Maikel van der Vleuten won the Longines FEI World Cup at Olympia, London with the fantastic VDL Groep Sapphire B (Mr Blue x Grand Veneur SF) after a very close jump-off. Four riders - van der Vleuten, Francois Mathy Jr., Daniel Neilson and Penelope Leprevost - were extremely close to each other as they were all within the reach of just half a second with Maikel best at 37.07 and Penelope fourth on 37.39 seconds. Eleven riders and horses made it to the jump-off and among them four British riders - much to the joy of the home crowds who got to see top sport at Olympia this afternoon.
The course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral's jump-off track consisted of seven fences and eight jumps with the combination at 3a and b as fence number four. The jump-off allowed the riders to do both short turns and to canter around the tiny London ring.
First out in the jump-off was Max Kühner with the lovely Clintop (Clinton x Calvaro), and the pair had a good flow around the track - but unfortunately had a fault on the penultimate fence, which turned out to be the heartbreaker of the second round. Peter Charles on Murka's Odie de Frevent (Urbain du Monnai x Jalisco B) - first out of the home riders - was one of those who was stopped by this fence and had to settle on a score of four faults. The third rider in the ring was Lars Nieberg with Leonie W (Lorenco x Grandeur). The German rider was slower than the two first, but with a clear round he took over the lead and in the end it was good enough for fifth.
Beat Mändli and Louis (Lord Pezi x Ultraschall) put up a high pace, but once again the penultimate fence caused problems. Next out was Stefan Eder with Chilli van Dijk NRW (Champion du Lyz x Alcatraz), and he did a good effort to leave out one stride into the combination - but ended with the a-element down as well as the difficult penultimate fence.
The home crowd went totally mad when Daniel Neilson and the lovely Varo M (Pierrot x Weinfurst) cleared the track, to take over the lead. Unfortunately Daniel couldn't hold on to the top position for very long though as Francois Mathy Jr on Polinska des Isles (Diamant de Semilly x Valespoir Malabry) was next to go to produce a slightly slightly faster round than Daniel.
Michael Whitaker and Viking (Jacomar x Almox Prints) did an amazing turn to the third last fence, but again the penultimate vertical fell as for so many other riders in this jump-off. As was the case for Scott Brash and Ursula XII (Ahorn x Papageno), that followed Michael in the jump-off.
Penelope Leprevost and the nine year old Nice Stephanie (Cardento x Ralme Z) were second last to go. The French rider looked like the winner until the mare slipped ahead of the third last fence, and lost some time to settle for fourth in the end.
The last rider was Maikel van der Vleuten on his Maastricht Grand Prix winner VDL Groep Sapphire B. With a fantastic second round, Maikel yet again beat them all and went home with the top prize in the Longines FEI World Cup in Olympia, London. This was Maikel's third big win in under two months; he also won the Longines Grand Prix in Lyon as well as the Grand Prix in Maastricht during November.
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