(PRWEB UK) 22 December 2012
Marc Houtzager brought his year to the perfect close when winning the seventh leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League series at London, Olympia (GBR) today, writes Louise Parkes. Riding Sterrehof’s Tamino, the Dutchman went fourth in the eight-horse jump-off and clinched it with the smoothest of rides.
Runner-up spot went to Malin Baryard-Johnsson with H&M Tornesch, and the Swedish star has now moved to within sight of a qualifying spot for the series Final on her home turf in Gothenburg, Sweden next April. Peter Charles slotted into third, and it was a particularly creditable performance from the man who helped clinch team gold for Great Britain at the London 2012 Olympic Games. Partnering a new ride, the 10 year old French-bred mare Murka’s Odie de Frevent, Charles is only just back in action after undergoing surgery in September.
Houtzager said “it looks like London is the place to be for me! I won team silver at the Olympic Games and now I’ve had my first World Cup win here. It’s a great win for me, and it is especially great because it is the last show of the year!”
Course designer, Louis Konickx, set them a truly tough task. It was his debut at this hugely popular event, and he admitted that he didn’t know what to expect. Course-building at Olympia demands great ingenuity because the arena is so very tight. “You are afraid you might only get one clear, but also afraid it might be fifteen, so to get eight clear in the first round was perfect!” he said afterwards.
The early starters showed just how difficult it could be, with two of the first three - Britain’s Robert Whitaker (USA Today) and Ireland’s Cian O’Connor (Ulano) - opting to retire, although second-line Briton, Guy Williams, steered Titus home to show how it should be done.
The course included the now-iconic London Bus wall which adorned the Olympic equestrian arena at Greenwich Park, and this stood at fence five on the 12-obstacle track. But for the majority of the 35 starters it was the double at fence seven and the very last fence on the course, the triple combination, that proved most troublesome.
The latter required a cautious approach, as the one-stride distance between the first two verticals was tight while there was a long stretch to the final oxer. Spain’s Manuel Anon and Rackel Chavannaise, Italy’s Luca Moneta and Neptune Brecourt, Germany’s Max Kuhner and Clintop, Britain’s John Whitaker and Maximillian, Frenchman Roger Yves Bost and Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois and London 2012 individual Olympic gold medallist Steve Guerdat from Switzerland riding Nasa were amongst those who missed out on a place in the second round with a mistake at this one.
Take on the Clock
Williams was first to take on the clock with Titus, a talented 12 year old gelding that was sold last year to Australia’s Edwina Alexander, but which has found its way back to the British rider’s yard. And the horse and rider have quickly bonded once again, although with two mistakes in the timed round they left the door wide open for the rest as the jump-off got underway.
Next in was Charles with the mare that was previously ridden by Frenchman Nicolas Delmotte. Light-bodied, athletic and brave, she looks a real prospect and set the target with a clear round in 37.54 seconds that always looked like challenging for a top placing.
The jump-off track asked for both speed and control, with the right-handed turn-back after the remaining two elements of the triple combination proving pivotal as riders attempted to rebalance for the following vertical before pushing on to the London Bus Wall and then turning right-handed once again for the long run to the last.
Baryard-Johnsson’s 12 year old stallion has a ground-eating stride and easily raised the game after taking out a stride between the first two fences to stop the clock in 36.63 seconds, but Houtzager’s Tamino made it look even easier. Setting off with both speed and rhythm, the Dutch-bred gelding was completely concentrated as he took everything in his stride to break the beam in 34.67 seconds and soar into the lead.
Far From Over
It was far from over however, as his Dutch compatriot, Gerco Schroder was next off with his Olympic individual silver medal winning ride, the handsome 10 year old London. But a risky turn to the vertical three from home didn’t pay off this time out, and then the crowd went wild as Nick Skelton entered the ring with Big Star.
Skelton’s contribution to Britain’s golden summer has endeared him even more to the hearts of his already-adoring public, and they were willing him home all the way. But Big Star is still only nine years old, and, all week, he found the atmosphere of the Olympia arena electrifying so his veteran rider had to work hard to keep his mind on his job. An unlucky tap at the wall collected four faults, although their time of 35.57 would prove good enough for fourth place when the final two riders, Portugal’s Luciana Diniz with Lennon and French rider Penelope Leprevost with Nayana, also faulted.
Full story at http://www.fei.org