the only Irish-bred horse in the competition and the Cruising stallion, Flexible, gave him a superb run to break the beam in 70.40 leaving just Ireland's Jessica Kuerten to take her chance. She had been watching the drama unfold and knew that the target the leader had set would be near-impossible to beat. "I saw Heinrich's round and then I saw what happened to Marcus Ehning and I thought to myself - I will be really good or else I'll mess it up!" she said, "but I got a great shot to the second fence and I decided to just let Libertina do her job. I knew, even before I went in, that I couldn't beat Heinrich's time. That was an amazing round he jumped today" she added.
In a round that oozed class and confidence Castle Forbes Libertina stopped the clock on 70.31 seconds and that was good enough for third spot behind Guerdat while Engemann reigned supreme.
"Two years ago I competed in my first World Cup final in Kuala Lumpur and I finished tenth so when I came here this weekend I wanted to do better than that" Engemann said after his celebration gallop around the Scandinavium Arena. "Aboyeur is a 14 year old Westphalian and I have him since he was five years old so we have been together now for nine years. He is a great competitor - he has a brave heart and he is always a fighter for me" he added.
He will need to continue fighting because with riders of the calibre of Guerdat and Kuerten snapping at his heels he has no room for complacency and going into tomorrow's second leg Fellars lies fourth ahead of Michaels-Beerbaum in fifth and Mandli in sixth. Wylde, Baryard-Johnsson and Ludger Beerbaum fill the next three places and with the tension building at a rapid rate the stage is set for a right royal battle to decide the fate of 2007/2008 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping title.....
RESULT: (FINAL FIGURE IS POINTS CALCULATION AFTER FIRST FINAL COMPETITION): 1, Aboyeur (Heinrich-Hermann Engemann) Ger 68.37 - 40; 2, Tresor V (Steve Guerdat) Sui 69.88 - 38; 3, Castle Forbes Libertina (Jessica Kuerten) Irl 70.31 - 37; 4, Flexible (Rich Fellars) USA 70.40 - 36; 5, Shutterfly (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) Ger 70.49 - 35; 6, Ideo du Thot (Beat Mandli) Sui 70.99 - 34; 7, Esplanade (Peter Wylde) USA 71.31 - 33; 8, Butterfly Flip (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) Swe 71.33 - 32; 9, All Inclusive NRW (Ludger Beerbaum) Ger 71.51 - 31; 10, Summer (Mandy Porter) USA 72.46 - 30; 11, Ilostra Dark (Eugenie Angot) Fra 72.96 - 29; 12, Exquis Oliver Q (Harrie Smolders) Ned 73.75 - 28; 13, Eurocommerce Milano (Gerco Schroder) Ned 74.78 - 27; 14, Suncal Portofino (Michael Whitaker) GBR 75.05 - 26; 15, Olinda (Todd Minikus) USA 75.15 - 25; 16, Onira (Brianne Goutal) USA 75.48 - 24; 17, Up Chiqui (Kent Farrington) USA 77.65 - 23; 18, Guarana Champeix (Rutherford Latham) Esp 77.84 - 22; 19, Ninja la Silla (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) Swe 78.02 - 21; 20, Madick (Helena Lundback) Swe 78.08 - 20; 21, Isaac (Royne Zetterman) Swe 79.08 - 19; 22, Quick Study (Lauren Hough) USA 79.11 - 18; 23, Ever Mury Marais Z (Patrick McEntee) Bel 79.54 - 17; 24, Oki Doki (Albert Zoer) Ned 79.78 - 16; 25, Isaac du Jonquet (Mikael Forsten) Fin 79.84 - 15; 26, Ace (Richard Spooner) USA 80.40 - 14; 27, Levisto Z (Judy-Ann Melchior) Bel 80.72 - 13; 28, Black Ice (Jill Henselwood) Can 81.49 - 12; 29, Carino (Guy Thomas) NZL 84.03 - 11; 30, Ritus (Lukasz Jonczyk) Pol 85.07 - 10; 31, Common Sense (Mikhail Safronov) Rus 85.58 - 9; 32, Hidden Creek's Quervo Gold (Margie Engle) USA 86.00 - 8; 33, Vancouver d'Auvrey (Danielle Torano) USA 86.86 7; 34, Top Gear (Takamichi Mashiyama) Jpn 87.26 - 6; 35, Poncorde (Henno Ellermann) Est 88.78 - 5; 36, Catwalk (Darrin Dlin) Can 91.69 - 4; 37, Arielle (Abdullah Mohd Al Marri) UAE 93.57 - 3; 38, Clarence (Shaun Neill) RSA 101.05 - 2; 39, Sandro Boy (Marcus Ehning) Ger Elim.
For further information on the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Gothenburg, Sweden check out WEBSITE www.goteborghorseshow.com
Show President is Per Lojdquist, Show Director is Tomas Torgersen, Sport Secretary is Wiveka Lundh and Press Officer is Mayvor Thorin - contact (mobile) +46 705 828420.
PHOTO CATALOGUE - Photographs of the winning riders in high and low resolution can be downloaded from the FEI online catalogue. To access it, please visit www.horsesport.org>Media Centre>Catalogue. There is no reproduction fee, but please credit photographer (photographer's name will appear under each photo)/FEI. Usage is strictly for editorial purposes.
(c) Kit Houghton