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Steve Guerdat saves the best for last to take the lead at the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018

Wednesday, 19 September 2018
FEI World Equestrian Games 2018

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Steve Guerdat and Bianca are in the lead after the first round of the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018 Bank of America Jumping Championships. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

As second last to go in the first round of the FEI World Equestrian Games 2018, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento) snatched the win from Brazil’s Pedro Veniss by 0.35 seconds. 

Guerdat was not alone in performing brilliantly for the Swiss team though, his compatriots Martin Fuchs on Clooney (Cornet Obolensky x Ferragamo) and Janika Sprunger on Bacardi VDL (Corland x Kannan) both jumped clear rounds to end 5th and 16th respectively putting their team in the lead ahead of reigning World Champions the Netherlands. 

No less than 124 horse-and-rider combinations had lined up for Wednesday’s first qualifier, counting both individually and for the teams. Set at 1.55m, Alan Wade’s fourteen fence track for this Table C competition proved to be a real test but definitely fair the whole way. Two of the doubles turned out to cause some serious head ache for the riders: At the vertical-oxer at 6ab and the oxer-vertical at 11ab mistakes were made repetitively throughout the class. An open water as jump no. eight, then an option between two airy grey oxers at jump no. nine before a tall open wall waited as no. ten made sure the challenges approached in a chain, and there was not much room to take a breather anywhere. “I think it was a very good course today. The course designer did a super job,” Pedro Veniss commented after the class on Wade’s masterpiece. 

As first to go, Shane Sweetnam and Chaqui Z (Chacco-Blue x Quinar Z) set a clear round for Ireland and held on to the lead for a little over thirty riders. Halfway into the competition, it was Colombia’s Carlos Lopez Lizarazo and Admara (Padinus x Murano) that were in pole position after posting a clear in 77.96 seconds. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Pedro Veniss and Quabri de l'Isle finished second, only 0.35 seconds behind Guerdat. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

They were to be overtaken though as Brazil’s Pedro Veniss and the stunning 14-year-old stallion Quabri de l’Isle (Kannan x Socrate de Chivre) came in as no. 66 in the ring in the Bank of America Jumping Championships. Producing the most beautiful round of the day, with the tightest of turns, Veniss made it all look effortless – taking over the lead in 76.68 seconds. “Quabri jumped fantastic, I am very happy with my round today,” the Brazilian rider said afterwards. “I think today it was my turn to the double (at 6ab), and the rollback to the oxer (at 12),” Veniss explained about what made his round so quick without even looking to rush anywhere. “I can really trust in his scope, and that was really good for me in those two turns.”

While some – like Veniss – made it look easy, others struggled. There were a few eliminations, that also included falls – while some got to taste a bit of the Tryon-water when splashing in at jump no. eight or meeting the wood when hanging on to avoid hitting the ground. The most stunning acrobatics of the day came from Chela LS (Chapultepec la Silla x Tlaloc la Silla), who unseated Israel’s Ashlee Bond on the oxer at 6b to keep on alone clearing the following vertical. 

As rider no. 94 in the ring, there was no acrobatics from Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs though who did a great job when piloting the eccentric Clooney to a clear round – slotting into second place behind Veniss with a time of 77.69 seconds. 

The fastest time of the class belonged to Kevin Staut and his veteran Reveur des Hurtebise HDC (Kashmir van Schuttershof x Capricieux Des 6 Censes), who came in three riders after Fuchs and went around at the speed of light but clipped the back rail at the very last oxer to add four seconds to their time – disappointingly dropping down the ranks to eventually finish 12th. 

With ten riders remaining, Australia’s Rowan Willis went all in on the feisty chestnut mare Blue Movie (Chacco-Blue x Pilot) who did not have to be asked twice to go fast. An impressive round from the pair in 76.95 seconds put them just behind Veniss on the scoreboard, also helping to shoot his team from Down Under up the standings.

Not even Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Pret A Tout (Hiram Chambertin x Stew Boy) – winners of this year’s Grand Prix of Aachen – could catch up with Veniss and Willis, and slotted in behind on third place after a trademark round of precision with the time of 77.08 seconds.

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson Rowan Willis and Blue Movie impressed with a very fast round to finish third. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Second last in the ring was Steve Guerdat, 2012 Olympic Champion, with the scopey 12-year-old mare Bianca. The Swiss 36-year-old set off in the hunt for Veniss, and despite Bianca’s flight-time on each fence he managed to keep himself in the game and as he approached the last line it looked as he would be able to catch Veniss. Crossing the finish line, the two had managed to bring the time down to 76.33 seconds to steal the win home to the Swiss team. 

“It was a long day, but we know it before we come so we have to be ready for that,” said Guerdat about being rider no. 123 in the ring. “I was kind of confident because the course walked well, the class was going a bit in my direction and it was nothing crazy going on. It was fast clear rounds, but not crazy fast. The fastest horses were not leading, so I thought if I would stick to my plan I had a good chance to be in the top three today. Everything went very well, she felt great so I really enjoyed my round and she felt like she really enjoyed jumping. I can’t ask of much more on the first day.”

Individually, Guerdat now leads the way on a zero penalty score followed by Veniss on 0.17 penalties. Willis has a score of 0.31, with Ehning trailing behind on 0.37 and Martin Fuchs on 0.68 meaning it is extremely tight on top. 

Ahead of tomorrow’s second team and individual qualifier, the Swiss team leads the way on 2.64 penalties followed by the Netherlands on 4.35. Brazil sits third on 6.42, USA fourth on 6.59 and Australia fifth on 7.32 with the doors open for anything to happen. 

 

 


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