It was one of the sport’s most consistent pairs that took the win in Saturday’s LGCT Grand Prix of Valkenswaard, as Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I) went to the top. The pair also won the LGCT Grand Prix of Paris in July, and Rolf now sits second on the overall ranking of the series – breathing leading rider Edwina Tops-Alexander in the neck.
It was an afternoon of top sport at Tops International Arena, and there was not an empty seat at the magnificent equestrian complex build by LGCT-founder Jan Tops. And, it turned out to be a near-perfect evening for Jan and his team as three of their riders ended in the top ten with Alberto Zorzi finishing third, Jessica Springsteen fourth and Edwina Tops-Alexander sixth.
The first round track saw a decent number of eleven out of the 49 combinations producing clear rounds. Faults spread out, but the wide tulip oxer at fence seven fell several times as did poles in the combination that followed. The last line also proved very tricky; with a wide oxer with a water tray jumping in followed by four strides to the famous bicycle-jump it was always going to be the joker of the competition and many clear rounds ended here.
With eleven riders going clear, seven of the fastest four-faulters joined in for round two where Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya, Denis Lynch, Marco Kutscher and Harrie Smolders were the ones that improved their score to ride clear rounds eventually finishing 7th, 9th and 10th respectively.
The most drama in the second round was caused by the triple combination. Olivier Philippaerts retired after H&M Legend of Love (Landzauber x Corgraf) came in trouble here, but still showed her heart to jump out from a near standstill ahead of the c-element. Laura Renwick’s adventures also ended here, as Bintang II (Tangelo van de Zuuthoeve x Orlando) slammed on the brakes twice to get eliminated.
Jessica Springsteen was the first rider to set a double clear round on the scopey 9-year-old gelding Cynar V (Clarimo x Alcatraz), after the first rider on a clean sheet from round one failed to repeat his success as Bassem Hassan Mohammed had to settle for four faults. Following Jessica in the ring was Stal Tops’ stable jockey Alberto Zorzi from Italy, aboard Fair Light van’t Heike (Vigo d''Arsouilles x Darco) and he did just as Springsteen to secure a jump-off for the Dutch crowd. Edwina Tops-Alexander joined in as well, aboard a very well jumping Caretina de Joter (Caretino x Contender) – and it was looking good for the hosts.
One rider later, Laura Kraut impressed with the 9-year-old mare Cavalia (Vingino x Manhattan) to go clear again also securing a spot in the jump-off. Three riders later, as the two last riders in the ring Rolf-Göran Bengtsson jumped a picture-perfect round on Casall Ask to make the number for the jump-off five and as last to go Lauren Hough on Ohlala (Orlando x Cardento) brought the number to six – and known as two of the fastest combinations in the world the pressure was on the four first to go for it.
First out, Jessica Springsteen again displayed Cynar V’s talent to go triple clear with a time of 43.79 seconds in the jump-off. Alberto Zorzi however, quickly shaved the time down to 42.53 when he went as fast as he could on the stretch to the final oxer and took over the lead. However, it was not to be for Edwina Tops-Alexander, who lowered a rail into the combination and settled in behind.
Laura Kraut is not known for riding safe to go clear, and set off determinedly on Cavalia. Again, the American rider produced a fantastic round and with the time as good as 41.53 seconds she went into the pole position.
No one is safe with Rolf-Göran Bengtsson and Lauren Hough coming after them, and today was no exception from that predicament. As next to go, Rolf tightened every single turn and racing down to the final Longines oxer it looked like it would be very tight. When the clock stopped it showed 41.36 seconds, and the crowds exploded in return for the amazing performance that had been delivered.
Lauren Hough was to follow as last in the ring on Ohlala, and after Rolf said: “Lauren is super fast with that horse, and I knew that so I tried to go as quick as I could and was just hoping that she would risk even more.” And so she did, as a rail on the third last vertical fell to the ground in her attempt to catch up – leaving her in fifth.
“So, today I was the lucky one,” Bengtsson smiled after as he summed up the jump-off.
Now sitting second on the overall standing, the Swedish rider has his eyes on the tour-title; “I am not giving it up,” he said.
Laura Kraut was defeated but very far from disappointed: “Cavalia is 9-years-old, and I was really happy to jump three clear rounds and I rode as fast as I thought was comfortable. Casall Ask is outstanding, and I am happy to be second next to a horse and rider combination like that.”
Text and pictures © World of Showjumping
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