Oslo – Norway, Oct 13, 2013: Great Britain’s Scott Brash once again proved himself to be the most formidable of opponents when galloping to victory with Hello Sanctos in the opening leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League at Oslo, Norway this afternoon.
Others might have been rattled by the last-minute drama of a broken noseband just before going in to jump against the clock. But the 27-year-old rider from Peebles in Scotland stayed as cool as a cucumber to clinch the win ahead of individual Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, from Switzerland.
And, as if to cement the sheer quality of today’s competition, it was three-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion Marcus Ehning from Germany who slotted into third place ahead of Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood in fourth.
There was a time when the early legs of the Western European League series were considerably less competitive, but those days are history now. This year’s start-list for the first round at Oslo included nine of the top 12 riders on the current Longines Rankings list, so it was never going to be an easy one to win.
And the course designed by Italy’s Uliano Vezzani, who was assisted by Anders Hafskjold and Terje Olsen-Nalum from Norway, was no walk-in-the-park either. It may have been the first big test of the indoor season, but the close confines of the arena which measures just 75m x 35m, and the intensity of the track layout itself ensured a very tough days work indeed. “I thought it was a very difficult track when I walked the course, and I was surprised when there were so many clears – the fences came up very quickly and I’m told this was the biggest track ever in Oslo!” said winning rider Brash this evening.
The smallest fence on the course was the opening 1.50m vertical, but even that hit the floor for Germany’s Christian Ahlmann who retired with his grey stallion, Asca Z, after leaving two more on the ground. And the 2011 FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion was one of seven to call it a day before the end of the track – reigning European Champion Roger-Yves Bost from France (Colombo van den Blauwaert) and Brazil’s Alvaro de Miranda (AD Uutje) amongst those who also decided it was best to leave the fight to another day.
The 1.50m square oxer at two remained intact throughout the afternoon, but the remainder of the fences were almost all dislodged from their moorings at some stage. The triple-bar at fence three led to a 1.60m vertical at fence four before riders turned right-handed to the triple combination at five. This was the bogey of the day, with 12 horse-and-rider combinations faulting at least once as they attempted to negotiate the vertical to a double of oxers. Steve Guerdat said afterwards,”triple combinations are always very demanding for horses and they were struggling with it, I don’t really know why”.
The turn to fence six proved the undoing of many however. Horses tended to be very much on the forehand after the triple combination and, if they were running on too much it proved difficult to ride the sharply bending line and arrive balanced, in control and still with enough impulsion to clear the tall vertical. The oxer at fence seven and the Longines double at eight were located along the ringside before turning left-handed to the oxers at nine and ten, and then there were only three fences left on the homeward run.
The planks at 11 fell numerous times however as did the following Longines oxer at 12, but the most disappointed man of the day was, quite possibly, The Netherlands’ Gerco Schroder who steered his Olympic individual silver medal winning ride, London, through a gloriously easy tour of the track only to hit the very last. This multi-coloured vertical, standing 1.60m and with two circular water trays beneath it, was located on another bending line and, second into the ring, Norway’s Stein Endresen was decanted onto the landing side here when his mare, Cassiopeia arrived on a bad stride and decided to slam on the brakes. In Schroder’s case, London dropped his near foreleg to rebalance on the turn and caught the top pole on the way up for an unfortunate four faults.
There were nine riders from nine different nations through to the second-round jump-off, and it was rising Brazilian star, Marlon Zanotelli, who led the way with Clouwni over the new track. A mistake on the distance between fence one and the oxer at fence 10 which was now the second obstacle on the course saw them return with four faults in 39.27 seconds, so when Athina Onassis de Miranda from Greece and her fabulous grey mare, AD Camille Z, produced a careful clear in 46.55 seconds they temporarily took the lead. The Netherlands’ Frank Schuttert was first to take a tight turn to the third, an oxer, but his round unravelled when he lost his line to the vertical second-last – previously fence six, but now jumped in the opposite direction – so that his super-busy gelding, Winchester HS, rushed past it leaving them to cross the line with eight faults on the board in 44.17 seconds.
The crowd lit up when Geir Gulliksen entered the ring with Edesa S Banjan. The 12-year-old gelding had produced a great opening round to make the cut for the host nation rider and, to the delight of the spectators, they went into the lead this time out when foot-perfect in 39.64 seconds. But their advantage was short-lived as Marcus Ehning and Copin van de Broy cruised home with a silky-smooth run in 37.72 seconds to go to the top of the leaderboard. Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood followed with a lovely round in 39.00 seconds, and when Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander opted for a slow clear with the nine-year-old Ego van Orti she was also guaranteed some valuable qualifying points but didn’t pose any threat to Ehning’s supremacy.
