After two incredible exciting rounds in Normandy on Saturday, Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, Patrice Delaveau, Jeroen Dubbeldam and Beezie Madden fought their way to tomorrow's top four final. Delaveau, Madden and Bengtsson were all among the top four coming into today's two rounds – and all kept cold as ice to secure a place in Sunday's thrilling horse-switch competition. Dubbeldam on the other hand was number twelve coming into today's first round, and with two textbook clear rounds the Dutch rider rode himself up and into the final four – also securing a chance to win another medal here at the World Equestrian Games.
The first round track was testing indeed, and included some giant oxers, an open water midway and a triple combination at 8abc with a vertical coming in and two huge oxers out. Those who had faults, had them frequently here and on the vertical at fence three that also caught out several of the riders.
Eight riders went clear over Frederic Cottier's first round track, and the one to do it first was reigning Olympic Champions Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II). Ireland's Darragh Kenny also rode a brilliant clear round on Impothep (Indoctro x Calvados), as did Sheik Ali bin Khalid Al Thani aboard Vienna Olympic (Cassini I x Contender) – continuing to impress with his good riding. USA's McLain Ward rode a determined clear on Rothchild (Artos x Elegant d'Elle), who jumped his heart out today – closing in and putting pressure on those to come. The same was the case for the next rider in the ring, Jeroen Dubbeldam aboard Zenith SFN (Rash R x Fuego du Prelet).
The three next riders – Kevin Staut, Marlon Zanotelli and Gerco Schröder – all had to leave the ring at the D'Ornano stadium with faults, while Daniel Deusser posted the next clear on a very well jumping Cornet d'Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Damiani) – keeping his score on 4.70 overall. Very unexpectedly, Penelope Leprevost had a bad fall at the open water where she and Flora de Mariposa (For Pleasure x Power Light) both hit the ground. Luckily both horse and rider seemed fine as they left the ring. Gregory Wathelet's Conrad de Hus (Con Air x Minnen) also surprised, as he jumped out on the side of the c-element in the triple adding too many faults for the Belgian rider to keep his contact to the top. Rodrigo Pessoa – who like Zanotelli was double clear for Brazil in the team competition – had to see Status (Satisfaction x Sao Paulo) drop a foot in the water in addition to picking up a time fault and dropped down with a score of 9.10.
As next to go Patrice Delaveau rode an unbelievable clear on Orient Express HDC (Quick Star x Le Tot de Semilly), miraculously managing to stay cool when it was boiling around him in the ring from the stands packed with French fans. When Patrice crossed the finish line it exploded in the arena, and the big screen showed that the French rider stayed on his score of 4.08 overall. Among the top three, only Rolf managed to go clear. Sören Pedersen, who has impressed everybody here in Caen, had to see three poles fall on Tailormade Esperanza de Rebel (Rebel z x Corofino I) – and fell down on the score board. Rolf on the other hand kept it together again, and rode a brilliant clear round on Casall Ask (Caretino x Lavall I) to stay on a score of 0.34. And when Beezie Madden as last in the ring had one down on Cortes 'C' (Randel Z x Darco), as the 12 year old gelding hit the back pole on the oxer at five – it put the American rider on a score of 4.16 and behind Rolf and Patrice with Al Thani, Ward, Dubbeldam and Deusser all breathing them down the neck with less than a pole down from Delaveau to Al Thani.
For round two the course was re-build. It was set shorter, with ten fences and with a triple bar -vertical-vertical triple combination waiting as the penultimate challenge before a gigantic oxer waited as the last fence asking for that final power of the horses and for the concentration of the riders. The first clear came from crowd favourite Abdelkebir Ouaddar who on the fantastic Quickly de Kreisker (Diamant de Semilly x Laudanum) during the championships only has made faults at the water and not had one fence down. Marcus Ehning made up for his first four-fault-round to go clear on Cornado NRW (Cornet Obolensky x Acobat), as did Denis Lynch and Cassio Rivetti. Bertram Allen impressed again, and was clear on Molly Malone V (Kannan x Cavalier) after picking up a single time penalty in the first round.
Qatar's Al Thani's consistency ended in the second round though, as Vienna Olympic lowered two poles on fence four and into the triple combination and they were out of contest for the very top. McLain Ward on the other hand put pressure on those to come with another incredible clear on Rothchild. Jeroen Dubbeldam have all the championship experience in the world – he has Olympic gold and two team gold medals from the World Championships by now – and seemed untouched when he came into the ring, riding the track like it was a walk in the park and setting his second clear of the day.
Coming into the ring as next to go, Daniel Deusser could not afford one single fence down, as it now was 1.55 penalties down to Dubbeldam. Towards the end of the course though, Deusser's World Cup Champion Cornet d'Amour hit the oxer at eight and it was a case of falling down the ranks for the pair with a score of 8.70 overall – and giving Dubbeldam a place in the top four final. The two next riders nailed it though, as both Beezie and Patrice went clear – the latter of course full of emotion as he let go of the reins when he crossed the finish line covering his face with his hands in disbelief of what had happened. Rolf made it very exciting as last in the ring, as Casall Ask hit the front pole on the oxer at four – and would it be one more they would be out of the top four final. But the Swedish rider kept it together for the rest of his round, and when he crossed the finish line it was still good enough to finish within the top four that gets to ride tomorrow's final.
The top four:
1) Patrice Delaveau 4.08
2) Beezie Madden 4.16
3) Rolf-Göran Bengtsson 4.34
4) Jeroen Dubbeldam 6.25
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