Germany’s Marco Kutscher and Satisfaction pictured with Magali Dubois-Vaucher from Rolex. Photo: FEI/Roland Thunholm.
Germany’s Marco Kutscher admitted he was very pleasantly surprised when finding himself the winner of the last qualifying round of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2011/2012 series at Gothenburg, Sweden today. “This was my first World Cup competition with this horse and my last chance to make sure that he could compete at the final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, so I’m delighted with the way things have worked out!” the 36 year old rider said afterwards.
Second to go in a five-horse jump-off against the clock, he clinched it with the coolest of performances, and completes the 12-leg qualifying series in fourth place. It is Frenchman, Kevin Staut, who is the leading rider at the end of the qualification season however, having competed at every event from the outset in Oslo, Norway last October and finishing third today with Le Prestige St Lois de Hus behind runner-up Ludo Philippaerts from Belgium partnering Kassini Jac.
Ukraine’s Katharina Offel filled fourth spot while Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt slotted into fifth on an afternoon when clear rounds were at a premium.
Course designer, Uliano Vezzani from Italy, had hearts racing after riders walked the track. “My horse has won a few 1.50 metre classes and I had a good feeling with him over the last few weeks so I thought maybe I would use him for the first speed leg at the World Cup Final. But when I saw the course today I thought maybe that’s not such a good idea - it’s the biggest I’ve ever jumped with him and I wondered if he would be scopey enough to do it. But now I’m very happy and excited - I want to say thanks to the designer who built a technical track - especially that last line - he did a great job!” he pointed out.
Philippaerts agreed that the Italian had set them a tough test, and said he was under huge pressure himself. “I had to finish in the top three to get to the Final and I can tell you that when I walked the course I wasn’t so sure I could do it - but my horse really fought for me today” he explained.
Starting out over a triple bar, the track was unrelenting, with the flimsy vertical at fence two putting an early end to many ambitions and the triple combination, three fences later, also claiming a large number of victims. It was the dog-leg from the white oxer at fence nine to the following oxer at fence ten that proved the biggest challenge for many however, and those who decided to cut across the front of the first fence, instead of going around it on the approach here, one by one all paid the ultimate price with a pole down.
It was the last line, from the vertical at 11 to the penultimate double and then the final oxer which was located just past the in-gate that Philippaerts was referring to when he explained - “this was really difficult for me - I thought it should be five strides to the double but most of the other riders did six and I found it very short, and then the last fence was really close”. The spectators were with him all the way however, and so was his stallion, the 14 year old Kassini Jac, who did everything he could to ensure they kept a clean sheet.
AGAINST THE CLOCK
The Belgian pair were first to go against the clock, and Philippaerts played the safety game with a nice clear in 45.35 seconds to set the pace. But Kutscher followed with the smoothest and tightest roll-back from the second element of the triple to the vertical, formerly fence three, and he was way up on time as broke the beam at the finish-line in 39.40 seconds.
Staut used up some of his luck when the always-entertaining gelding, Le Prestige St Lois de Hus, tipped the first of the two remaining elements of the triple combination, but the penultimate oxer hit the floor for four faults in the fast time of 37.41 seconds. “He has had a break and he was fresh” the Frenchman said of his exuberant horse whose bucking antics have endeared him to his legion of fans, “but he feels great in his body and maybe I took a little bit too much risk - that’s how it goes. But I’m very happy with him” he added.
Offel was next to go with the 11 year old mare, Fidji Island, but the bogey FEI vertical which had caused heartache in the opening round was now the first fence on the track and when that fell her chances were already compromised, although she would be guaranteed a good share of the prize-money when returning an otherwise faultless performance to stop the clock in 41.43 seconds. And when last-man-in Weishaupt lost his line on the approach to two remaining elements of the treble, his stallion, Monte Bellini, drifted right after jumping the first part and their finishing score of nine faults would leave them fifth in the final analysis.
“I’ve only been riding Satisfaction for about three-quarters of a year” winning rider Kutscher explained. And it has taken some time for this partnership to gell. “At first he didn’t trust me at all. He used to be ridden by Eva Bitter, and I am grateful to her for the great job she has done. She helped him to believe in himself, but it has been slow to happen. I started by just doing 1.40m classes with him, but then just before Christmas he won a good class and then he won another one last week and here at Gothenburg on Friday. But I really wasn’t expecting this victory today!” he added.
The stage is now almost completely set for the Rolex FEI World Cup™ 2011/2012 Final in April where the top riders from all around the world will gather for the annual battle of champions to decide who is king, or queen, of the indoor international jumping circuit. FEI Jumping Director, John Roche, confirmed the top-19 riders qualified from the Western European League, pointing out however that there may be substitutions down to 27th place.
Result: 1. Satisfaction FRH (Marco Kutscher) GER 0/0 39.40; 2, Kassini Jac (Ludo Philippaerts) BEL 0/0 45.35; 3, Le Prestige st Lois de Hus (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/4 37.41; 4, Fidji Island (Katharina Offel) UKR 0/4 41.83; 5, Monte Bellinni (Philipp Weishaupt) GER 0/9 52.39; 6, Mic Mac du Tillar (Angelica Ausustsson) SWE 4/71.34; 7, Lantinus (D Lynch) IRL 4/72.38; 8, Ad Rahmannshof's Bogeno (Alvaro de Miranda) BRA 4/75.18; 9, H&M Reveur de Hurtebise (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) SWE 4/75.51; 10, Carlina (Pius Schwizer) SUI 4/75.74.