As last to go in a blistering fast fifteen horse jump-off, it was home hero Ludger Beerbaum that stole the win in the CSIO5* Grand Prix of Mannheim riding Chiara (Contender x Coronado). Beerbaum was also pathfinder on the third placed German Nations Cup team yesterday, and rode a double clear there as well on the 12 year old grey mare. Again, Beezie Madden and Cortes C (Randel Z x Darco) proved to be steady as a rock for the US team taking the second place - while it was the outsider Katharina Offel that surprised to take third aboard her new partner Zipper (Apple Juice x Concorde).
The 1.60 Grand Prix was no walk in the park, and Christa Jung´s track was again testing but still fair. Like in the Nations Cup the triple combination half way took it´s toll on many, and again the open water that waited on six strides following a combination and then concluded by a final upright provided plenty of heartache. The most trouble was caused by the weather gods though, that after three sunny days in Mannheim changed their minds and opted for a small storm. After a long break with pouring rain, the organisers managed to get the footing fit for fight again - and the show could go on. In the end fifteen of the 48 riders went clear and moved on to the jump-off.
Switzerland´s Paul Estermann opened with another clear on the only nine year old Lord Pepsi (Lord Pezi x Santander H), stopping the clock on 47.06 seconds. Robert Whitaker and Denis Nielsen both had poles down, and left Estermann in the lead.
Then it was time for Katharina Offel and Zipper, doing only their third show together. The Ukrainian rider set the pace high, and got some really good turns - pushing down the final line with a vertical to a giant oxer. Kathi kept it all intact and crossed the finish line on 43.66 seconds - and the heat was on. Without risk, there would be no gain.
And as one rider after another chased Offel´s time, they made mistakes. David Will had two poles down, the same went for Karim El Zoghby - while Niklaus Rutschi had the front pole on the final oxer down and Christian Ahlmann had to see the two last fences fall. Laura Kraut suffered the same fate as Rutschi, while next to go Abdel Said on Vingino (Voltaire x Cassini I) made the wise decision to go a bit more steady - went clear in 48.25 seconds and slotted into temporary third.
When Meredith Michaels-Berbaum had the first element of the combination down, Kevin Staut the last and Janne-Friederike Meyer the oxer out of the combination - it was all down to the to cliffs from yesterday´s Nations Cup - Beezie Madden and Ludger Beerbaum.
The two champions both delivered! First Beezie Madden pulled off another beautiful and fast clear on Cortes C, getting a really tight turn back to the combination before she went full speed down the last line - it looked like she would catch Offel´s time and so she did shaving off almost a second. Ludger was next in the ring, and the temperature rose again in Mannheim. Would the home hero make it happen?
After a bit of luck in the first round, Chiara was obviously awake this time around and delivered a breath taking performance with her world-class rider. It was fast, yet smooth - with the crowds cheering the two on into the final line. When Chiara landed clearing the final oxer the stadium exploded; Ludger had done it - taking off a second of Beezie´s time bringing the win home to Germany!
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