Germany’s Marco Kutscher steered Cornet’s Cristallo to victory at the seventh leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League at Olympia in London (GBR) today. (FEI/Jon Stroud).
German riders dominated the prizewinner’s line-up at the seventh leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League at Olympia in London, Great Britain, today where Marco Kutscher steered Cornet’s Cristallo to victory ahead of defending series champion Daniel Deusser riding Carriere.
Excitement is always guaranteed at the hugely popular pre-Christmas fixture staged in the Grand Hall, where the proximity of the spectators and the tight confines of the arena combine to create an electric atmosphere. And today’s competition sizzled from start to finish, with 13 of the 38 starters qualifying for the second-round jump-off against the clock.
Britain’s Robert Whitaker made the first-round course designed by Ireland’s Alan Wade look deceptively uncomplicated when foot-perfect as first rider into the ring. However it quickly became clear that the track was best suited to horses requiring minimal adjustment to their stride pattern, while the time-allowed of 72-seconds took its toll. And for three of today’s starters – Britain’s Ben Maher and Michael Whitaker and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander – it was utterly frustrating to miss out on the deciding round when collecting just a single time fault each.
Wade tested control of pace all the way, and the tall vertical at four was influential as was the following triple combination of a double of oxers followed by a vertical. The next line of three fences also proved testing, the vertical at six requiring caution before kicking on to the wide oxer at seven and then a tricky three-stride distance to a water-tray vertical at eight which came up very quickly for onward-bound horses. Wade also set them a challenge on the last line of fences, with the oxer at 11 followed by a double of verticals before the run down to the final oxer. The was a huge moan from the crowd when long-time World No. 1, Britain’s Scott Brash, made it all the way here only to leave it on the ground with Hello Sunshine.
Robert Whitaker and Catwalk IV set the jump-off target with a clear in 40.49 seconds, while the normally super-fast Italian combination of Luca Moneta and Connery were also a little careful when leaving all the poles in place in 42.10. Norway’s Geir Gulliksen and Edesa S Banjan were fault-free in 41.42, but Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Tornesch raised the temperature when first to break the 40-second barrier in 39.70 seconds, and that result was always going to count.
Last year’s Olympia winners, The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Sapphire B, hit the penultimate vertical, formerly fence four, which played a major role this time out. Located close to the arena entrance and on an angle to the remaining two elements of the former triple combination which brought this second course to a close, it caught a number of horses off-balance including the fabulous 8-year-old stallion, Singular LS La Silla, who looks another real star-ride for Germany’s Marcus Ehning.
With five left to run, defending Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, Daniel Deusser, took command with a superb run from the 11-year-old mare Carriere who broke the beam in 38.44 seconds, but his lead was short-lived. Because fellow-countryman Kutscher galloped through the timers in 37.66 seconds despite an unsettling moment at the double at 9, now three from home. “The beginning of the jump-off wasn’t perfect and I wanted to do one less to the double but he was a bit behind me – he really helped me there. I was very deep, very close – but he made it!” Kutscher said afterwards.
However he had to watch three strong challengers take their turn before he would be assured of victory. Constant van Paesschen has enjoyed a tremendous season with Citizenguard Toscan de Sainte who was recently named Horse of the Year in Belgium, but a mistake at the third-last, the oxer at fence 3, was followed by two more for 12 faults. The penultimate contender was Bertram Allen who had already racked up a double of wins at the London fixture over the last few days and the 19-year-old Irish sensation who clinched victory on his World Cup debut in Verona, Italy last month looked set to do it again until his mare, Molly Malone, clipped the penultimate vertical before crossing the line in what would be the fastest time, 36.81 seconds.
Now only Britain’s John Whitaker stood between Kutscher and those tantalising 20 maximum qualifying points, but the 59-year-old maestro’s stallion, Argento, stood too far off the oxer at fence three to also return a four-fault result. It would be his son, Robert, who would fly the flag for family and country when slotting into fourth behind Baryard-Johnsson in third and Germany’s Kutscher and Deusser in first and second spots respectively.
“It’s my first press conference here this week. I normally have a good show in London but so far it wasn’t great, so I was a bit disappointed until today!” said Kutscher afterwards. “I knew if I was in the jump-off I’d have a good chance and it worked out for me” he added. He congratulated his fellow-countryman Deusser who borrowed Carriere to compete in London. “It was his first time to ride the horse and he had a very good class today. Even with a horse he doesn’t know he’s always dangerous” he pointed out.
Deusser, who competes for Stephex Stables, explained that two of his horses were injured last week. “I really wanted to come to London so I said to my boss that I have two options. Either I stay at home or I take two others, and he said on Tuesday just try this horse one time. So I rode her on Tuesday morning and she was on the truck on Tuesday afternoon!” said the man who is pre-qualified for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2015 Final as defending champion.