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March 24, 2006

Bengtsson Bounds Off With Neumunster Triumph

The blue-and-yellow colors of Sweden ruled the weekend as Rolf-Goran Bengtsson of Sweden took home two grand prix wins from the Neumunster CSI, held in Neumunster, Germany, Feb. 17-19.

Bengtsson's biggest victory came on Sunday afternoon when he won the Volksbanken und Raiffeisenbanken Grand Prix of Neumunster with Tepic La Silla. The 41-year-old 2004 Olympic team silver medalist also got to congratulate his countryman Jan Brink, who won the Grand Prix freestyle in the CDI earlier that day (see article p. 184).

The show jumping course held high demands for the 47 starters, 10 of whom qualified for the jump-off with a clear round. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum had one pole down in the initial round aboard Le Mans, at the planks over water, missing her chance to defend last year's victory.

Rene Tebbel of Germany and Quel Homme also had one rail down in the first round. European Champion Marco Kutscher took two rails with Cash, as did Jeroen Dubbeldam of the Netherlands, the 2000 Olympic gold medalist, aboard BMC Up And Down.

In the jump-off for the $41,496 purse, Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst set the mark aboard the Holsteiner mare Candy with a clear round in 38.99 seconds. The German rider won the Grand Prix of Neumunster in 1994 and 1999, but this year his performance was only good enough for second.

Still, Pollmann-Schweckhorst was satisfied with his performance. "When you have to go as one of the first competitors in a jump-off, you never know how much risk the following riders are going to take," he said.

Bengtsson managed to speed under Pollmann-Schweckhorst's time aboard Tepic La Silla by 1 second. Beat Mandli and Thomas Voss beat Bengtsson's time, but they each risked too much and lowered one rail.

Although Bengtsson is from Sweden, he lives near Neumunster in northern Germany, where he rents a barn in the equestrian center belonging to the German Equestrian Federation president, Graf Breido zu Rantzau.

"To win an international grand prix so close to the place you live is always especially nice," said Bengtsson. "I always like to come to Neumunster, not only because I am always successful here, but also because show organizer August Horn gave me a starting place in those years when I wasn't doing so well as a rider. Also my achievements at Neumunster gave me the chance to re-establish myself at the top again with my new mounts."

Tepic La Silla, an 18-year-old, Dutch Warmblood gelding, was the oldest horse competing in the grand prix. He helped Steve Guerdat of Switzerland win a team bronze medal in the 2003 European Championships at Donaue-schingen, Germany, and then returned to his Mexican owner, Alfonso Romo.

Romo then gave the gelding to Bengtsson. Tepic proved he isn't an "old" horse yet with his fast time in the jump-off, carrying his rider to the winner's purse of $13,041, plus a gold bar valued at $1,778 and the title of the most successful show jumper of this year's show.

On Saturday evening, Bengtsson also won the EON Sales and Trading Grand Prix aboard the Westphalian mare Quanta Costa. Marc Wirths of Germany finished second and was the only other rider with a clear round, aboard Thorax van't Eikhof. Denmark's Thomas Sandgaardt grabbed third with AK's Anima.

Sandgaardt, one of the strongest Danish show jumpers, was very pleased to get an opportunity to compete against the world's top show jumpers.

"It is very hard for us to get a starting place in the German shows," he said. "With the help of our team coach Achaz von Buchwaldt [who is German] and my sponsor, I hope it will be easier in the future."
 
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