The Netherlands’ Jur Vrieling (48) claimed a convincing victory in the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2017/2018 Western European League at Helsinki in Finland today. And it was a truly tough test, with the confines of the small Ice Hall arena proving simply too tight for a number of the top combinations who lined out on the 40-strong start-list. But even though he was riding one of the biggest horses in the class, the impressive 1.74m stallion VDL Glasgow v. Merelsnest, the Dutchman left them all floundering in his wake when last to go in the edge-of-the-seat nine-horse jump-off against the clock.
“He really isn’t an indoor horse, but he has so much scope and he jumped fantastic! This arena was very difficult for the course builder, but he did a great job,” said Jur Vrieling.
He was chasing down the target set by Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (36) whose jump-off time of 38.41 seconds with Mary Lou might have been even faster but for a dramatic stumble on the turn to the final oxer. The penultimate Brazilian partnership of Marlon Zanotelli (29) and Celena looked set to overtake the Swedish pair but, a little cautious to the last, broke the beam in 38.60 which left them in third, just ahead of Great Britain’s Robert Whitaker (34) and Catwalk IV who produced the first clear against the clock.
Last in, Vrieling had his instructions. “I saw the first three go, and I was very lucky because Eric van der Vleuten and Leopold van Asten (Dutch riders who didn’t make it into the jump-off) helped me with my plan. Leopold said – whatever happens keep coming, I think you can make it if you are fast enough over the last three fences,” said Vrieling.
He was right about that, but even Vrieling, who gained the advantage with a relentless gallop to the last, was surprised to see his winning time of 36.85 seconds go up on the board, well over a second quicker than runner-up
“Jur did the best job, he deserves this win. For me, I was very happy to get second place and some points. My horse was my biggest worry (after her stumble) but she is fine,” said Henrik von Eckermann.
He too was full of praise for the skill of Brazilian course designer, Guilherme Jorge. “Even before the first round I said to Jur what an amazing job he did – 17 jumps in this ring, that’s a lot! And even if I didn’t win I am so happy with my ride. Great job!”
And Jorge admitted that the horses and riders weren’t the only ones under pressure today. “To build the course with the limitations here, and to have 17 fences was a challenge for me, as well as the riders, but what a fantastic result we saw,” said course designer Jorge Guilherme.
Some years ago riders weren’t so keen to travel to the more-distant early qualifying legs in the Western European League but all that has changed, with last week’s event in Oslo and this weekend’s fixture in Helsinki both supported by the very top contenders.
“This year we have the most number of international riders we have ever had…and over 150,000 visitors over the weekend as well. Thank you to everyone involved, riders, course designers, everyone! As they say – team work makes dream work,” said Tom Gordin, the Helsinki show director.
Vrieling knows all about that. He and the fabulous Glasgow were part of that brilliant Dutch team that claimed the Longines FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2017 trophy just a few short weeks ago in Spain.
Now that he has 20 points on the board, he will miss the next two rounds of the Western European League, at Verona in Italy next Sunday and in Lyon, France the following weekend. But he intends to return to action with his stallion at round five in Stuttgart, Germany in November.
“I want to look after my horse. Before we went to Oslo last week he hadn’t jumped a fence since Barcelona, and now we have done two shows so he gets a break,” said Vrieling.
Verona has attracted another world-class field, so there’s just another seven days to go before it’s time to buckle up and hold on tight once again as the action-packed Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping series picks up even more pace in the race to the 2018 Final in Paris, France next April.