Dutch double-Olympians, 29-year-old Maikel van der Vleuten and his trusty 15-year-old gelding VDL Groep Verdi, won today’s nail-biting third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League in Verona, Italy. With pin-point accuracy they raced into the lead when third-last to go in the 11-horse jump-off, and their time of 35.91 seconds couldn’t be bettered despite a brave attempt by Italian runner-up Alberto Zorzi (28) with Fair Light van T Heike while Belgium’s Pieter Devos (31) and Apart finished third.
Zorzi however had a big smile on his face when he learned that today’s result has raised him to the top of the League table ahead of the fourth leg of the series in Lyon, France next week.
Course designer, Italy’s Uliano Vezzani, left them with only one option in today’s final round, a fast and furious run that would test courage, balance and commitment. And when it came down to it the dynamic Dutch duo had it all. Verdi is a big, tall stallion but van der Vleuten knew he could trust him every inch of the way.
“He doesn’t change, he is the same every day, in rain or sunshine and no matter where he is. He is very special, and most of all he is very honest,” said van der Vleuten.
There were four Italian contenders in the jump-off so the home crowd were on the edges of their seats. But 23-year-old rising star Luigi Polesello with Panama Tame and Emilio Bicocchi and Sassicaia Ares both had two fences down, and although Lorenzo de Luca was clear with Halifax van het Kluizebos his time of 38.00 seconds was only fast enough for fourth place.
Van der Vleuten has had Verdi since he was a four-year-old, and the bond between them is key to their success. “He is a horse that likes to win and that’s very important. If you are a good rider and you have a horse that is not able or doesn’t want to win, then it’s just not possible. Every week I try to feel how he is, I don’t need to teach him jumping anymore, he knows his job and what’s most important for me is that he has to be happy!”
Full results here.