It was the experienced couple consisting of Michael Whitaker and Viking that emerged as winners in the five star Rikstoto Grand Prix in Oslo. The win did not come easy though, as Michael and the 12 year old chestnut gelding by Jacomar x Almox Prints had to go against no less than twenty other horses and riders after the clear rounds kept on pouring in over Uliano Vezzani’s thirteen fence track in the first round. In the end almost half of the class ended up in the jump-off, which of course ended in a real race.
In the jump-off a seven fence track waited for the riders. It opened with the possibility for a few tight back-turns, and included a combination as the penultimate challenge before a stretch waited to be galloped to the final oxer. As second to go in the jump-off, the Netherland’s Jur Vrieling set an early target time on Flash Dance V. Kalevallei (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Gottwald) that would prove to be very hard to beat as the clock stopped on 34.22 seconds. And as one rider after the other was unable to catch up with the Dutch jockey, it looked like the win would be Vrieling’s for almost half of the jump-off.
Halfway, Michael Whitaker wanted it different though. Although starting up a little quiet, Michael slowly brought up Viking’s pace and after the combination he put the gelding in top gear on the final stretch going flat out to the last Kingsland oxer. Flying through the finish line, Michael had shaved off a tiny 0.02 seconds on Vrieling’s time to take over the lead.
None of those to come could do anything about the top two. Third place went to Steve Guerdat on Albführen’s Paille (Kannan) with a time of 34.61 seconds, fourth to Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on Atlanta (For Pleasure x Libero H) on a time of 34.99 while Bart Bles was fifth on Lord Sandro Ddh (Lordanos x Sandro) on a time of 35.21 seconds.
“I would say the class was very fast,” Whitaker said after his win. “You could not just go in and canter around, you had to have a goal. I got a good hit on the first fence, and from there on everything went quite right. Sometimes it happens, and sometimes it doesn’t – but today it happened.”
On his expectations for the class, Michael did not think about a win. “After he was second in the Grand Prix in Rome, Viking has been a bit off form. Sometimes it’s hard to find out why they are like that, but today he was back and felt great!”
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