Ludger Beerbaum went all the way to the top in today’s ninth leg of the Global Champions Tour. A thrilling six-horse jump-off decided the outcome in Valkenswaard, and it was three of the sport’s most dangerous riders against the clock that eventually ended up on the podium in 35 warm degrees with the sun burning in their faces; joining Ludger was Richard Spooner in second and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson in third with the remaining two clears in the jump-off.
The first round opened with a clear from Mathjis van Asten on VDL Groe Credence Z (Catanga Z x Palfrenier), and the Dutch rider made light work of the thirteen fence track that later would cause trouble for many of the twenty first riders. The first round track build by Uliano Vezzani was technical, but fair – with the line from the open water at five to the vertical-oxer combination at 6a and b causing most of the trouble, in addition to the huge oxer at fence three with bright colors and a water tray beneath. As did the final line, probably caused by some of the horses running out of gas. Some retired after experiencing too many fences down, and there was a fall as well when Sheik Shakboot Bin Nahyan Al Nahyan had to bite the dust after fence six. Luckily all went well with both him and his horse.
Seventeen riders joined van Asten in the second round; eleven of them on a zero penalty score, three on one time penalty and three with four faults. The second round track consisted of twelve fences and included a combination at 4a and b and a triple combination at 8a, b and c. Both Eric Lamaze on Coriana van Klapscheut (Darco x Heartbreaker) and Kent Farrington on Uceko (Celano x Koriander) had one down the first time around, but managed to clear the course in round two – Coriana looking as fresh as ever not visibly minding the heat at all. Philipp Weishaupt was also clear on Catoki (Camebridge x Silvester), but with one time penalty from the first round there was no jump-off for the German rider.
Six riders managed to produce another clear round and secured a jump-off for the audience. Rolf-Göran Bengtsson on the stallion Carusso LS La Silla (Montebello La Silla x Joost), Richard Spooner on the eccentric Cristallo (Caretino x Cicero), Ludger Beerbaum on Chaman (Baloubet du Rouet x I Love You), Beezie Madden aboard Simon (Mr. Blue x Polydox), Marco Kutscher on a back-to-his-normal-self Cornet Obolensky (Clinton x Heartbreaker) and Leon Thijssen on the cat-like Tyson (Numero Uno x Voltaire).
As first to go, Rolf had no choice but to speed up – but riding Carusso LS La Silla who does not have that much mileage in the biggest classes the Swedish rider was also forced to keep some control in the huge grass arena in Valkenswaard. The stallion jumped fantastic around the shortened track though, and it suited him well with some long gallops in between the fences – and the two crossed the finish line with a clear round and a time of 43.43. The pressure was on, but Richard Spooner is not one to care much about that – setting the speedy Cristallo in top gear and leaving the breaks at the entrance crossing the finish line on the amazing time of 42.05. The time looked almost impossible to beat.
With Ludger next in, there was a serious threat that Spooner could be pushed down though. Guiding Chaman with his perfect and accurate riding, Ludger showed everybody how a jump-off should be done – approaching the fences on the most perfect angels and of course making everything look totally under control. The seemingly impossible was done as Ludger shaved the time down to 41.32 seconds and took over the lead!
The remaining three riders could do little about the top three, although Marco Kutscher really tried but was so unlucky when he came a bit too close to the final vertical causing Cornet Obolensky to push the pole out of the cups. It fell apart for Beezie who seemed to lack her usual rhythm, and she had two down – while Leon Thijssen also had to see a pole hit the grass. It was an unusual sight seeing Ludger Beerbaum so happy behind the grand stands celebrating his win, but then again it’s been an unusual harsh summer for him and his colleagues at Stall Beerbaum with three of four riders missing out on the Olympics. Today’s win definitely turned the summer’s trend of unfortunate happenings, placing a big smile on Ludger’s face!
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