CSI-W Helsinki (FIN) - BENGTSSON BEATS THEM ALL IN HELSINKI..
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson stormed to victory at the second leg of the 2004/2005 FEI World Cup Jumping series in Helsinki, Finland today riding the 10 year old gelding MacKinley.
Second-last to go in the seven-horse jump-off against the clock he was chasing the target-time of 40.09 seconds set by Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Check Mate but the Swedish rider left the result in no doubt when breaking the beam in the super-fast time of 39.26 seconds.
In Oslo seven days earlier the course had proven almost too easy, allowing 18 into the timed round, but Bengtsson said that today's track was very different indeed. "It was much more technical, the fences were very close together and a lot bigger and I think the course designer did a very good job" the winner explained.
Finnish designer Aki Ylanne certainly created a stir over the weekend with three riders eliminated and another eight retiring during Saturday's Grand Prix which was won by Gerco Schroder and Eurocommerce Lanapoule. "The way the courses jumped all weekend it was better to retire if you were in trouble rather than to keep going - there was no room in the ring to make up for mistakes so you had to be really accurate every time" Rolf-Goran pointed out.
Oslo winners Wim Schroder and Eurocommerce Montreal led the way against the clock and put it up to the rest of them with a good clear round in 41.99 seconds but Meredith and her new ride Check Mate, runners-up in the Grand Prix 24 hours earlier, shaved almost two seconds off that. The German rider is really excited about the nine year old gelding which is owned by Hyperion Farms and which finished third in Oslo - "I think he could be as good as Shutterfly" she said after Saturday's big class.
It looked very much like she might record her first big win with the horse when the next three riders failed to put up a serious challenge. Promising British rider James Davenport, younger brother of Team Aegon's Richard Davenport, lowered just on fence in a time of 47.31 seconds when next into the ring while Denmark's Thomas Velin and the 10 year old Quidam de Revel stallion Godsend du Revendy knocked two on their tour of the track.
Frenchman Philippe Leoni steered the mare Cyrenaika clear, but his slow time of 48.00 seconds was no threat to Meredith who looked to have it all sewn up with just two horses left to go.
Rolf-Goran was not prepared to be intimidated by the German rider's obvious advantage however. "The first few had been really fast and I knew Meredith would be hard to beat but my horse is just getting better all the time and I felt that I could do it" he said afterwards.
When asked where he thought he had picked up those precious extra fractions of a second he said "we just kept moving the whole time, the horse never hesitated and I knew he was very quick when we crossed the line". And he was right because the clock showed a time of 39.26.
Switzerland's Beat Mandli, Leading Rider at the Finnish fixture following a series of excellent results which included victory in the FEI World Cup qualifying competition on Friday night with Indigo, made two mistakes when last into the ring today and finished in sixth spot behind Davenport in fifth, Leoni in fourth, Wim Schroder in third and Meredith in second place while Thomas Velin had to settle for seventh position. Just a single first-round time fault kept Germany's Franke Sloothaak and Sundance K out of the jump-off so they slotted into eighth.
Rolf-Goran has had a superb year with MacKinley and has reinforced his reputation as one of the most consistent riders on the international circuit. Individually fifth in Athens and members of the Swedish bronze medal winning team the partnership finished ninth at the FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Milan in April 2004. "I'm very lucky to have this horse" said the 32 year old rider who has been based north-west of Hamburg in Germany for the last two years in a yard he shares with Danish rider Bo Kristoffersen.
"I got MacKinley when the horses that Gerry Smit used to ride were dispersed. He is a Dutch gelding by Goodwill - we have been together since last year and although it took us a little time to get to know each other we now get along really well" he explained.
MacKinley is just 10 years old so the Swedish rider, who also took individual bronze and team silver at the European Championships in Arnhem, Holland in 2001 is looking forward to a great future with him.
Today's result rocketed Rolf-Goran up to equal-third along with Philippe Leoni on the FEI World Cup Jumping leaderboard. Holland's Wim Schroder, winner in Oslo and third again today, retains his place at the top of the table but Meredith's runner-up result today moves her up one further place to second and just four points separate the top two going into the third leg of the series in Verona, Italy on November 7.