by Louise Parkes
Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat was a happy man when claiming the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2015 title at the Thomas & Mack arena in Las Vegas, USA today. “I’ve been waiting a long time for this moment!”, said the 32-year-old Olympic champion whose last-to-go ride was an absolute thriller.
He came into today’s drama-filled final competition sharing the lead with America’s Rich Fellers, but it was French rider Penelope Leprevost who lined up second at the end of the day, while 19-year-old Irish talent, Bertram Allen finished third.
“I’ve been trying a long time to win this and I’ve come close many times. It’s the third time I was in the lead going into the final competition, and today I nearly messed it up again! Coming to the last I was riding more like a cow-horse rider”, Guerdat said afterwards. “I’m so happy, I feel blessed!”
Six clear rounds
With riders going in reverse order of merit, there were only six clears from a start-list of 29 over another tough course from Anthony D’Ambrosio in the first round today. The vertical at fence nine claimed a number of victims but there were also plenty of faults posted later on the track, with horses beginning to fade after three days of demanding jumping.
One of the features of the 2015 Final has been the remarkable performances of the younger generation, and it was 24-year-old Douglas Lindelow from Sweden, lying 12th with Casello, who was first to leave all the poles in place. The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Verdi immediately followed suit and when America’s Beezie Madden (Simon) and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy (Domino), who each carried six penalty points into the last day, were also fault-free, they shot up the leaderboard, while Penelope Leprevost (Vagabond de la Pomme) carrying five penalties, put the pressure on the top three when also foot-perfect .
Bertram Allen and Molly Malone were just one penalty point behind the leaders as the day began, but they began to look vulnerable when the massive 1.75m-wide oxer at fence five hit the floor. And when Guerdat jumped clear, but joint-leader Fellers had two fences down, the Swiss star went into the second round still on a clean sheet. With Leprevost and Allen now lying joint-second with five faults apiece, he had a fence in hand as the second round began. But things didn’t go quite to plan for the eventual champion this time out.
Faulted once more
Both Leprevost and Allen faulted once more to put them on a nine-fault final total, and it seemed the Longines 2015 title must surely already be in Guerdat’s grasp. But the crowd gripped their seats and gasped when his chestnut mare, Albfuehren’s Paille, hit the first element of the double at five. And then it almost completely unravelled for the Swiss star on the turn to the last.
“I don’t really want to think about it!” he said afterwards. “I didn’t expect the first mistake, those four strides (from fence 4 to 5a) turned out to be very, very long, and that triple combination wasn’t good for me at all, but once we were past that I thought now stay calm. But coming to the last I knew the time was tight. I could hear Martin Fuchs outside the arena saying “go, go!” and I don’t know what I did. I just went as fast as I could to the finish line, but unfortunately there was a big fence in the way!” he said with a laugh.
The last fence indeed hit the floor with crash, and it was only his ferocious gallop to get through the beam inside the 68 seconds time-allowed that saved the day. If he had added a single time fault to the eight fence penalties he had just collected, would have been forced into a three-way jump-off against Leprevost and Allen. And he has endured too many unsuccessful FEI World Cup™ Final jump-offs before to make that an enticing prospect.
Leprevost’s faster time of 65.30 with Vagabond de la Pomme secured runner-up spot while Allen had to settle for third when a half-second slower.
A real fighter
Guerdat described his winning ride, Albfuehren’s Paille, as “a real fighter, today a lot of horses were really struggling but every time she sees a fence she wants to jump it, no matter what.”
Today’s victory is particularly sweet for the new champion. “I’ve been three-times on the podium, twice in the jump-off and always finished in the top 10. I always wanted to win this”, Guerdat said. Talking about his determination to eventually succeed, having competed at 10 finals, he said, “I have good people around me who keep me calm and confident and keep me going. You need a little bit of luck, you have to keep believing in yourself and your horse and if you come so close so many times you deserve to win it one time!”
Result: 1, Steve Guerdat SUI 8; 2, Penelope Leprevost FRA 9/65.30; 3, Bertram Allen IRL 9/65.87; 4, Beezie Madden USA 10/65.78; 5, Jos Verlooy BEL 10/67.34; 6, Maikel van der Vleuten NED 12; 7, Rich Fellers USA 16/67.70; 8, Douglas Lindelow SWE 18; 9, Lucy Davis USA 19; 10, Jur Vrieling NED 20.
Facts and Figures:
Olympic champion, Switzerland's Steve Guerdat, won the 37th Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 2015 in Las Vegas, USA today.
29 horse-and-rider combinations started the final class which consisted of two rounds over two different courses.
20 went through to the second round.
Time-allowed in round 1 was 71 seconds, in round 2 it was 68 seconds
6 clears in the opening round, no clears in the second round today.
Riders competed in reverse order of merit in both rounds.
The new Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, Steve Guerdat, stood on the podium three times previously - he was third with Tresor at the 2007 Final in Las Vegas, second in 2012 with Nino des Buissonnets in Den Bosch (NED) and second again in Gothenburg, Sweden in 2013 with Nino des Buissonnets.
74,390 spectators attended the FEI World Cup™ Finals at the Thomas & Mack arena in Las Vegas, USA this week.
FEI First Vice-President and Chair Jumping Committee, John Madden - “my impression of this event is wow! It’s been a fantastic week of fantastic sport. The drama in the final, such close competition and such movement on the leaderboard. The horses jumped really well and almost anything could have happened in that last round!”
Beezie Madden USA, who finished fourth - “I have a fantastic team behind me and I’m so happy with the way my horse went. One rail down today cost me a lot but it’s been a fantastic week. I want to thank Las Vegas and Longines because we’ve all had a great time.”
Steve Guerdat SUI, talking about his choice of horse for this year’s Final - “Paille has always had very good results. We had a great winter season, every 5-Star Grand Prix but Bordeaux was clear rounds and so I decided she should make the trip to Vegas, saving Nino (his Olympic ride) for the European Championships.”
Penelope Leprevost FRA - “Mine is a nice horse with a good mind, and it was all easy for her this week.”
Bertram Allen IRL - “I knew I was in with a reasonable chance this week, thankfully it went really well to plan and it’s great to be on the podium today.”
Steve Guerdat SUI - “My horse belongs to Albfuehrens Stud, they have a hotel and restaurant in Germany but it’s only 40 minutes from my place, over the border in Switzerland. They bought the horse three years ago and someone else rode her. I was very lucky when they asked me to take over the ride.”
Bertram Allen IRL - “In the first round I made a mistake but felt she (Molly Malone) jumped quite good, but the second round was a bad round - I got much too close to fence two. But I’m very happy to be here. I’ve had a great week and feel honoured to be sitting up her with these riders at this young age.”
Steve Guerdat SUI - “I want Thomas Fuchs to come and have a drink with me, he is the most important man in my life and I love him to bits.”