(PRWEB UK) 30 December 2012
Henrik von Eckermann secured an important first win in the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series when coming out on top in the eighth leg of the 2012/2013 Western European League at Mechelen in Belgium today. And it was a particularly good day for Swedish riders as the 31 year old’s compatriot, Jens Fredricson, finished third behind runner-up Francois Mathy Jr from Belgium.
From a starting field of 40, a total of nine made the cut into the second-round jump-off in which von Eckermann clearly demonstrated the qualities that saw German legend, Ludger Beerbaum, offer him the opportunity to join his team nine years ago. With great skill, and astute judgement, the Swedish rider steered Madeleine Winter-Schulze’s mare, Gotha FRH, to success over a jump-off course that tested balance, control and turning skills. “I hope to keep the ride on her for a while now!”, he said of the 11-year-old horse which has been campaigned by Beerbaum in recent years.
The Nekkerhal at Mechelen presents its own unique challenges as the arena is 90 metres long but only 29 metres wide, leading to something of a conundrum for the course building team. However Lucien Somers came up with a clever 13-fence track that included a double at fence seven, consisting of a triple bar followed by a vertical, and a tricky triple combination at fence 10 that had a tight two-stride distance between the opening verticals and then a longer stretch to the oxer on the way out. The latter accounted for the largest number of penalties in the first round, but when riders coped better than expected at the double at seven which was further complicated by a demanding distance to the following oxer, it turned out to be the water-tray oxer at fence two that was the next most troublesome obstacle on the course.
A total of 20 horse-and-rider combinations faulted just once in round one, and amongst them was the man who currently lies top of the Rolex World Rankings list and the horse with which he won the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping title in 2011, Germany’s Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z.
Of the 12 Belgians on the start-list just two went through to the jump-off against the clock and it was Francois Mathy Jr who was pathfinder with D’Atlantique Royal. The daunting prospect of trying to outsmart so many of the big names who would follow him didn’t faze this 42-year-old who really put it up to the rest of them with a sharp round from his nine-year-old Darco gelding as they broke the beam with a clear in 35.89 seconds. Initially it seemed that might not be too tough to beat, mainly because they had made it look relatively easy, but the jump-off course asked for a snaking series of tight turns and many just couldn’t cut them tight enough. Fellow-Belgian and former World Champion, Jos Lansink, hit the FEI vertical at fence three to offer no serious opposition but, third to go, Jens Fredricson and Lunatic looked really quick only to stop the clock in 36.08 seconds. Now it was obvious that Mathy Jr’s target time was a very good one indeed.
Frenchman, Kevin Staut, eased up a little after his exciting eight-year-old mare hit the first of the two remaining elements of the triple combination, and when Olympic champion Steve Guerdat gave it his best shot with the big grey mare Nasa but was almost two seconds off the pace then Mathy was looking better all the time.
About to Change
Next in was von Eckermann however, and it was all about to change. When he rode Gotha in the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier in Geneva, Switzerland last month it didn’t quite go to plan, but today it was a very different picture indeed. The mare seemed to relish every moment, and she kept a perfect rhythm as she galloped down to the second fence to quickly establish a fractional advantage there before whirling round to the FEI vertical and swinging quickly back to the water-tray oxer that had proven so troublesome in the opening round. Another great turn to the oxer before the two remaining parts of the triple combination increased their fractional lead, and the gallop down to the final triple bar saw them across the line in 35.29 seconds to take over at the top of the order.
Great Britain’s Laura Renwick showed that she is emerging as a force to be reckoned with, producing a great round from the courageous Oz de Breve who broke the beam in 37.00 seconds having swung a little wide on some of the turns. But when both Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer (Verdi III) and Frenchman Simon Delestre (Valentino Velvet) both left two on the floor it would be von Eckermann taking centre stage as the prize-giving got underway.
Full report at http://www.fei.org