It was a pivotal moment in the career of 44-year-old Frenchman Marc Dilasser today when winning the last qualifier of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022/2023 Western European League in Gothenburg, Sweden.
Partnering the 13-year-old gelding Arioto du Gevres he pinned Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer and Vancouver de Lanlore into runner-up spot while Denmark’s Lars Bank Andersen (Ethene) and Andreas Schou (Darc de Lux) finished third and fourth in a thrilling four-way jump-off.
“This is my first ever World Cup win, and to do it at an iconic show like Gothenburg makes it even more special!”, Dilasser said with the broadest smile this evening.
Swedish course designer, Peter Lundstrom, set a tough first-round test to which only these four combinations found all the answers. There were 11 Swedes on the start-list including the world number one combination of Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward, but none of them went clear over the 14-fence track.
Time and again riders made it all the way to the final line on which they had to rebalance their horses after a massive triple bar three fences from home, only to be defeated by the penultimate double of gold poles or the final water-tray oxer.
“The course was something special and it asked a lot of questions. It was technical but there were at least 10 riders who deserved to be clear but had a fence down”, Lundstrom pointed out. And in fact a total of seven finished with just four faults.
Threw it down
Dilasser was first to go against the clock and really threw it down to the other three with a spectacular run from Arioto. Lundstrom left the bogey double from the first round in place to test them once again, but the Frenchman just set off like a rocket and with a fearless long shot to the final fence broke the beam to set the target when clear in 41.02 seconds.
Schwizer was next to take his turn and was also fault free but 1.33 seconds slower with the 14-year-old Vancouver de Lanlore when stopping the clock on 42.35. Denmark’s Andreas Schou and the handsome stallion Darc de Lux were looking good until clipping the first element of the double that had broken so many hearts first time out but last man in, his compatriot Bak Andersen, made no mistake. Although having to settle for third with the 11-year-old mare Ethene who crossed the line in 42.55 seconds he was more than delighted because she is proving well capable of stepping up a level.
“We had great courses throughout the week, not just today, and a lot of them have been very technical. But after this show I see a big future for Ethene who I have had for more than two years. She gave me such a good feeling during the week. Normally I compete her in the Saturday classes at a show but now I see she is ready for the big Sunday competitions like the World Cup and it’s very exciting!”, pointed out the Dane who has been based in Elmshorn near Hamburg in Germany for over a decade now.
Dilasser talked about the gelding he has been competing for more than seven years now. “Arioto was not always an easy horse, when he was young he was difficult to ride but he has always been a fighter!”, he said. His jump-off tactics were pretty simple today, “to go as quick as I could, to do my very best and to wait and see how it was for everyone else”, he explained.
He was thrilled with his success, so much so that he decided to change his travel plans for tonight. “This has been a fantastic day for me and for my owners. I had a plane to catch this evening but instead we cancelled that and we will stay one more night and break out the champagne here in Gothenburg - it’s important to celebrate the big moments!”, he said happily.
Today’s competition has now decided the final placings on the Western European League table from which the top 18 will qualify for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2023 Final in Omaha, USA next April after 14 thrilling competitions.
Never in line
With no previous points on the board Dilasser was never in line for a qualifying spot, but Schwizer’s runner-up finish and Schou’s fourth place have firmly booked their tickets to Omaha while amongst others competing today who also needed extra points were Sweden’s Wilma Hellstrom and Great Britain’s Scott Brash who have easily made the cut.
Brazil’s Yuri Mansur has slotted into that 18th place, but since he is classed as an “Extra Athlete” he takes the single spot on offer to a rider from outside Western Europe in this series. And that means that world number four, Dutchman Harrie Smolders who finished second at last year’s Final in Leipzig (GER) and who tonight holds the 19th spot on the WEL table, has the opportunity to go one better when the Final gets underway on 4 April.
Invitations will now be sent to all those qualified, and the final line-up for Omaha will be confirmed in the coming weeks.
Meanwhile the final word tonight went to Show Director Tomas Torgersen.
Due to the pandemic Gothenburg Horse Show hasn’t run since 2020 and he said “we are so happy to be back and so pleased with the great sport throughout the week! Our great audience came again and we are very thankful for that. We celebrate 46 years this year and we look forward now to what is to come, including our 50th anniversary!”
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