No one was more surprised than Marcus Ehning to find himself on top of the podium in today’s Rolex/FEI World Cup Final in Geneva, Switzerland. He’d pretty much written off his chances after a conservative Round 1 left him 10th, but sheer will and a dash of luck boosted the German rider to his third World Cup title today, April 18.
Ehning finished just ahead of a tie for second between fellow countryman Ludger Beerbaum and the Swiss Pius Schwizer. Portugal’s Luciana Diniz finished fourth in her first individual championship just ahead of Dermott Lennon from Ireland.
With top-ranked McLain Ward out of the competition after his mount, Sapphire, was eliminated following Round 2, Ehning started out Round 3 in second place. But when Plot Blue dropped a toe at the very last fence on course, Ehning felt his chances slip away.
Sure enough Diniz on Winningmood forged ahead of him with a perfect performance over the big technical course set by Rolf Lündi, and Mario Deslauriers and his chipper Urico kept onto the lead with his third double clear.
For the last round, Ehning put it back together to guide Plot Blue to a fault-free trip, then he resigned himself to third. After all, Diniz and her athletic mount hadn’t shown a sign of weakness all show, and Deslauriers had more than a rail in hand heading into the final go.
But Winningmood dropped a toe at a 1.60-meter vertical off a turn, pushing Diniz out of contention, and Urico’s inexperience caught up with him for the first time all week, and he had three down.
“I knew I had to ride clear, but I didn’t have as much pressure as if I were to go last like Mario,” said Ehning. “Then I had to wait for the other riders to have faults which was not so nice. I had no chance to watch Luciana, and then after that I saw Mario had one down, and then for sure I was watching.”
Riders may ride two horses in the final, although the majority just use one mount. Ehning is the first World Cup winner to take advantage of that opportunity, riding Noltes Küchengirl in the speed round, then tacking up Plot Blue for the final three rounds.
“They were both in good form, and I thought I could take more risk on the first day with the one horse,” he said. “It didn’t work like I wanted to at the beginning, but in the end it was OK. Plot jumped unbelievably on Friday and then very well again today.”
A Pair Of Young Mares
The crowd in Geneva couldn’t have been more excited to see a Swiss rider on the podium at their first World Cup since 1996.
“It was actually very nice to ride at home,” said Schwizer. “It’s a very nice show, very well-organized, and I was happy to have the crowd behind me. In the end, riding in Switzerland was not a pressure, it was a pleasure.”
Schwizer has led the Rolex Rankings for the last three months and become something of a national celebrity here. His partner for the Final, Carlina, is just 9, and Schwizer believes she’ll have a very bright future going forward.
Beerbaum’s mount, Gotha, may look just a touch familiar to show jumping fans: She’s sired by Beerbaum’s veteran partner Goldfever. The breeder sent the now-9-year-old to Beerbaum when she was just 4, and he brought her up the ranks.
“She was always a horse with really great potential, really a lot of scope and super careful. She’s a little lacking in rideability, but she always tries.’
But the mare on everyone’s mind didn’t make it to the Final. This morning the U.S. Equestrian Federation, Ward and USEF team veterinarian Tim Ober, DVM, lodged an urgent request to get Sapphire back into the competition, but the FEI Tribunal denied the request for emergency relief on the grounds that the Tribunal didn’t have jurisdiction to overturn a Ground Jury’s decision.
U.S. Riders In The Mix
Next to Ward, the second most disappointed rider at the Final would have to be Deslauriers. The Canadian transplant had been in the mix with his stellar young mount right from the start, then the last round lost the polish of the rest of the week.
“We had a little mess up coming out of the triple, but he got out of it,” said Deslauriers. “I think he panicked a little, and then things didn’t go as smooth as they were supposed to, and that’s where the faults came.
“We’re proud of him, and it’s a little disappointing when you’re in this situation and this close to winning….but we have a lot to look forward to.”
On the other end of the spectrum Richard Spooner was one of only three riders to put together a pair of clean rounds today. His grace under pressure aboard Cristallo promoted him to a tie for seventh.
Rich Fellers, who won the speed phase aboard Flexible had one down in each round to take 12th, and Lauren Hough had a clear first go and a rail in the second to tie for 16th. Michelle Spadone picked up 8 in the first round to land in 23rd aboard Melisimo. Todd Minikus slid down to 26th after Pavarotti put in his least spectacular round of the show with 20 faults, and Ken Berkley finished his World Cup debut on Carlos Boy in 27th.
For lots more World Cup Coverage, visit the Chronicle’s Rolex/FEI Show Jumping World Cup page.
Top 15 overall results follow, and you can find full results here.
Rolex/FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final
Place Rider/Horse(s)/Country/Total Penalties
1 Marcus Ehning/Noltes Küchengirl & Plot Blue/ GER/6
2 Ludger Beerbaum/Gotha/ GER/7
2 Pius Schwitzer/Ulysse & Carlina/SUI/ 7