Excitement galore in show jumping World Cup

What a competition this is turning out to be. The World Cup showjumping final is all about excitement, tension and amazing talent.

Steve Guerdat
Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, Olympic champion and defending title-holder, is now leading after two rounds
(Image: FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst)

Anticipation, excitement, disappointment and jubilation were all on show today in the second round of the show jumping World Cup at Gothenberg. When the world’s best riders are all after a much-coveted title, anything can happen… and it did.

Smolders Harrie, (NED), Emerald N.O.P. Longines FEI World Cup Final 2 - Goteborg 2016 © Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans
Harrie Smolders (NED) and Emerald N.O.P. (Image: Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans)

There were seven clear rounds over a testing course which required absolute balance and precision. Qualifying for the jump-off were Christian Ahlmann (Germany) on Taloubet Z, Denis Lynch (Ireland) on All Star 5, Steve Guerdat (Switzerland) on Corbinian, Harrie Smolders (Netherlands) on Emerald N.O.P, Marcus Ehning (Germany) on Cornado NRW, Marco Kutscher (Germany) on Chaccorina and Peter Lutz (USA) on Robin de Ponthual. Christian was first to go and set the pace, jumping a very professional clear and taking some inside turns to record a time of 36.85. Denis Lynch was next up and also jumped clear but took it a bit slower, finishing on 41.42. The others all made mistakes, both Harrie and Steve had one rail down, with the other three having two down. None came near Christian’s time.

In the first round of the class, competitors went in reverse order from their standings in the speed class the day before. Christian had chosen to ride his second horse, Colorit, and not had a great result, so he was early in the order. This competition is unusual as it is possible to ride two horses. The last line caused most of the issues, with the third and second to last gold fences being the bogey ones. As a result, there were some heartbroken riders finishing on four faults. None more so than Penelope Leprevost, riding last as the winner of the first round. She must have had a rush of blood to her head coming into the final fence, after jumping a beautiful clear to that point, as she went for six strides instead of the seven most had done and paid the price with the fence coming down. A host of other riders rued that one rail, including world number one, Simon Delestre. Australian Chris Chugg was another with just four faults, a beautiful round on his young horse, Cristalline.

So, after the calculations had been done to establish the leaders after two rounds, it was Steve Guerdat from Switzerland who topped the rankings. Marcus Ehning is second, with Harrie Smolders and Daniel Deusser third equal. Australian, Chris Chugg is in 14th position.

Chris Chugg
Gritted teeth and Aussie determination: Chris Chugg and Cristalline (Image: FEI/Arnd Bronkhorst)

Horses that really impressed in the second round were Denis Lynch’s All Star 5, a horse with huge scope, and Harrie Smolder’s Emerald N.O.P. Cornado NRW (Marcus Ehning) and Taboubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) are also very professional and polished, formidable horses. Chris Chugg should be well pleased with Cristalline. Our long-time favourite, Flexible, ridden by Richard Fellers, put in a great effort for just four faults, looking like a far younger horse than he is at 20.

Before the second round even started, there was an announcement that following yesterday’s speed class, Connaught ridden by Mohamed Talaat (Egypt) was found to have blood on its offside flank at the post-competition boot and bandage control. The FEI Steward reported the issue to the Ground Jury and the horse was disqualified under Article 242.3.1 of the FEI Jumping Rules.

That means that Mohamed Talaat and Connaught take no further part in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Final but, subject to veterinary approval, will be eligible to participate in other competitions at the Gothenburg Horse Show.

Pommeau du Heup, the horse ridden by Zhiwen Zhao (China), has been withdrawn from the World Cup final following treatment for a cut to its off-hind leg. The cut required stitches and the horse has been withdrawn on veterinary advice. Pommeau du Heup and Zhiwen Zhao finished 29th, with just four seconds to add after an awkward jump at the oxer at fence seven.

Laura Renwick (GBR) withdrew her horse Bintang from the first round on Thursday night. The horse was very stiff on Thursday morning and it is thought it had got cast in its stable the previous night. He received chiropractic and physiotherapy treatment during the day, but Laura felt that he wasn’t quite right when she brought him out for the pre-competition warm-up, and decided to withdraw.

Full results of the second round can be found on this link

Standings after two rounds of competition can be found on this link.

There is a video of Steve Guerdat’s first round worth a look on this link.

The full FEI report (written by Louise Parkes) with quotes from the riders is  below our gallery of images.

Germany’s Christian Ahlmann won tonight’s dramatic second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2016 Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, but defending champion, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, leads the standings going into Monday’s third and last competition.

Ahlmann and the brilliant 16-year-old stallion, Taloubet Z, set the standard in the seven-horse jump-off against the clock and couldn’t be caught, but Ireland’s Denis Lynch rocketed up the leaderboard when producing the only other double-clear of the competition to finish second ahead of The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders and Emerald in third, while Guerdat and Corbinian slotted into fourth place.

Marcus Ehning finished fifth with Cornado NRW to keep the potential for a record-breaking fourth series title still very much alive for this popular German star, while his compatriot Marco Kutscher lined up sixth with Chaccorina ahead of America’s Peter Lutz and Robin de Ponthual in seventh spot.

