After four fantastic clear rounds – and a clear jump-off on Saturday – it was no doubt that Daniel Deusser's win in the Longines FEI World Cup Final in Lyon on Cornet D'Amour came as deserved. The 11 year old gelding's jumping stood out already from the first day, and he looked to be in the form of his life. With tremendous riding from the charismatic German rider, who piloted Stephex Stables' and Double H Farm's horse skilfully around the three days of competition – nobody could do anything about this fantastic couple. Finding themselves in sixth position after the first day, and then in second after round two was done – Deusser was constantly in contestant for the title, which today became his.
Ahead of today's two final rounds it looked the best for Steve Guerdat though, who was on a zero penalty score – with Daniel breathing him in the neck two penalties behind. For Steve – who has been vice-champion for two consecutive years on the amazing Nino des Buissonnets (Kannan x Narcos II) – the title must have felt somewhat reachable, but in showjumping the tables are turned quickly and that was what happened in Lyon today.
Frank Rothenberger got everything right with his two courses today, and in the first round seven riders went clear around the thirteen fence track. It was no easy task that awaited the 27 riders – and it was especially the combination placed at 6ab (vertical – oxer) and the triple combination (oxer – vertical – oxer) that claimed victims.
Outside the top ten and outside the favourites ahead of today's final competition, Egypt's Nayel Nassar and America's Katie Dinan and McLain Ward produced first clear rounds with Lordan (Lordanos x Landor), Nougat du Vallet (Scherif D'Elle x Saphir D'Elle) and Rotschild (Artos x Elegant De L'ile) who all three were jumping incredible.
As one of the favourite riders ahead of the final in Lyon – Marcus Ehning definitely delivered. Starting up today's competition on a penalty score of six – but without having touched a rail during the competition – he yet again delivered a round out-of-this-world on Cornado NRW (Cornet Obolensky x Acobat) to be clear and adding nothing to his score. As did world number one Scott Brash on Ursula XII (Ahorn x Papageno) – staying on a five penalty score, after being double clear on Saturday and having the final fence down in the speed leg on Friday.
Luck was not on Christian Ahlmann's side though – as the World Cup Champion from 2011's horse Aragon Z (Askari x Kolibri) showed his unpredictable side and threw in a stop on the a-element into the combination, sending the two down the ranks on a total of 17 penalties. Poor Maikel van der Vleuten was also unlucky, nothing up a time penalty on VDL Groep Verdi NOP (Quidam de Revel x Landgraf I) – who has jumped incredible throughout the final. It left the Dutch rider on a six penalty score together with Marcus and right behind Scott. Title holder Beezie Madden had the b-element in the triple down on Simon (Mr. Blue x Polydox) and also dropped down the ranks.
German veteran Ludger Beerbaum – called in to compete at the final in the last minute – delivered though, and was clear on a very well jumping Chiara 222 (Contender x Coronado) although he had a little bit of a hairy moment coming into the combination. Pius Schwizer – who was ranked as number three together with Ludger and Beezie ahead of today's rounds – did not have luck on his side, and the back pole fell on the oxer at fence eleven.
Being vice-champion in Las Vegas back in 2007, Daniel Deusser knows the name of the game – and kept his cool around the track riding a glittering clear round on Cornet D'Amour. Fresh and fit, the Cornet Obolensky-son – one of three in today's final – looked nearly untouchable. It was down to Steve Guerdat to do anything about Daniel, but the Olympic Champion was maximum unlucky as Nino took a little bit too much control into the penultimate oxer – running himself a bit too deep in – having a pole down as a result. With four penalties added, the tables were turned – Daniel took over the lead on two penalties, but Ludger and Steve were only two behind on four, Scott on five and then it was only a pole down for Daniel to Marcus and Maikel on a score of six penalties.
The second round was no easier than the first, and with thirteen fences waiting yet again – with a really tricky line at the final three fences – with a much forward distance on four strides to the final oxer, the riders and horses had no time to breath. Only four riders managed to stay clear around Frank Rotherberger's track – and two had a single time penalty, the latter being Edwina Tops-Alexander and Charlie Jayne. It was US rider Lucy Davies that posted the first clear though as second to go in the ring on Barron (For Pleasure x Nabab de Reve), but already on 29 penalties there was not much climbing to be done for this young American rider.
It was not until the top six were reached that another clear came. This time it was Marcus Ehning who again showed what magic he can work on the horse back, making light work of the course on his beautiful grey 11 year old stallion. The door was open for Marcus to take his fourth title, and also make history – as he left the ring in Lyon without having one rail down over the three days leaving him on the score of six penalties. Maikel van der Vleuten had to see the a-element of the triple combination fall to the ground – an upright – and dropped down behind Marcus with a ten penalty score.
Scott was next in the ring, and yet again he proved that pressure is only something he will use to his advantage. The British rider went around the track with such ease on Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham's 13 year old mare – that it all seemed like a walk in the park, and as he crossed the finish line on a clean sheet he took over the lead on his five penalty score. Ludger - surrounded in the top by so many younger riders – used his experience to his advantage, and steered Chiara 222 to yet another clear round in Lyon taking over the lead on a four penalty score overall, visibly happy about his performances.
There was still a chance for Steve and Nino as they entered the ring as second-last-to-go if they would produce a clear. The audience held their breath, and one could hear a pin drop as the Olympic gold winning pair started their round. Today, luck did not stay on the Swiss rider's side though and as Nino rubbed the a-element of the triple combination it fell to the ground. When Steve finished his round he was left on a score of eight overall and slotted in between Marcus and Maikel – with Ludger and Scott in front.
Last to go with his two penalties, Daniel Deusser could take no mistake. A fence down, and he would be in equal third with Ehning. Two down, and he would be out of the game. As he jumped the first fence, Cornet D'Amour rubbed it hard – creating a nervous moment for his rider, but probably sharpening himself – and from there on it picked up and for each jump the pair came closer to the championship title. Holding any nerves he must have had under control, Daniel rode the round of his life – stayed clear and when he crossed the finish line on a clean sheet Daniel could celebrate his first international championship title. Which he indeed deserved.
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