A new Swede rises to the top in the 12th stop on the Western European League World Cup tour.
Swede Svante Johansson may have been known to his fellow countrymen, as 12,000 fans cheered him on from the stands at the Gothenburg Horse Show, but most everyone else considered him a surprise victor in the World Cup qualifier, held Feb. 22, aboard St. Amour.
In this World Cup season Johansson had participated in only one previous leg—in Verona (Italy)—where he didn’t earn any points.
Nevertheless, the Swedish fans knew him well because in 2008 he’d won the Grand Prix of Stockholm (Sweden) and had been third in the Riders Tour Grand Prix of Hanover (Germany).
During the show, in Gothenburg, Sweden, the 12th of 13 legs on the Western European League of the Rolex FEI Show Jumping World Cup tour, only four of the 36 riders succeeded in solving the tasks put up by Swiss course designer Rolf Lüdi.
In addition to Johannson and fellow Swede Rolf-Göran Bengtsson, Danish rider Thomas Velin and Brazilian Alvaro Miranda mastered the test.
Velin opened the jump-off aboard the 15-year-old French stallion Godsend du Reverdy by going clear in 36.23 seconds to set the standard.
Only Johansson, going next, managed to stay within the timeframe Velin had set, riding the small but scopey, 10-year-old Hanoverian stallion Saint Amour (by Stakkato) to a clear round almost a full second faster.
As the second-to-last starter in the jump-off, Miranda took a risk aboard his Dutch Warmblood mare AD Picolien Zeldenrust. They had the time of 35.16 seconds, but the speedy round cost them two poles down and left them fourth.
German-based Bengtsson had the final opportunity to catch Johansson. He also finished clear (36.93 seconds) aboard the 11-year-old Holsteiner stallion Quintero la Silla but wasn’t fast enough to push Johansson from the top spot.
That so few combinations qualified for the jump-off surprised the Swedish winner.
“I have no idea why a lot of top combinations didn’t make it to the jump off,” he said, referring to Great Britain’s Michael Whitaker with Portofino and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum aboard Shutterfly to name just two. “But this victory was what I had really been hoping and training for! To win a World Cup qualifier in front of my home crowd, that’s one of the best things that can happen to me.
“The Swiss course designer, Rolf Lüdi, had built a really big class today; there were a lot of jumps coming from a turn and some of the oxers were really wide,” he added. “My horse is only small, but he has more scope and a bigger stride than people would think. With my successes at Stockholm and Hanover, I knew Saint Amour can jump a tough 1.60-meter class.”
For Johansson, Gothenburg’s World Cup qualifier was the focus of his indoor season, not qualifying for the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas in April.
“I went to a small Dutch show at Zwolle in the beginning of January because I wanted to go to Amsterdam (the Netherlands) and after that to do well at Gothenburg,” he explained. “Saint Amour is a small horse; he can’t jump the biggest classes every weekend. I want to keep him happy and confident, so I have to vary his agenda. I never intended to try and qualify for Las Vegas. The European Championships in Windsor [England] are my goal for 2009.”
This World Cup qualifier really had two winners, though. At least that’s how runner-up Velin felt after the competition. Standing 17th in the Western European League, the Danish rider was dangling between going and not going to Las Vegas.
“And I desperately want to go to the final,” he admitted, “so I’m very happy with these 17 points. They bring me into fourth position. I’m safe now!”
Velin took just one horse—Godsend du Reverdy—to the Scandinavium to totally concentrate on the World Cup qualifier. “He is equally good as Grim St. Clair, but he likes to gallop more. Grim St. Clair can cope with a small arena, so I will take him to Las Vegas.”
Australia’s Dutch-based Edwina Alexander couldn’t add World Cup points to her account at Gothenburg and is now in fourth position in the league. She was eliminated when Late Night had two refusals in the triple combination.