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April 16, 2010

Guerdat Gets It Done In Round 2, Ward's Sapphire Disqualified From Competition

Swiss sensation Steve Guerdat and Tresor V sped to the top of Round 2 of the Rolex/FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final.

After a disappointing 2-rail performance in Round 1 of the Rolex/FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final in Geneva, Switzlerland, Steve Guerdat came back to the Palexpo Arena tonight to give his countryman a performance to cheer for. Guerdat won Round 2 of the Final today, April 16, after a speedy jump-off aboard Tresor V.

“I don’t think [this win] is revenge from yesterday—it’s just the sport,” said Guerdat. “Yesterday I wasn’t good enough, and I was better today. I was good enough to win the class.”

U.S. riders stayed strong, with McLain Ward finishing second again with Sapphire, and Mario Deslauriers piloting the eager Urico to third.

But disaster struck for Ward when the results of a thermoimaging scan disqualified Sapphire from competition after the competition at 12:30 a.m. Fédération Equestre Internationale veterinarian Paul Farrington stressed that there was no evidence of malpractice by Ward or any member of his team. According to the FEI decision, Sapphire was eliminated from Round 2 of the Final and has been disqualified from the rest of the competition.

After a slow start in yesterday’s speed phase, the strong German contingent picked up some momentum, with three riders in the nine-horse jump-off, including Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue who finished fourth, and were bumped up to third following Ward's elimination. And the Swiss fielded two other contenders in the short course, including Pius Schwizer, who has led the Rolex World Rankings for the last three months and will sit fifth heading into tomorrow's competition.

Rolf Lündi built a technical track for tonight’s 1.60-meter grand prix. A vertical-oxer in-and-out set over a pair of liverpools tripped up plenty of horses, as did the final oxer-vertical line, set off a tight turn right by the in-gate. And even if riders did manage to find a safe way over the fences, the time allowed caught up with more than a quarter of the field.

Such a serious course demanded a careful plan, and Guerdat had a strategy in mind from the get-go. He left yesterday’s mount, his 2008 Olympic Games partner Jalisca Solier, in the barn and opted to use Tresor V in today’s class.

“From the beginning it was the plan to start with Jalisca then switch to Tresor,” said Guerdat, 27. “If I had to do it again I would do the same thing. I was ready to win yesterday until I missed the third fence. I was supposed to bring back Jalisca, but I’m going to keep going with Tresor. My strategy is just to win.”

And he just might be able to do just that. Though he’s only 27, this marks his fifth World Cup final, and last year he and Tresor finished ninth. Currently ranked 10th in the world, he heads into Sunday’s final two rounds in a three-way tie for 10th, having moved up 14 places from yesterday’s ranking.

The Right Thing To Do

But to get much further he’ll have to overthrow some serious contenders. Deslauriers would like to reprise his 1984 title while wearing the stars and stripes on his saddle pad, and he now sits just in the lead heading into Sunday.

Rather than try to win the class, most riders didn't opt to go flat-out over the short course, instead opting to aim for an efficient clear go. But the naturally quick Urico made a solid effort.

“It was the right thing to do, just to try to leave the jumps up,” said Deslauriers. “We were well-placed as of yesterday, and if you knock one down trying to go too fast you end up far behind. We’re in just the right place.”

Ward had been planning to let Sapphire rest for a day and campaign his rising star Rothchild in the Credit Suisse Grand Prix tomorrow before Sunday's final two rounds. While some riders did enter multiple horses in the World Cup Final, Sapphire was Ward's sole entry.  It's not clear whether he may substitute in another mount to continue on in the competition if he should chose to do so.

Rothchild did not compete in any World Cup-qualfying classes this season, a requirement for entry into the Final. Ward did also compete Sagamore Farm's Phillipa in World Cup classes successfully this season, winning the $50,000 Strongid C 2X Grand Prix CSI-W (Calif.) and placing second in the $100,000 Green Cove Springs CSI-W (Fla.). 

Jostling The Standings

While the U.S. dominated the first round of competition, today’s grand prix shifted most Americans down a few notches. 2007 runners-up Rich Fellers and Flexible fell from first to a tie for 12th after a pair of rails. Todd Minikus and Pavarotti had a weaker round today to pick up 9 faults and drop from fifth down to 19th, tied with Richard Spooner who dropped down from 12th. A conservative try yesterday left Lauren Hough near the top third, but an 8-fault round drops her down to 23rd

The top of the leaderboard has a greater variety of flags on it now, and with the German emblem appearing most frequently. The highest ranked, Marcus Ehning, sits just behind Deslauriers, and the lowest German, Philipp Weishaupt, still sits tied for 12th.

Three-time World Cup-winner Rodrigo Pessoa (Brazil) caught a rail in the first round to fall from third to fifth, and Schwizer's quietly stalking his way up the standings, currently lying third.

Competition will resume on Sunday, while the world’s six best indoor drivers will vie for the FEI Driving World Cup during two rounds tomorrow evening. Heavily favored Australian Boyd Excell won today’s preliminary class, giving him an enviable ultimate spot for tomorrow’s competition.

Read all about yesterday’s speed class, and check out our Rolex/FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final page for all your World Cup information, including a synopsis of all the contenders and plenty of photos. Top 10 results from Round 2 follow. Check out full results at the official Rolex/FEI World Cup page and check back for an update about Ward.

Round 2 of the Rolex/FEI World Cup Final

Place Rider/Horse/Country/ Faults

1 Steve Guerdat/Tresor V/SUI/ 0-0/36.12

2 Mario Deslauriers/Urico/USA/ 0-0/37.50

3 Marcus Ehning/Plot Blue/GER 0-0/38.85

4 Pius Schwizer/Carlina/SUI 0-0/39/87

5 Rolf-Göran Bengtsson/Quintero La Silla/SWE/ 0-4/37.97

6 Ludger Beerbaum/Gotha/GER 0-4/38.38

7 Marco Kutcher/Cash/GER 0-4/38.50

8 Daniel Etter/Peu A Peu/SUI/ 0-12/38.71

9 Natale Chiaudani/SNAI Seldana Di Campalto/ITA/1

9 Patrice Delaveau/Katchina Mail/FRA/1

 

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