FEI World Cup Jumping Update: Geneva (SUI)  

12 Dec 2004

Rordrigo Romps Home in Geneva... 

Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa produced a sparkling performance with Baloubet du Rouet to win the fourth leg of the FEI World Cup Jumping 2004/2005 series in Geneva this afternoon.

Going fifth in the thrilling 11-horse jump-off, Baloubet stormed home in 38.80 seconds and none of the rest could match that time with Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Coster slotting into runner-up spot following a slow and careful clear.

Course designers Heiner Fischer and Rolf Ludi had kept the riders thinking all weekend and came up with another big track, full of open spaces but posing plenty of problems.

During the pre-competition course-walk Pessoa predicted that the final line of planks and then a short six or long five strides to the triple combination would prove the undoing of many and he was right about that.

With the first two elements of the combination consisting of oxers many horses had to stretch to the limit to make the back bar of the second element, while the spread on the oxer at fence five also claimed a number of victims.

With so many through to the timed round however it was always going to be a tough one to win and Germany's Toni Hassmann collected eight faults this time out with his young mare Lolita who is still relatively inexperienced but who is, he believes, "the best horse I’ve ever ridden".

Eugenie Angot and Cigale du Taillis are always exciting to watch and they didn't disappoint with a tight turn after the double at fence nine but the following vertical hit the floor to leave the French partnership on four faults.

Belfast Grand Prix winner Daniel Etter followed but the new fence at 15 introduced for the jump-off proved extremely influential, offset at an awkward angle from the opening oxer, and Hermine d'Auzay hit this but was very honest indeed to come home with just those four faults when her rider presented her to the second-last oxer on what seemed like an impossible stride.

Impossible is a word often connected with Pessoa's Baloubet du Rouet whose playful character can sometimes prove frustrating but today the 15 year old stallion was firing on all cylinders as Pessoa steered him to a round of the track that was nothing short of perfect.

The course was designed to encourage speed on the long gallop to the last and Baloubet, always the showman, exploded over the final oxer to stop the clock in 38.80 seconds.

Even though there were another six to follow him into the ring it looked as if he could not be beaten on time but Pessoa said afterwards "you never believe that you are fast enough – it was good for me with lots of long lines to gallop so I could let my horse open up his big stride but there were lots of fast riders coming after me so I didn’t think I’d done enough".

Baloubet had twisted a fetlock in Hannover and his rider did not expect the horse to be back at work before the new year but he recovered so quickly that Pessoa felt he was ready to go back to work – "it's a good thing when you know a horse inside out, you know when he is ready to perform and you make the right choice – its not mathematics its just logic but it takes horsemanship to do it – we've had this horse for 10 years now so we know him really well and he was ready for this today" he pointed out.

Holland's Leopold Van Asten and VDL Groep Fleche Rouge had the unenviable task of following him into the ring, returning home with just four faults while Switzerland's Fabio Crotta had the spectators holding their breath as he made it all the way to the very last with Madame Pompadour before hitting that.

Frenchman Michel Hecart lowered both the difficult second fence and the second element of the double for eight faults so, with only three horses left to go, Christian Ahlmann decided to stay sensible and go for a carefully executed clear with Coster.

"My horse had jumped so well in the first round but I saw Rodrigo in the jump-off and he was so fast that I didn't think I could do better – also Robert Smith and Marcus Ehning were to come so I decided to be careful and it paid off" he explained.

His clear round in 50.49 was very slow indeed but, as it worked out, he had guessed it right.

Smith has enjoyed an amazing run of recent form and has never looked more confident but he opted for a new line from the second-last which led to a loss of rhythm for Marius Claudius who arrived on a difficult stride to the very last fence which fell as the clock showed 39.39 seconds.

The British rider has plenty of horse-power of a different kind at his disposal these days as he won a car in Stuttgart, then won a Jeep when taking the Leading Rider trophy in Belfast last weekend and, as Leading Rider once more after a great week in Geneva, today won a Volkswagen Beetle which he proceeded to drive at reckless speed round the arena as the awards ceremony came to a close.

