Delaveau delivers super second-leg victory

Helsinki, Oct 20, 2013: Patrice Delaveau produced a stunning victory with Orient Express HDC at the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2013/2014 series in Helsinki, Finland this afternoon. Second-last to go in the eight-horse jump-off against the clock, the French partnership snatched victory from London 2012 Olympic champions Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets from Switzerland.

Ireland’s Shane Breen steered his talented 10-year-old stallion, Balloon, into third ahead of Sweden’s Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Tornesch in fourth. This was a most impressive result for the Swedish rider’s horse, as he had an eye surgically removed only a few short months ago, but seems to have lost nothing of his talent or of his zest for his job on his return to top-class competition.

Fifth place went to Luciana Diniz who enjoyed another spectacular day with her lovable grey stallion Winningmood, and the Portuguese rider now lies second on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League leaderboard at this early stage of the 11-leg series, while Steve Guerdat is well out in front having already collected 34 points to date.

Particularly Tough Challenge

The ice-hockey ring at the Hartwall Arena at Helsinki always presents a particularly tough challenge for the world’s best Jumping horses and riders, and an equally-difficult task for the course designer. Before the competition began, Baryard-Johnsson said the “tiny arena” comes as “a bit of a shock” after a summer of jumping outdoors, “and the first few indoor shows are always quite hard anyway” she added. It didn’t stop herself and her big, brave stallion from posting the first clear of the day however when second into the ring.

Aki Ylanne sent them off over a twisting track that included a double – vertical to oxer – and a treble – oxer, vertical, oxer – at fences four an 11 which both proved particularly influential. The height of the poles and the stretches over the big, wide oxers were challenging enough, but it was the relentless pace at which the fences came up, often off corners and without any possibility of a last-minute adjustment of any kind, that really racked up the pressure.

It was a quick-fire affair from the outset, and poles dropped at various points around the arena, but while four riders opted to retire, a total of 12 made it home leaving just one fence on the floor, while eight went forward to the timed round. A notable four-faulting duo were three-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum from Germany and her fabulous mare, Bella Donna, who put in a copybook performance only to hit the very last.

Lovely Second Clear

Baryard-Johnsson led the way in the jump-off with a lovely second clear from the 13-year-old H&M Tornesch whose recovery from his operation in July has been quite spectacular. The stallion had been battling with an eye issue for the last eight years and when it became more problematic this summer it was decided to remove it, so the top Swedish lady rider had to step down from her national side for the PSI FEI European Jumping Championships at Herning, Denmark in August. She said before today’s competition that she wasn’t sure what to expect this afternoon, but she was in for a very pleasant surprise as her horse showed all of his usual flair and power as he crossed through the finish line in 38.03 seconds to set the early target.

The new course began over the oxer at fence nine and swept left-handed to the water-tray vertical at five and water-tray oxer at six before swinging right-handed to the vertical at three. The speed with which riders could make the roll-back to the second two elements of the former triple combination was critical, and from there it was on to the penultimate oxer at fence 12 and a long gallop to the final vertical, the former fence 10 jumped in the opposite direction.

Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Conte Della Caccia lowered the water-tray oxer at fence six to return with four faults in 40.95 seconds, but Spain’s Julio Arias and Quinai des Chayottes were clear and super-fast until hitting the very last. Their time of 36.11 seconds showed there it was more than possible to improve on Baryard-Johnsson’s target, and Steve Guerdat backed that up when scorching into the lead in 35.99 seconds.

Valuable Seconds

It seemed that Luciana Diniz might give the Swiss rider a run for his money until an awkward jump over the second of the remaining two elements of the triple combination saw her scrambling for her reins on the landing side which cost valuable seconds. Her brilliant stallion, Winningmood, however, wants nothing more than to please his rider as he demonstrated with conviction in the opening round, and despite the momentary confusion he just galloped on to leave all the fences intact and to break the beam in 38.20 seconds which was always guaranteed to pick up valuable points.

With just three now left to go, it seemed possible that Guerdat would go one better than he did at Oslo last weekend where he had to settle for runner-up spot, and would take the maximum 20 points on offer this time around. Ireland’s Shane Breen produced a fantastic run from his ever-improving stallion Balloon to stop the clock on 37.14 seconds which posed no threat to the leader, but Delaveau was always a danger. This is a man with an inbuilt speedometer, and with his stallion, Orient Express HDC, living up to his name and going like a train they shaved 1.5 seconds off the leaders thanks to amazing cornering skills and the ability to run and jump without the slightest hesitation. The scoreboard showed the French partnership in the lead in the time of 34.23 seconds as Britain’s Michael Whitaker set off with Amai, and when the final element of the former triple combination hit the floor it was all over, and Delaveau had indeed delivered.

Difficult to Overcome

He said afterwards “I saw Steve take the lead two horses before (in the jump-off), and I knew he would be quick and very difficult to overcome.” The French rider added “I really had to perform at my best to beat him today, and I’m delighted I did!”

Second-placed Guerdat said “ I have one of the few horses that is airborne! To be honest, I should have taken more risks today. I rode a very safe jump-off without taking any risks. I didn’t know whether I was going to ride today until the very last moment, and in the end, I am very happy with the result”.

Shane Breen was more than happy with third place partnering his promising stallion. “Balloon was terrific this weekend” said the Irishman who lives at the Hickstead showgrounds in Great Britain. “I saw Steve go and I know how quick he is – it was going to take something special to beat him today. I was a bit wide at the double (the remaining two elements of the triple combination in the jump-off) but I’m delighted with my clear. Patrice was always going to be really fast, and I am thrilled to have come third!” he pointed out.

Breen also finished third in yesterday’s Grand Prix at the Finnish fixture. “It is my first time here in Helsinki and I am really happy with my placing in both competitions. The courses were quite tricky and the lines were severe – you had to be accurate and on the ball, while your horses really needed to stretch and make an effort on the course.

My horse is getting better and better. I am delighted with him. He is 10 years old and every year is improving – if he can improve 10 per cent again next year, then we’re going to do great things!” he added.

But today belonged to Delaveau who talked about the horse that also carried him to victory as part of the winning French team at the thrilling inaugural Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona, Spain last month. “Orient Express is an exceptional horse with great quality and a massive heart. He is undoubtedly one of the best horses in Europe – he’s a real gem!” he said proudly.

Result: 1, Orient Express HDC (Patrice Delaveau) FRA 0/0 34.23; 2, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 35.99; 3, Balloon (Shane Breen) IRL 0/037.14; 4, H&M Tornesch (Malin Baryard-Johnson) SWE 0/0 38.03; 5, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 38.20; 6, Quinai des Chayottes (Julio Arias) ESP 0/4 36.11; 7, Amai (Michael Whitaker) GBR 0/4 36.27; 8, Conte Della Caccia (Martin Fuchs) SUI 0/4 40.95; 9, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 4/60.88; 10, VDL Groep Sapphire B (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED 4/62.25. —- By Louise Parkes/Photo: FEI/Annette Boe Østergaard

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