Ireland's only 19 year old Bertram Allen amazed showjumping fans worldwide again, when he won Sunday's Longines FEI World Cup in Verona. Allen has been on tremendous form lately, ending 7th individually at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy rocketing upwards on the world rankings breaking into the top twenty. Making the World Cup his second win for the weekend at the Italian event, Allen no doubt will continue his climb on the Longines Ranking.
It was some pretty stiff competition Allen was up against, and after ten clear performances following round one it was going to be a battle for the podium positions. Faults spread out over Uliano Vezzani's thirteen fence track for the first round that was a very demanding one indeed. The fences came quick out of the corners, and there was little time to breathe anywhere. The most frequent faults appeared in the triple combination that followed on seven or eight strides from the previous nature coloured plank. With a wide oxer in quite a few struggled to reach over the next oxer that was the b-element. "You needed a sharp horse, especially in the combination. It was a fair test for the horses but they just had to work a bit there - I think it was a good course," Maikel van der Vleuten commented after the competition.
With the first clear round set by home rider Piergiorgio Bucci on Casallo Z (Casall x Carthago Z), the atmosphere was on top through the entire competition. The crowds cheered on the world's best as they were their own, creating a great competition. And when Bucci was clear again opening up the jump-off, the crowds went wild and things really heated up.
The top three from the World Cup in Helsinki was also in the jump-off this time around. First of them was Martin Fuchs on PSG Future (Cashandcarry x Loremtin I) who after a beautiful first clear round, left the poles intact again over the shortened track that counted seven fences and that opened for some spectacular showjumping. Choosing a bit of a longer route towards the final line, Fuchs slotted in behind Bucci on the time though.
The Italian lead only lasted until Malin Baryard-Johnsson was next in the ring. Riding the lovely 14 year old H&M Tornesch (Lux Z x Libero H), the Swedish rider produced a determined clear and fast round bringing the time down to 36.28 seconds and putting the pressure on those to come. Pius Schwizer – one of the three Swiss riders in the jump-off – put Armani The Gun CH (Abanos x Ramiro Z) in top gear, but had a rail at the third vertical down on his way. His compatriot Steve Guerdat had no luck either and had two down on Albfuehren's Paille (Kannan).
Next in the ring was Marcus Ehning, and the German maestro would be the one to show the way aboard the stunning Cornado NRW (Cornet Obolensky x Acobat). After a first round that concluded in an exciting way as Marcus came flying over the final oxer causing the crowds to gasp, he was back with full focus for the jump-off. Taking out a stride on the two first lines, Marcus kept on moving forwards and got a great turn to the third last vertical before he galloped on down the last line from the vertical for the final Longines oxer. When the clock stopped it showed 35.77 seconds and Marcus took over the lead.
Michael Whitaker gave Ehning a run for the money though with the crowds cheering him and the charming Viking (Jacomar x Almox Prints) on all the way, but when the British rider pulled back to the last oxer there was no right distance anymore and the back pole fell to the ground.
Maikel van der Vleuten had a lucky rub on the final oxer in the first round, but that seemed to have sharpened both him and VDL Groep Verdi TN N.O.P (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I). Van der Vleuten did like Ehning, and took out strides on both the two first lines before getting a great turn and angel to the third last vertical doing an inside turn to the penultimate upright – and although it looked like Verdi's bucks on the final stretch would cost him the Dutch rider managed to bring the time down to 35.52 to take over the lead from Ehning.
With Allen next in the ring, no one was safe though. Molly Malone V (Kannan x Cavalier) is one of the fastest in the world and Bertram himself is never one to pull back. Cool as ice, the Irish rider got to work and as usual his lovely forward rhythm and tight effortless turns made everything look easy. Racing to the last it looked as Allen would be the new leader, and as the clock showed a time of 34.89 the crowds erupted in applause paying tribute to the extra ordinary performance they had just witnessed with Allen pushing Van der Vleuten down to second, and his own mentor and trainer Marcus Ehning down to third. The relatively new partnership of Daniel Deusser and Forlap (Querlybet Hero x Heartbreaker) is proving to be a good one, but they still need to get to know each other and today the German rider had to settle for four faults – leaving Allen to celebrate the first Word Cup win in his career.
"My horse is naturally fast. I did one more down the first distance, I got a great turn to the third fence and then everywhere else was quite sharp and to the second-last fence I risked it a bit," Allen commented on his jump-off. About his partner Molly Malone V he said; "I'm very happy and I'm very proud of my mare. This is one of her first shows since the World Equestrian Games and she gave me 100 % today!"
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