Guerdat Takes
Early Lead

04 April 2019

Swiss ace comes first in Gothenburg opener

Steve Guerdat of Switzerland won Day 1 of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals in Gothenburg on Thursday, in a thrilling opener to three days of Jumping competition.

 

Guerdat - the 2015 and 2016 World Cup winner - and his 11-year-old-partner Alamo finished just ahead of Pieter Devos of Belgium, riding Apart, and Olivier Philippaerts, also of Belgium, aboard H&M Legend of Love. The latter took an early lead and held it until Devos crossed the beam as the 28th rider of 33 in the competition. View the complete list of results here to find out how your favourites got on.

 

Watch Guerdat's magnificent round below...

The stands in the Scandavium arena in Gothenburg were packed with excited fans from around the world.

They watched on as riders from 20 nations assembled to see who would challenge defending champion Beezie Madden of the USA for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title.

 

With three combinations representing Sweden, would the home nation finally see a champion for the first time?

 

Santiago Varela Ullastres of Spain set a huge and daunting course, designed to challenge riders from Day 1, as they commenced with Table C jumping. While only three points were awarded for each rail down, the faults were added to the riders’ times, so clean rides were the goal, especially with scores being carried forward into the next two days of Jumping.

 

There were some options on the course when it came to turns, but every team had to face a spooky and fragile Longines wall, as well as obstacle combinations and tricky oxers.

 

Thursday’s event started with a disappointment for Beat Mändli of Switzerland, who became separated from his horse after a miscommunication at vertical No.11 and was eliminated.

 

Olivier clings on

Only third to ride, Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts was the first to go clear, and with his time of 61.43 seconds, maintained the lead well into the competition. Miraculously, Philippaerts held onto his seat after losing a stirrup in the latter part of the course, and his smooth, speedy finish was a testament to his partnership with his stunning 13-year-old gray mare, H&M Legend of Love.

 

Rider after rider tried to beat Philippaerts’ time, to no avail, although there were some beautiful clear rides from Martin Fuchs of Switzerland, Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski of Poland, Abdel Saïd of Egypt, and Christian Ahlmann of Germany.

 

Devos takes charge

It wasn’t until Pieter Devos of Belgium had his turn on the course that Philippaerts saw his time bested, as his countryman turned in a clear ride in 61.31 seconds, putting Belgium in the 1-2-3 positions, with Francois Mathy Jr. in third place.

 

Reigning champion Beezie Madden of the USA tried to top Devos, once again riding the amazing Breitling LS in a stadium gone utterly silent with anticipation. Madden turned in a beautiful ride until the very last rail, meaning 3 points had to be added to her time of 60.74 seconds, for a total of 63.74 seconds and an ultimate 10th place finish.

Third rider from last, world No.1 Steve Guerdat of Switzerland knew what he had to do to come out on top.

Pushing the speed and cutting every corner at its tightest, he crossed the line at 61.28 seconds with no penalties and emerged Thursday’s victor.

 

Mathy wound up in a respectable fourth place, with Martin Fuchs in fifth and Eduardo Alvarez Aznar in sixth, with another clear ride of note that sets him up nicely for continued success on Day 2 of Jumping on Friday evening.

 

Last year’s Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ silver medalist Devin Ryan is currently in 25th place after seeing his ride unravel a bit, and 2018 bronze medalist Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden, who set the crowd wild with cheers, sits at 16th place, after knocking only the final rail of the course like Madden.

 

Tune into FEI TV on Friday as the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final begins and Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final continues...

 

Words by Patricia Salem

Images by Liz Gregg / Christophe Taniere

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