Rich Fellers steered his well-named partner Flexible (Cruising x Safari) to victory in the first round of the Rolex FEI World Cup final. A little less than half way in the class Fellers rode a blistering fast round on the chestnut stallion to finish 1.68 seconds faster than runner-up Steve Guerdat on Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II). First to go Rik Hemeryck rode a great round on Quarco de Kerambars (Darco x Skippy II) to finish third on 62.66 seconds in a class that was full of exciting rounds and surprises – just like a World Cup final should be. With faults turned into additional time, this class was always going to be a race.
The track was difficult enough, with the big fences coming fast out of the corners – the airy combination at 5a and b with hedges under it was an example of just that. The line from fence nine to ten and then to eleven proved to cause quite a few challenges with a water tray and white poles at the oxer at nine, and then three strides to a narrow and airy wall at ten before another oxer followed at eleven. Dermott Lennon and Michelle Spadone where among the riders who got in trouble here.
After Rik’s clear, five riders went before it was Harrie Smolder’s time to please the home crowds on Regina Z (Rex Z x Savoy Hannover). A fast and fabulous clear round o the feisty mare gave Harrie a seventh place. Then Rich and Flexible followed and shaved off 2.40 seconds on Rik’s time, before Pius Schwizer delivered a great and fast clear on Ulysse (Nonstop x Jus de Pommes) to eventually finish fourth. Pius’ fellow country man Steve was next, and set off determinedly on Nino. A high pace and some great turns paid off and Steve slotted into second, where he stayed throughout the class.
Three lady riders followed and delivered clears; Kirsten Coe/Baronez (Heartbreaker), Edwina Tops-Alexander/Titus (Lancelot x Rex Magna) and Luciana Diniz/Lennox (Lifestyle x Grannus) – although none of them went fast enough for the top five. Kevin Staut rode a fantastic round on a very well jumping Silvana *HDC (Corland x Widor) to finish fifth, and world number one Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on Casall La Silla (Caretino x Lavall II)also managed to leave all the fences intact after a tactical round to finish sixth. Patrice Delaveau had a great round on the amazing Ornella Mail *HDC, but unfortunately had the last down – but the horse showed great promise for the days to come. All the three latter horses looked dangerous for the remaining rounds.
Last year’s winner Christian Ahlmann on Taloubet Z (Galoubet A x Polydor) on the other hand had an uncharacteristically three fences down, and finished up well down on the result list. Another favorite – Eric Lamaze on Coriana van Klapscheut (Darco x Heartbreaker) had two down on, but were incredibly fast and still finished in a good position in place tenth. Drama also unfolded when last to go Yuya Nonimiya from Japan had a fall after fence eleven; luckily all went well with both rider and horse.
Top ten in the Rolex FEI World Cup final after round one:
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