Germany’s Marco Kutscher steered Cornet Obolensky to victory in the tenth qualifying leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2011/2012 series at Zurich in Switzerland this afternoon. The 13 year old stallion produced an exhibition of effortless jumping to outclass the rest of the 40-strong field on a tough day that saw six riders opting to retire in the opening round.
Course designer, Rolf Ludi, really piled on the pressure with a colossal track that quickly separated the best from the rest. But one man who was unfortunate to miss a place in the seven-horse jump-off was Belgium’s Ludo Philippaerts whose 14 year old Kassini Jac left all the fences intact, only to be penalised for crossing the finish line just outside the 69-second time limit.
Kutscher’s result has rocketed him up from 13th to fourth place on the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping leaderboard going into the last two qualifying legs at Bordeaux, France next weekend and Gothenburg, Sweden two weeks later. The series table continues to be headed by World No. 1, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson from Sweden, while runner-up spot in today’s competition has promoted Frenchman, Patrice Delaveau, to second place in the standings.
With the Final drawing ever-closer, the battle for a starting spot in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands next April is growing more intense with every outing. And Ludi’s course today ensured that only horses of the highest calibre would earn those precious qualifying points. It was relentless from the outset – with even the opening vertical putting paid to the ambitions of many. The massive white oxer at fence five, jumped off a left-hand turn, was completely demolished by the pathfinding Italian partnership of Roberto Arioldi and Lastrup who subsequently retired, and although Beat Mandli, one of 11 Swiss starters from the field of 40, produced a copybook clear when third to go, another 18 horses took their turn before Delaveau ensured a jump-off with a whirlwind tour of the track with the buzzy Ornella Mail HDC.
Two horses later, Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and the brilliant little Cevo Itot du Chateau followed suit, and then Kutscher and his grey wonder-horse turned on the style to do likewise. Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood, Frenchman Simon Delestre with Napoli du Ry and Great Britain’s Ben Maher and Tripple X completed the jump-off line-up as the challenging track continued to otherwise take its toll. The massive 2.10 metre wide triple bar at fence ten was an enormous test, as was the penultimate triple combination which proved highly influential.
With the first two elements of the latter still in place, it was the opening oxer here that compromised Mandli’s chances against the clock as he lowered that to return a time of 33.46 seconds. Now the fourth fence on the new course, the turn after the second element here would be a deciding factor, but it was the approach that clinched it for the winning combination.
Delaveau and his flying machine Ornella Mail had already posted a super-fast round in 32.26 seconds to set the target and Tops-Alexander had followed with another clear, but a half-second slower, before Kutscher entered the ring. “I only took six strides turning to the double and I won it there” the 36 year old German rider explained afterwards. Cornet Obolensky has been jumping with such incredible ease throughout this indoor season, and Kutscher has been able to tap into the horse’s enormous well of scope like never before. Fourth to go he sliced almost another half-second off Delaveau’s time in a display that demonstrated the extraordinary grace and power of the big grey for whom, it seems, no pole is too high and no distance too wide.
Diniz and Winningmood fell victim to the triple bar, but Kutscher’s lead looked set to be threatened by Delestre who scorched around the track in the quickest time of 31.19 seconds only to hit the vertical second-last, and then only Maher stood in the way of a German victory. But the Briton and his talented home-bred Tripple X, winners on home soil at Olympia in London just before Christmas, also fell foul of the triple bar, now the second fence on the track, and had to settle for fifth place behind Simon in fourth, Tops-Alexander in third, Delaveau in runner-up spot and Kutscher at the head of affairs.
It was an emotional moment for the winning rider. “Two years ago my horse had a fall on the road here in Zurich and injured his foot – he was out of action for a year and when he came back to work we had to start again at zero” Kutscher explained. On his return to indoor jumping last season the stallion didn’t show anything like his usual form – “I often wondered if he would ever come back and be the same again – but today I got my answer!” the happy rider said.
“He’s in super form again now and this is my first time to win a big Grand Prix like this with him so it’s a very special day! Normally he’s not the fastest horse in the world, he gets a lots of chances in Grand Prix competitions but the result depends a lot on the jump-off track. He has a slow canter but a very big jump – today the course was perfect for him and I took a lot of risk in the turns because I know he can really jump anything! He was fantastic!” said the elated rider.
Runner-up, Patrice Delaveau, said “Marco was unbeatable today – this was clearly his weekend!”, and Edwinda Tops-Alexander agreed.
Kutscher is now planning to take Cash to Bordeaux next weekend and is undecided about whether Cornet Obolensky will go to Gothenburg for the last qualifying round at the end of next month. “And I’m not sure if I will take him to the World Cup Final just yet – maybe I will, but my big target with him for the year is, for sure, the Olympic Games”. If today’s form is anything to go by, one way or another Cornet Obolensky looks set for a sensational 2012.
For further information on the tenth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2011/2012 at Zurich, Switzerland go to website http://www.mercedes-csi.ch/de-home.phtml The next leg of the series takes place at Bordeaux, France on Saturday February 4, 2012. For all information on the French fixture check out website http://www.jumping-bordeaux.com/
1, Cornet Obolensky (Marco Kutscher) GER 0/0 31.80; 2, Ornella Mail HDC (Patrice Delaveau) FRA 0/0 32.26; 3, Cevo Itot du Chateau (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 32.76; 4, Napoli du Ry (Simon Delestre) FRA 0/4 31.19; 5, Tripple X (Ben Maher) GBR 0/4 31.26; 6, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/4 32.97; 7, Una Traviatta (Beat Mandli) SUI 0/4 33.46; 8, Kassini Jac (Ludo Philippaerts) BEL 1/69.36; 9, Regina Z (Harrie Smolders) NED 4/65.56; 10, Touchable (Claudia Gisler) SUI 4/66.07.
Full results at http://www.mercedes-csi.ch/en-freitag.phtml
FACTS AND FIGURES
40 competitors from 17 nations – 11 from Switzerland.
Only one Swiss rider in jump-off – Beat Mandli who was third into the ring in the first round with Una Traviatta – he finished 7th in the competition.
3 double-clear performances.
Belgium’s Ludo Philippaerts just missed out on a place in the jump-off when clearing all the fences in the first round with Kassini Jac but picking up a single time penalty.
The time-allowed in the first round was 69 seconds.
6 riders retired over the first-round track.
2 father/daughter combinations competed in today’s leg at Zurich – Switzerland’s Hansueli Sprunger and his daughter Janika Sprunger and Norway’s Geir Gulliksen and his daughter Victoria Gulliksen.
There are just two further qualifying legs of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2011/2012 series for riders in the Western European League remaining – at Bordeaux, France next Saturday, 4 February, and at Gothenburg, Sweden on Sunday 26 February.
The top-18 from the Western European League will qualify for the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands in April.
Patrice Delaveau – “This is a great show here in Zurich. The course was very difficult – usually we have between 13 and 15 clear rounds but here there was only half as many as that – it was tough”.
Edwina Tops-Alexander – “This is my second time to finish third with Itot here in Zurich – he is 16 years old this year and he felt just as good as did last year!”
Beat Mandli – “I’m very happy with my result today. I already won a class here on Friday and I only have this horse (Una Traviatta) three or four months”.