Degree of difficulty

Course designer, Santiago Varela from Spain, increased the degree of difficulty with today’s tough first-round track that tested power, accuracy, rideability and courage. The triple combination at fence eight proved influential, but it was the line from the oxer at 11 to the vertical at 12, the following water-tray oxer at 13 and the final vertical at fence 14 that decided the fate of many. Horses that jumped big at 11 often arrived deep at the tricky vertical at 12 with its gold-coloured poles offset by a rocking horse fence-filler. And some also put their eye on the water-tray under the penultimate oxer at 13 to put themselves out of contention as they rode down to the last.

There were no clears until Ahlmann set off, ninth of the 33 starters, and the pure class of the round he produced from the stallion with which he won the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title on home ground in Leipzig (GER) in 2011, always suggested that today he would be the man to beat.

First to go against the clock, he again just cruised home in 36.85 seconds without appearing to be under the slightest pressure, and although Lynch also left all the fences intact with his stallion All Star who has been in the form of his life in recent months, he seemed to have left the door wide open for those following him when stopping the clock in 41.42 seconds. But as it turned out, none of the rest could leave all the fences in place, both America’s Peter Lutz and Germany’s Marco Kutscher collecting eight faults while Harrie Smolders lowered the oxer at fence two, now the third-last obstacle on the track, and then Marcus Ehning clipped the second element of the double at fence three and the penultimate vertical to put paid to his chances.

Guerdat looked set to threaten Ahlmann’s lead when last to go, but the crowd gasped when Corbinian hit the opening vertical. Asked afterwards if this unnerved him and made him change his plan, the Swiss rider said, “no, I just wanted to make sure I didn’t have another fence down, I wasn’t going to catch Christian anyway so I was going for second place. That was the plan – it was never about winning the class today, it was to be in the lead tonight. The championship overall is more important than a single class” he said wisely.
One of the favourites

Ahlmann was one of the firm favourites to take the 2016 title before the Final got underway yesterday, but he was lying well down the leaderboard after two mistakes with Colorit yesterday.

He talked tonight about his disappointment when things didn’t quite go his way in yesterday’s first leg. “The plan was a little bit different, but its the sport. I tried to take one day (of jumping) off Taloubet and to use another horse, it was a risk but not a big risk because he did well over the past few weeks, but yesterday was not our best day, and at the end two down left me in 25th place. It was a really bad start, but this is a championship and the possibility is still there and we had a very good second day apparently!” he pointed out.

Talking about his plan for the jump-off he said “I sure wanted to go fast, I have a really fast horse, an unbelievable horse and my only chance to move forward in the rankings was a good result today so I had no other option – so I tried to put my colleagues under pressure and it worked out!”

He now lies joint-10th alongside Irishman Lynch and America’s Lutz going into the final afternoon and well within sight of that coveted Longines FEI World Cup™ trophy.

Reason to be pleased

Lynch meanwhile also had every reason to be pleased. “My horse (All Star) is not a very quick horse, but today I was lucky because my colleagues had fences down so I finished second. I’ve taken a long time with this horse. I’ve had him since he was six years old and he likes playing around, bucking and messing a lot, so he’s not always that easy, but we know each other really well now” he said of his 13-year-old stallion. “And he’s been in great form since December and through January and  February with lots of good rounds”, he added.

Harrie Smolders admitted that his stallion, Emerald, is also feeling pretty good, in fact so good that he very nearly unseated his rider in the first round today. “He jumped just amazing, almost too well in the first round – I almost came flying off but luckily I stayed on him! I knew I needed a top place today to be in touch for Monday so I’m pleased with how it has worked out, and now I’m waiting for Monday” he said.

Guerdat meanwhile reflected on how things have fallen in place for him over the last two days. The possibility of taking his second Longines title in a row looks very much on the cards.

A lot of questions

“I’m really happy. There were a lot of questions before the Final started that I really didn’t know the answer to….my horse has lot of ability, he has quality and he will be a very good horse one day, but we are still a bit looking for each other and I didn’t think he would be good enough to be in the lead before the final day” he pointed out. But the defending champion is not getting too carried away with it all just yet. “It was just another day today, I’m going to enjoy myself tomorrow and I’m really looking forward to Monday now!” he added.

Talking about his horse, Corbinian, he explained, “he’s done quite a few big classes with me just we haven’t been so much in the results, we’ve had a lot of four faults and sometimes eight faults, never really because of a lack of quality but because I can’t get to his quality, He’s a bit difficult to ride for me, I did two or three nations cups last year and maybe four or five five-star Grand Prix classes and he was very good in the World Cup in London. I felt then he was the horse for this final, I had the luck to be already qualified so I didn’t have any pressure to get the points.”

Guerdat also made a joke at his own expense as tonight’s post-competition press conference was coming to a close. When asked what made him decide to come back for the jump-off knowing that there are two more rounds of jumping and that he might already be leading the standings he replied, “I’m not that good at calculating, but I thought if I don’t mess it up completely I would be in the lead but I wasn’t exactly sure – I’m here for the sport and not the mathematics!” he said.

When it comes to the crunch on Monday however, it looks very possible that the Olympic gold medallist and defending Longines champion may well have the last laugh.

Result: 1, Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/0 36.85; 2, All Star (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/0 41.42; 3, Emerald NOP (Harrie Smolders) NED 0/4 39.18; 4, Corbinian (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/4 40.24; 5, Cornado NRW (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/8 39.05; 6, Chaccorina (Marco Kutscher) GER 0/8 s39.48; 7, Robin de Ponthual (Peter Lutz) USA 0/8 40.58.