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February 22, 2007

Ahlmann Leads Western European League After Leipzig Victory

The German show jumpers triumphed completely on their home turf at the CSI-W Leipzig, Jan. 19-21.

Otto Becker and the 8-year-old, Baden-Wuerttemberg stallion Lucky The Man started the show by winning the international opening class, and Franke Sloothaak topped the first class of the Youngster Cup tour aboard the Hanoverian mare Lou.

The 10th renewal of the Partner Pferd, which included a large exhibition, a World Cup qualifier for four-in-hand teams, an international Western riding tournament, and for the first time national Grand Prix dressage competitions, attracted 55,000 spectators.

As the new World Cup formula prescribes, Leipzig had two pre-qualifiers on Friday and Saturday for Sunday's World Cup class for those riders who were not pre-qualified. Riders have widely criticized this rule, since it means that their horses (usually they have only one top horse) have to put up three top performances within three days.

Germany's Heinrich-Hermann Engemann and the 13-year-old, Westphalian gelding Aboyeur W won the first qualifier for the World Cup (also the Grand Prix) on Friday, ahead of Switzerland's Markus Fuchs aboard La Toya III, Becker aboard Limbo and the Austrian superstar combination Thomas Fruhmann and The Sixth Sense.

A total of 50 starters competed in this first qualifier. Its winner, Engemann, as well as the 2006 German Champion Renéé Tebbel, have been nominated for Germany's A team, from which the riders for the European Championships will be recruited. U.S. rider Peter Wylde jumped a clear round aboard the 11-year-old Holsteiner (by Quidam de Revel), Quo Vadis, placing ninth in the Volkswagen Prize.

Marcus Ehning and K�chengirl repeated their 2006 win in the second qualifier. The FEI World Rankings leader has given the 10-year-old Bavarian mare a long break after the World Equestrian Games and returned her in top form. For his victory in the second qualifier, the so-called Delitzscher Championat, Ehning received a one-kilogram gold bar worth $22,025.

The 32-year-old reigning World Cup Champion kept his countrymen Ludger Beerbaum aboard Couleur Rubin and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aboard Le Mans in second and third places respectively.

Holger Wulschner and the 11-year-old, Holsteiner gelding Clausen, who Wulschner said is the best horse he's ever had in his barn, withdrew from the jump-off, as did Ulrich Kirchhoff aboard Carino, to save their horses for the Grand Prix/World Cup qualifier.

The Belgian World Champion Jos Lansink, aboard the 11-year-old mare Valentina van't Hei, placed sixth. He missed the jump-off by 1 time penalty.

With one pole down in the initial round Wylde and the 16-year-old Holsteiner mare Fein Cera, with whom he had been third in the 2002 World Championships, dropped to 15th, one place out of the purse. It had looked like a clear round for the 40-year-old rider, but Fein Cera hit the last fence, a vertical, with her hind legs.

John Whitaker showed a promising horse with the 12-year-old, Irish-bred gelding Casino (sired by Cavalier). They had a safe, clear round until the gelding decided he did not really want to pass the exit and lost his concentration for a moment, just before the triple combination, which had caused the most faults on Frank Rothen-berger's course. Whitaker finished with 12 penalty points, but he certainly has a horse to keep an eye on.

The $110,925 Sparkassen Cup, the Grand Prix and World Cup qualifier on Sunday, was again dominated by German riders, who comprised seven of the 11 combi-nations qualified for the jump-off.

Christian Ahlmann and Cöster, the 2003 double European Champions and 2006 WEG team bronze medalists, rolled up the field from behind. As the last starters in the jump-off, they bested (42.23 seconds) the time of Ehning and Sandro Boy (42.46 seconds). Ahlmann's victory was not without luck, since Cöster, a 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding, tipped the top poles of the first and final fences, but both stayed on top.

"I watched Marcus' ride, and I knew he was fast but still beatable," Ahlmann said. "But when I had to give a half-halt before the last fence to make it right there, I did not believe that I would still best Marcus' time. But the better it was that I did."

With his victory at Leipzig, Ahlmann took over the lead in the standings of the Western European World Cup League with 78 points, followed by Swiss rider Beat M�ndli (64) and Dutch rider Albert Zoer (50). M�ndli was not competing at Leipzig, and Zoer did not win additional points there.

For Ahlmann the question is no longer whether he will be qualified for the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas, the only question is which horse he is going to take. He has earned his World Cup points with three different horses-- Cöster, Lorenzo and Sinclaire. He considers Cöster as his first choice, but he also wants to compete in the European Championships to be held at Mannheim (Germany) in August.

This was the first time in the ten-year history of the show that a rider scored a repeat win in the Grand Prix. In 2000 Ahlmann won this class aboard Zeno. The 8,000 spectators in the sold-out arena celebrated his victory enthusiastically.

Wylde and Fein Cera had one pole down in the initial round when the Holsteiner mare kicked down the middle element of the triple combination with her hind legs. With a fast time they placed 14th, still collecting 3 World Cup points. They now carry 19 points, for 23rd place in the Western European League.

In a 1.45-meter class, Wylde and the 9-year-old, Belgian gelding Valentino took sixth place, and in the first class of the Youngster Tour he was third aboard the 8-year-old, Hanoverian gelding Let's Fly. In the second class and in the final of this tour they had one pole down.

 
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