Now only Marcus Ehning and the lovely old gentleman For Pleasure stood between Pessoa and victory and when the 18 year old stallion hit the bogey second fence it was all over, leaving Pessoa at the top of the line-up with Ahlmann in second, Smith in third and Ehning in fourth.

Rodrigo is thinking about writing another book – this time about Baloubet who he says is "an intriguing horse full of personality – when the right time comes I will have a lot to say about him" he said but more immediately he will have the horse checked out by his vet - "on Tuesday he will have a check-up on the injured leg to be sure he is ok and if he is then we will go to London – if not he will start again in Amsterdam but I also intend to compete next week in La Coruna" the Brazilian rider pointed out.

If he does go to Olympia in London, which stages its FEI World Cup competition on Sunday 19th December, he will be sure to please the crowds once more and today’s result has elevated Pessoa to eighth position on the league table which is still led by Wim Schroder ahead of fellow-Dutchman Eric Van der Vleuten in second, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson in third and Saturday’s winner of the prestigious FEI/Gandini Top 10 Final Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum from Germany.

RESULT: 1, Baloubet du Rouet (Rodrigo Pessoa) Bra 0/0 38.80; 2, Coster (Christian Ahlmann) Ger 0/0 50.48; 3, Marius Claudius (Robert Smith) GBR 0/4 39.39; 4, For Pleasure (Marcus Ehning) Ger 0/4 41.61; 5, MacKinley (Rolf-Goran Bengtsson) Swe 0/4 41.90; 6, Cigale du Tallis (Eugenie Angot) Fra 0/4 42.04; 7, Hermine d’Auzay (Daniel Etter) Sui 0/4 42.68; 8, Madame Pompadour (Fabio Crotta) Sui 0/4 43.86; 9, VDL Groep Fleche Rouge (Leopold van Asten) Ned 0/4 44.81; 10, Lolita (Toni Hassmann) Ger 0/8 42.76; 11, Kannan (Michel Hecart) Fra 0/8 43.81; equal 12, Dobel’s Cordina (Otto Becker) Ger, Cantus (Niklaus Schurtenberger) Sui, Portofino (Michael Whitaker) GBR, Montender (Marco Kutscher) Ger, Tinka’s Boy (M Fuchs) Sui, Joel (Gert-Jan Bruggink) Ned, Eurocommerce Monaco (G Schroder) Ned, Riot Gun (B Grandjean) Sui, Galet d’Auzay (M Robert) Fra, LB No Mercy (C Liebherr) Sui, Gold du Talus (W Melliger) Sui, Goldfever (L Beerbaum) Ger 4 faults; 25, JPC Modesto Equifoam (Jean-Marc Nicolas) Fra 5 faults; equal 26, Chatwin (Christophe Barbeau) Sui, Indigo (Beat Mandli) Sui, Isovlas Orchidee (Steve Guerdat) Sui 8 faults; equal 30, Galoubette Mondain (Rutherford Latham Moorehead) Esp, VDL Groep Van Dame (Jan Tops) Ned, Pinocchio (Peter Wylde) USA, Melansa (Mikael Forsten) Fin 12 faults; 34, ET Royal Volo (Toni Andre Hansen) Nor 13 faults; 35, Florie du Moulin (James Davenport) GBR 15 penalties; equal 36, Western Union Gibus de Monts (Emanuele Fiorelli) Ita, Daloubet d’Evordes (Celine Stauffer) Sui 16 faults; 38, Osta Rugs Andiamo Z (Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe) Bel Ret.

FEI WORLD CUP JUMPING 2004/2005 LEADERBOARD AFTER ROUND 4 IN GENEVA:

Wim Schroder - 46
Eric van der Vleuten – 40
Rolf-Goran Bengtsson – 37
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum – 32
Toni Hassmann – 27
Christian Ahlmann – 26
Steve Guerdat – 25
Rodrigo Pessoa – 23
Philippe Leoni, Michael Whitaker – 21
11.Jean-Claude Vangeenberghe – 20

12. Otto Becker- 18

13. Nick Skelton - 17

14. Thomas Velin, Philippe Rozier, Marcus Ehning, Michel Hecart, Gerco Schroder - 16

19. Andrea Herholdt, Robert Smith – 15.

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