Henrik von Eckermann became only the second Swedish rider to claim the City of Rome Grand Prix title when coming out on top with the 13-year-old gelding, Cantinero (Cento x Cash), at CSIO Rome - fratelli d’Inzeo Masters - at Piazza di Siena today. Strategy played a major role in this competition, but the 33-year-old kept a very cool head to come out on top despite adding a single time penalty to his zero score in the first round.
Once again, course designer Uliano Vezzani kept the riders thinking, with first-round clears very difficult to get, and only one fault-free second effort. The triple combination at fence five and the tricky double at fence nine were both highly influential in the first round, as were the penultimate vertical and final oxer which regularly hit the floor when riders realised they were about to exceed the 78-seconds time-allowed.
And only four returned on a zero score, led by Britain’s Robert Whitaker who was first to take a shorter line to the vertical at fence 10 which helped him make it home without time-faults. He was joined in the clear-round corner by Von Eckermann, America’s Laura Kraut and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander, the latter producing the quickest clear and therefore last to go when the top-13 returned to ride against the clock.
The second-round line-up included five riders carrying just a single time-penalty, and the fastest four-faulters, and, fourth into ring after round two got underway, it was Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya who was the only one to add nothing to his scoreline. However carrying four faults for a mistake at the bogey second element of the first-round double, he had to sit it out to see where that would leave him at the end of the day.
The Netherlands’ Maikel van der Vleuten and Jeroen Dubbeldam each carried just a single time fault and team and individual world champion, Dubbeldam, temporarily took the lead when adding just one more after van der Vleuten added two. And when defending Rome Grand Prix champion, Canada’s Eric Lamaze, left one on the floor this time out then it was left to the four first-round clears to keep the Dutchman at bay.
But Robert Whitaker’s Catwalk (Colman x Corleone) clipped the very first fence to leave it wide open, and when von Eckermann followed, with Cantinero giving an exhibition of classic jumping, he went out in front with the clock showing 48.67 seconds and all the fences still perfectly in place.
That put it right up to the final two ladies, and when America’s Laura Kraut and Cedric (Chambertin x Carolus I) missed their stride to the oxer near the entrance to the arena, and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Heidi du Ruisseau Z (Heartbreaker x Darco) left the third fence on the floor, then von Eckermann would follow in the steps of the only previous Swedish winner, Lisen Bratt, to take the coveted trophy. Jeroen Dubbeldam on Zenith SFN N.O.P. (Rash R x Fuego du Prelet) and Maikel van der Vleuten on VDL Groep Arera C (Indoctro x Voltaire) filled second and third places and Alvarez Moya finished fourth.
Talking about his horse, Cantinero, afterwards, von Eckermann, who is employed as rider at the yard of legendary German jumping star Ludger Beerbaum, said, “he is owned by the Qatar Armed Forces, and I started to ride him before Gothenburg last year. We jumped double-clear in Barcelona at the Furusiyya Nations Cup Final year”, he explained.
Asked about his strategy in today’s second round he replied, “I didn’t worry about a time fault, I just wanted to go for a safe clear. This horse and I are not that far in our relationship that we can go into a jump-off and give it everything”. And asked if he was surprised that two of the top lady riders in the world both faulted, to leave him clear winner, he answered with a laugh, “I said to my groom we might have to happy to be third today. I didn’t think I would win, but I didn’t mind when they both had fences down!”
“It’s fantastic to win this competition, my boss won it also with the horse that I ride now - Gotha - and two years ago I was here with Gotha and we finished fifth or sixth with the fastest time but a fence down. I always like Rome and am very happy to come here, it is such a nice show” he said.
Asked if his loyalties are ever tested by his residency in Germany, he had no hestitation in replying, “my heart will always stay in Sweden, but I’m very grateful for all I have learned in Germany and happy to stay there and have such great opportunities with Ludger”.
Today’s result was a big turn-around for von Eckermann who didn’t enjoy such a happy time when taking a fall from Cantinero at the leg of the Global Champions Tour staged on his home turf just a week ago. “I always believed in this horse, he has all the quality, although last week when I was eating the dirt in Hamburg I wasn’t so happy! But that’s the sport, that’s what makes the sport, and tomorrow I will celebrate my 34th birthday and on Friday I go to Aachen!”
As CSIO Rome 2015 - fratelli d’Inzeo Masters at Piazza di Siena came to a close, America’s Laura Kraut was presented with the Master fratelli d’Inzeo trophy presented by Cristina, daughter of the great Piero d’Inzeo, and Guido, son of his much-loved brother Raimondo.
Source: Press release from CSIO Rome
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