France, America, Sweden and The Netherlands will all have representatives at tomorrow’s World Equestrian Games Jumping final. (Photo © Normandy2014.com).
After a thrilling second qualifying round in Caen’s d’Ornano Stadium this afternoon, the home side’s Patrice Delaveau and Orient Express have elevated themselves into pole position courtesy of a clear round which earned them a standing ovation from the delighted capacity crowd.
However, the Frenchman admitted that he has been feeling the pressure.
“For me this has been a difficult day. Everyone was expecting this. I live 40km away from here and I know everyone and all everyone has talked about every day was this competition,” he said. “So the pressure has been huge for me and to jump the last fence was a real relief.”
Cortes C jumped clear for Beezie Madden to leave America’s leading lady second in the standings.
“It’s definitely been an exciting day and even though my horse had one fence down [in the first round] he warmed up well for the second. It’s so exciting getting into the final four.”
The outstanding Casall Ask, lying at the head of affairs when he came in to jump, made his first mistake of the entire contest with Rolf-Goran Bengtsson when he took out the front rail at the hugely influential oxer at 4. There was still a long way to go to the final fence at number 10, but the cool and stylish Swede ensured that his bay stallion left all the rest up to book his ticket to tomorrow’s cliffhanger.
“I had my fault early on and I knew that I had space for one and no more so it was exciting for me to see the finish line,” said Bengtsson. “And my fault was a proper fault — it wasn’t just a little touch — and I couldn’t explain why it happened and why my horse took off so strangely [at that fence] and that’s what I was thinking about as I was going to the next oxer!”
Jeroen Dubbeldam, fourth, completes Sunday’s quartet. The Dutchman revelled in the moment of his clear round, punching the air and waving to the crowd as he cantered around the arena with Zenith SFN.
“The pressure was very high,” said Dubbeldam, who rides in a World Games final for the first time. “I was in 12th last night so I said to myself that the only way [to qualify] is to ride a double clear and wait for the others to get faults. That may not be very nice but it worked out for me.”
McLain Ward lived dangerously with Rothchild, rubbing the front rail of the oxer at four and then dropping a hind leg in the Land Rover oxer at 7, but he, too, crossed the finish line with zero to add.
A look at that final leaderboard shows how close Ward came to joining his teammate Madden in that final four, just 0.31 of a penalty separating him from Holland’s team gold medal-winning rider Dubbeldam.
Germany’s Daniel Deusser tried his hardest to push his way to the top of the leaderboard for his camp which has suffered disappointment this week when coming so close — and yet so far — from a team medal (they were fourth). But Deusser’s Cornet d’Amour clouted a pole on the upright at 8 that preceded the treble putting paid to his hopes.
Finishing with a flourish
The massively popular Moroccan Abdelkebir Ouaddar netted the first clear round of this final individual decider, despite a massive rap by Quickly De Kreisker, 13th on the final leaderboard, at the orange vertical at 5.
Marcus Ehning demonstrated why he is one of the best in the world when he followed Ouaddar’s clear with one of his own on the grey stallion Cornado NRW, 10th.
The clean rounds then came thick and fast — from Ireland’s Denis Lynch (All Star 5, ninth), Ukrane’s Cassio Rivetti and the bay stallion Vivant, eighth, Ireland’s Bertram Allen and his scopey mare Molly Malone V, seventh — the quiet 19-year-old allowing himself a punch of the air as he cantered through the finish — and then from those at the business end of the board — Ward, Madden and Delaveau.
In total there were nine clears from the 21 starters, the field depleted from the earlier round by the withdrawals of Gerco Schroder, Gregory Wathelet and Simon Delestre among others.
Among the big names to encounter trouble over another spectacular Frederic Cottier course was Ewina Tops-Alexander, who took out two fences with Ego Van Orti, including the orange vertical at 5. Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat with Nino Des Buissonnets added four to his cumulative total at the ‘bogey’ oxer at 4.
The London winner was followed into the arena by a former Olympic Champion, Rodrigo Pessoa, whose Status began to look like he was running out of gas. After taking out three rails, at 4, 6 and 7, his great jockey retired him to a supportive cheer from the crowd.
The consistent mare Vienna Olympic had two down with Shaikh Ali Bin Khali Al Thani, the front rail of the oxer at 4 the first to go, followed by the vertical in the middle of the treble.
In the hour following the first round, Frederic Cottier had overseen the building of his new 10-fence masterpiece. Tomorrow his skills will be put to the test again as he builds another track worthy of testing the likes of Delaveau, Madden, Bengtsson and Dubbeldam as they ride their own and each other’s horses.
“Tomorrow will mostly be about the confidence of the riders so I will be less visable than in previous rounds,” said the renowned course-designer. “We have four great riders here and they are not here by chance. We started with 160 and now we have four. The sport spoke today.”
Don’t miss the action. The first horse will jump at 3pm local time.
Top 5 results (Individual)
Patrice Delaveau (FRA)/ Orient Express HDC – 4.08
Beezie Madden (USA)/ Cortes C – 4.16
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (SWE)/ Casall Ask – 4.34
Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED)/ Zenith SFN – 6.25
McLain Ward (USA)/ Rothchild– 6.56