Set Off Like the Wind
The final two did however, Guerdat and the horse with which he enjoyed Olympic glory, the electrifying Nino des Buissonnets, set off like the wind, turning super-tight to the third fence and galloping down to the last to soar out in front in a time of 36.52. It seemed unlikely that this could be bettered, and when there was a long delay before Brash arrived into the ring the crowd grew curious. The British rider, meanwhile, was busy taking his horse’s bridle apart after the noseband snapped while warming up for the second time.
Luckily Geir Gulliksen’s gelding was wearing something similar, so, in typically sporting fashion, the Norwegian rider removed his horse’s noseband and gave it to his British rival who, with the help of Ireland’s Shane Breen, reassembled the bridle, put it onto Hello Sanctos and then jumped onboard and headed into the ring. Not ideal when there is a Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier to be won, but Brash has shown time and again over the last year that he is about as unflappable as they come.
Setting off, he didn’t know what time he was chasing, so he decided to just kick on and hope for the best. As it turned out that was a pretty good plan, because he shaved more than two seconds off Guerdat’s target to clinch the most convincing of victories.
Talking afterwards, Brash said, “I watched Marcus and I thought he was fast and then I heard that Steve was faster so I thought I’d just do the best that I could. My horse was super again, I was really surprised by how fast we were!” He said he was very grateful to the show officials who allowed him the time to reconstruct the bridle – “they were very kind by not rushing me” – but he pointed out that the drama had not thrown him off his concentration. Clearly it hadn’t.
Making his victory today all the more remarkable was the fact that Brash rode the same horse into the winner’s enclosure in yesterday’s Oslo Grand Prix in which Angelica Augustsson and Mic Mac du Tillard lined up second. “Everyone was questioning me because I rode him fast in the Grand Prix yesterday but I know my horse!” he said today. Hello Sanctos will go to the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League series at Helsinki in Finland next week and will then travel to Doha in Qatar for the Global Champions Tour Final in November.
Runner-up, Steve Guerdat, said “the last show I did was not great – it was our horse’s first show back since the Europeans and that is why he jumped in two of the smaller classes earlier here. Today I could feel in the first round that he was a bit too fresh and jumping with a bit of caution – our first round was not so smooth. When we did the jump off he was already better” Guerdat pointed out.
Third-placed Marcus Ehning left the post competition press conference early. “My wife and I are expecting our next baby. She is a bit nervous because I am far away so I have to catch the first plane back!” he explained.
Geir Gulliksen finished fifth for Norway, and was very happy with his result. “It is always very exciting competing in front of your home crowd. I was a bit worried as I jumped two rounds yesterday – I didn’t know how he (his horse, Edesa S Banjan) would react but he did great today. It is a great achievement for an old chap from Norway!” joked the 53-year-old rider who has been the linchpin of the Norwegian team for many years now.
Meanwhile Brash reflected on yet another great day’s work. “It feels great and my horse feels in very good form. It is great to start off with a win” he said. He talked about the frenzy that ensued when his horse’s noseband broke. “We rushed around trying to borrow one, luckily Jimmy (Geir Gulliksen) had just got off the ring and he let me borrow his – it turned out to be lucky for him and and me as well!” he explained.
And he talked about Hello Sanctos, the 11-year-old gelding which he rode to team gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games last year, and who played a pivotal role again at the PSI FEI European Jumping Championships in Herning, Denmark this summer.
“He is the horse of a lifetime considering what he has done for the country – he is outstanding. You don’t get too many like him. He is very clever, very sharp. When you work him at home he is very lazy, as if to say ‘do we really have to do this training?’, but then he goes into the ring and gives you his heart!” he said.
Result: 1, Hello Sanctos (Scott Brash) GBR 0/0 34.29; 2, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 36.52; 3, Copin van de Broy (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/0 37.72; 4, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 39.00; 5, Edesa S Banjan (Geir Gulliksen) NOR 0/0 39.64; 6, Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 44.57; 7, AD Camille Z (Athina Onassis de Miranda) GRE 0/0 46.55; 8, Clouwni (Marlon Zanotelli) BRA 0/4 39.27; 9, Winchester HS (Frank Schuttert) NED 0/8 44.17; 10, Mic Mac du Tillard (Angelica Augustsson) SWE 4/69.21 in first round.
Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League – Standings after Round 1 at Oslo (NOR):
1. Scott Brash (GBR) – 20
2. Steve Guerdat (SUI) – 17
3. Marcus Ehning (GER) – 15
4. Luciana Diniz (POR) – 13
5. Geir Gulliksen (NOR) – 12
6. Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS) – 11
7. Athina Onassis de Miranda (GRE) – 10
8. Marlon Zanotelli (BRA) – 9
9. Frank Schuttert (NED) – 8
10. Angelica Augustsson (SWE) – 7
11. Pius Schwizer (SUI) – 6
12. Simon Delestre (FRA) – 5
13. Gerco Schroder (NED) – 4
14. Kevin Staut (FRA) – 3
15. Maikel van der Vleuten (NED) – 2
16. Juan Carlos Garcia (ITA) – 1
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