An amazing round against the clock clinched victory for Switzerland’s Romain Duguet and Quorida de Treho at the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2015/2016 Western European League in Helsinki, Finland today.
It seemed young British star, 19-year-old Jessica Mendoza, had maximum points in the bag when setting a super-fast target-time with Spirit T early in the 13-horse jump-off. But the Swiss pair galloped home 0.11 seconds quicker to nudge them down to second place ahead of 2014 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping champions Daniel Deusser and Cornet d’Amour from Germany in third.
Duguet’s fellow-countryman, and winner of the 2015 Longines Final, Steve Guerdat, slotted into fourth with his Olympic gold medal winning ride Nino des Buissonnets, while Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher (Embassy ll) and Marcus Ehning (Comme Il Faut) lined up fifth and sixth in the world-class field.
Helsinki always presents a special challenge as the competition takes place in the tight confines of the Hartwall ice-hockey arena in the heart of the Finnish capital city. Quick thinking, and lightning-fast reaction from both horse and rider, are essential ingredients for success here, but the 12-fence track designed by The Netherlands’ Louis Konickx won high praise this afternoon.
“The course was brilliant! It’s not easy building in such a small indoor arena, but we never had really tight turns that were ‘against’ the horse” said Daniel Deusser this evening. “Even in the first round today, all was very smooth over the first five jumps – the tricky part was the triple followed by the double”, the German rider insisted.
The opening vertical proved a bit of a bogey, and the 76 seconds time-allowed kept plenty of pressure on the 38 starters, with the line from the triple bar at five to the following vertical racking up plenty of faults as did the oxer at eight which was the only fence bordering the edge of the arena. As Deusser pointed out however, the strongest test of the first round was the triple combination consisting of vertical, oxer, vertical, while the penultimate double of an oxer to a vertical of planks also took its toll.
With so many top riders amongst the 13 clear rounds however, a quality jump-off was guaranteed, and it more than lived up to expectations.
Led the way
Helena Persson led the way against the clock with the big-striding Bonzai H who lowered the first of the two remaining elements of the triple combination, but her Swedish counterpart, Malin Baryard-Johnsson, set the first real target when bringing H&M Tornesch home and clear in 41.26 seconds. Just how much that time could be improved upon however became very apparent when Guerdat and Nino set the arena alight when racing through the finish line in 37.61 seconds, leaving all the timber intact.
The jump-off course included a chicane that drew horses left-handed over an oxer before a sweeping right-handed bend to a vertical and another left-swing to the former fence eight which was now adjusted to a vertical. From there it was left again to the two elements of the former triple combination before circling back to the penultimate oxer followed by a good gallop to the final vertical. Guerdat’s advantage was short-lived when Mendoza followed him into the ring, the British rider who has enjoyed a fairytale season giving no indication that this was her World Cup debut as she blazed home in 36.96 seconds to reset the parameters with her brave and brilliant 14-year-old mare.
She was now the one they all had to beat, and although Ehning’s fun-loving stallion Comme Il Faut, and Dreher’s dramatic-jumping Embassy, each gave it a great shot, her lead wasn’t threatened until Duguet set off.
The 35-year-old rider and his 11-year-old mare have enjoyed a spectacular season, crowned by their contribution to Switzerland’s bronze medal at the FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany in August. They grabbed the headlines with their first 5-Star Grand Prix victory in Paris in April and quickly followed that with another on home turf in St Gallen in June – “its been a great year!” Duguet said this evening.
Going into today’s jump-off he said “the plan was to try everything to win. I knew there was Martin (Fuchs) and Daniel (Deusser) behind me, and they are both very fast riders”. And his tour of the track was deceptively quick, his winning margin assisted by a colossal jump over the penultimate oxer that saw him break the beam in 36.85 seconds.
Asked afterwards if he was surprised at beating Mendoza’s target time, Duguet said “no, I was really confident that I could do it. I know Jessica is so fast and her horse is also so fast but I knew my mare could do better! She’s wonderful, she’s one of the best in the world, she’s fast, she’s scopey and she’s careful – she’s got everything you need for a very top horse. I have had her in my stables since she was 7 years old and now, four years later, she is performing at the highest level”, he said proudly.
Mendoza said modestly, “I am very happy with second place. I didn’t expect to have such a great class. My horse keeps wanting to do well for me, she was fantastic!”, and Deusser was also quite content with his third spot in the final line-up. “I didn’t see Romain go, but I saw Jessica’s performance. You didn’t have many options, all the riders had to go the same way. In my opinion I did that, and in the end I just missed out by half a second – I am very happy!” he said.
The German rider is planning to get to the Longines 2016 Final next March. “I have quite a few points at the beginning of the season and I hope to have secured qualification for Gothenburg early this time around” he explained. Today’s winner is less certain of his plan.
“I will try to qualify until Mechelen (in December) and we will see by then. One way or another Quorida will have a break in January and February so, if we are qualified, we will go to the Final. Otherwise my main focus is on the Olympics Games next year”, Duguet said.