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June 12, 2009

Alves Rises To The Top In Hamburg CSI*****

Thomas Kleis

The Brazilian rider takes the third leg of the Global Champions Tour and now leads the standings.

The typically raucous Brazilians upped the atmosphere during the Hamburg CSI***** Global Champions Tour, May 21-24, and they had reason to celebrate when their Bernardo Alves topped the $400,219 Grand Prix of Germany.

The North-German Derby Park at Hamburg hosted 18,000 spectators who cheered for the 34-year-old rider when he won the third leg of GCT aboard the 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Chupa Chup 2. He now takes over the lead in the 2009 rankings with 36 points after three of the nine competitions. Michel Robert of France and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson of Sweden stand tied for second (33).

The Germans enjoyed the day too, at this, one of their country’s featured shows, as local hero Carsten-Otto Nagel rode his 11-year-old Holsteiner mare Corradina to second place. French rider Roger-Yves Bost guided Ideal De La Loge to third place, while Britain’s William Funnell took Billy Birr to fourth.

The top four riders finished the two-round competition with double-clear rounds. Alves was in the unlucky position to have to open the jump-off, but he set the unbeatable time of 51.05 seconds with a clear round.

Nagel, as next starter, stayed clear as well but needed .20 seconds more. In an attempt to beat the two leading riders, Bost had one pole down. Funnell went for broke too, earning the fastest jump-off time of 50.16 seconds, but two rails kept him from the top.

Reigning Rolex FEI World Cup champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum was once again in contention. But, while she had won Thursday’s GCT Grand Prix qualifier aboard Checkmate 4, she missed the jump-off on Saturday with Shutterfly by 1 time penalty in the second round, placing fifth. 

The first round, of which 18 of the 48 riders qualified for the second phase, produced 17 clear rounds. Among those were 2006 World Championship team gold medalist Albert Zoer of the Netherlands aboard Oki Doki and German-based Denis Lynch of Ireland aboard Lantinus. But both riders had one pole down in the second round, placing sixth and seventh, respectively.

Lauren Hough, the only U.S. rider in Hamburg, didn’t proceed to the second round as her eight-fault score with Naomi 152 left her 39th.

Alves was happy about his $133,406 victory. “It’s always difficult being first in the jump-off, but I thought I had done enough for second at least,” he said. “Winning is better, of course, because I really want to go to the Final in Doha [Qatar], and maybe now I have enough points. It’s my first visit to Hamburg and everything has been the best, the arena, the stables for the horses. I will come again.” 

Nagel echoed Alves’ thoughts, yet he had just to drive a few kilometers from his stables at Wedel. For him, his second place also meant a lot, since it was the comeback for Corradina after a four-month break.

“My aim is now to make the German team for the European Show Jumping Championships this summer,” he said.

Traditionally, the first leg of the Rider’s Tour takes place on Sunday afternoon with the German Show Jumping Derby, which, in its 80th year, is Europe’s oldest. With two of the 31 starters mastering the derby course with a clear round, a jump-off was necessary.

In front of 26,000 spectators, Matthias Granzow, aboard the 15-year-old Mecklenburg mare Antik, led off. He and the chestnut had one rail down and 11 time penalties, leaving the door wide open for his best friend and last year’s fourth-placed finisher, Thomas Kleis.

Kleis, 31, took the opportunity to win the $146,000 class for the first time. He jumped clear with the 12-year-old Holsteiner mare Carassina and collected 2 time penalties.

“This is the greatest success of my career and, of course, I am looking forward to participating in the other legs of the Riders Tour,” he said.

As the rankings leader, Kleis is automatically qualified for the next legs, which will total six this year.

André Thieme, who won the Derby in 2007 and 2008, took third with the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Nacorde.

The three top-placed riders from the northern German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern proved that over the 1,250-meter course and 17 natural fences, Olympic and Championship titles don’t mean much—Christian Ahlmann was sixth and Rodrigo Pessoa did not place.

The three top riders confirmed that they prepared for months for the German Show Jumping Derby. And this year the derby course was more demanding than in the past 79 editions. Course designer Frank Rothenberger raised all of the fences slightly (now a 1.55m class), and some of them he made even wider.

It was the 10cm wider brush-oxer that caused problems for Thieme, who not only had a pole down at this fence, but was also almost catapulted out of the saddle. Nevertheless, he finished the course with the fastest four-penalty round.

The major class on Thursday, also a national holiday, featured the Mercedes-Benz Championat of Hamburg, which saw Michaels-Beerbaum drive out of the ring in a new Mercedes.

Michaels-Beerbaum, the world’s No. 1 rider, took the title due to the firm will of the Hanoverian gelding Checkmate to clear the course as fast as possible. He took a short turn, which his rider hadn’t anticipated.

Michaels-Beerbaum explained, “When I looked at the jump-off course, I hadn't even noticed the flower pot on the landing side of the double and certainly hadn’t thought about turning inside it. But as we landed, Checkmate went that way and as he clearly seemed to know where he was going, I went with him.”

The Championat became a “ladies day” when the runner-up was local rider Janne Friederike Meyer aboard the small but fast 11-year-old Holsteiner gelding Cellagon Lambrasco.

Meyer, 27, set the mark in the eight-horse jump-off with a clear round in 44.89 seconds. Michaels-Beerbaum bested her time in 43.01 seconds. Meyer, who had been runner-up in the Rider’s Tour class last year, put the 2008 Riders Tour Champions Nagel and Corradina into third of the 56 participants.  

 
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