Nicola Phillippaerts took the first World Cup win in his career in Gothenburg on Sunday afternoon, riding Donatella-N (Vigo d'Arsouilles x Burggraaf). The 20 year old super talented Belgian rider – who is son of Ludo – did the two rounds of his life in Scandinavium on this big jumping chestnut mare, beating no other than Germany’s Marcus Ehning who ended second on Plot Blue (Mr. Blue x Pilot) as well as the Netherland’s Maikel van der Vleuten who was third on VDL Groep Sapphire (Mr.Blue x Grand Veneur Sf) – with a very happy Ludo ringside as witness to his son’s amazing performance. “I found my horse jumped really good today, and everything worked well out,” Nicola said humbly after his win. “This is my biggest win so far, together with the win in Falsterbo in 2012. I kind of like Sweden it seems,” young Philippaerts added laughing.
Ten riders went clear around the first round track designed by Frank Rothenberger and Peter Lundström. Like in yesterday’s Grand Prix it was little time to breathe, but today’s course gave more chance to find a rhythm and faults spread out around the thirteen fence track that included a combination at 4a and b, then a short turn out of the corner to a narrow wall before the triple combination came quickly six or seven strides later. “The course itself was nice, and a bit technical,” the winner commented afterwards.
The first clear was set by the rider who opened the class; home rider Malin Baryard-Johnsson on H&M Tornesch (Lux Z x Libero H). It was quite a demonstration of Malin, as the audience mistook the course for being a few fences shorter than it was – and then the celebration tunes were turned on ahead of the last fence, but Malin kept her calm anyway and kept the final fences intact. The next clear also came from a Swede; the hugely talented Douglas Lindelöw who ended fifth in yesterday’s Grand Prix. Yet again, Douglas proved that he really is one to watch by riding a smooth clear on the 11 year old Casall-son Casello. The Scandinavian success continued as both Geir Gulliksen on Edesa S Banjan (Toulon x Lys de Darmen) and home rider Niklas Johnsson on Caral (Casir Ask x Ralmé Z) went clear as well.
Then it was time for the Dutch to prove themselves. First Jur Vrieling jumped clear on VDL Bubalu (Baloubet du Rouet x Nimmerdor), before Wout-Jan van der Schans and Maikel van der Vleuten copied their compatriot’s performance to join the jump-off.
A few riders later Nicola entered the ring on his powerful mare. Donatella-N really demonstrated her scope and skill, jumping an impressive and strong clear round to join the jump-off for Belgium. The last two to go clear was Bordeaux-winner Marcus Ehning, this time riding Plot Blue who by now has reached 17 years old – but showing no sign of his age popping around and making light work of the course. Then Pius Schwizer joined in, riding Quidam du Vivier (Socrate de Chivre x Iris Landai) securing the last spot in the jump-off.
The jump-off was opened by Malin, but unfortunately her 14 year old stallion stumbled after the penultimate vertical and she lost time to end on a clean sheet and a time of 40.30 seconds. Still, in the end it was good enough for fourth in this last World Cup qualifier in the Western European league. Douglas also rode another clear, although not going all in for the time – in the end securing fifth place and another great result in Scandinavium. Geir came a little too close to the third oxer and had to see the front pole fall, while Niklas went for a steady clear to eventually finish seventh.
Best of the Dutch trio proved to be Maikel van der Vleuten – taking over the lead after a fast round on his brilliant white mare, putting her in full speed on the final stretch to the Longines oxer crossing the finish line on a time of 39.52 and on a clean sheet.
Then came Nicola and his relatively inexperienced mare at this kind of level. That did certainly not prove to be a challenge though, as Nicola used the mare’s huge gallop to his advantage on all the long and open stretches that were the main feature in this jump-off track. As Nicola rode through the finish line he had shaved off 0.22 seconds on Maikel’s time and his father Ludo jumped around with joy ringside celebrating his son’s fantastic round.
With Marcus Ehning breathing him in the neck as next in, it looked dangerous. But, with the tiniest of margins the German perfectionist missed out on the win – as he finished his jump-off Marcus was 0.02 seconds behind slotting into runner-up position. And when last to go Pius Schwizer had the penultimate vertical down, Nicola had won his first World Cup ever ahead of Marcus and Maikel. Marcus was not disappointed though, and praised his horse Plot Blue; “I am quite happy. Plot Blue is already 17, but he is in a super shape,” the runner-up smiled afterwards at the press conference.
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