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April 21, 2006

Michaels-Beerbaum Wins World Cup Warm-up At 's-Hertogenbosch

eredith Michaels-Beerbaum is already qualified for the FEI World Cup Final in Kuala Lumpur at the end of April, having won the title last year.
But she didn't let that detail stop her from claiming victory in the World Cup-qualifying grand prix at the 's-Hertogenbosch CSI-W (the Netherlands) on March 23-26.

On a sad note to the week, Michaels-Beerbaum dedicated her win to her late mother-in-law, who had recently died after a long illness.

Michaels-Beerbaum plans to take Checkmate--her winner in 's-Hertogen-bosch--to Kuala Lumpur rather than her 2005 Budweiser FEI World Cup winner, Shutterfly. With the upcoming World Equestrian Games in August, she plans to start Shutterfly in the outdoor season in Arrezzo in Italy, where a circuit is developing, with three shows in a row at the same show grounds.

Hot on Michaels-Beerbaum's heels was her brother-in-law, Ludger Beerbaum, who was looking for points to assure himself of qualifying for Kuala Lumpur. Beerbaum's best placing of this season had been, so far, a second place at Leipzig CSI-W (Germany) aboard Gladdys S.

He and Gladdys S looked ready to win at 's-Hertogenbosch when they jumped clear in 37.03 seconds as the fifth to go in the nine-horse jump-off. But Michaels-Beerbaum bested his time aboard Checkmate, the 11-year-old Contender son, and took victory with a 36.69 second clean round.

Third place went to Great Britain's Michael Whitaker aboard Portofino (0-0/38.14). Some talented riders of the younger generation also showed their ability, as 23-year-old Ben Maher of Great Britain took fourth aboard Niko (0-0/38.98). Eighth-placed Dutch rider Piet Raymakers Jr., also just 23, rode the Hanoverian stallion Rascin.

The tickets to Kuala Lumpur will be written out at the Gothenburg CSI�W (Sweden) on Apr. 14-16, but those who want them will have to be among the top 18 of the Western European League. It looks as though Germany will be represented once again in the final with by far the biggest number of riders from Western Europe.

Besides Michaels-Beerbaum and her husband Markus (currently in 10th) and her brother-in-law Ludger (11th), Marcus Ehning looks to be safely qualified.

Riders still vying for a spot include Heinrich-Hermann Engemann (13th), Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst (14th), Toni Hass-mann (15th) and Marco Kutscher, who stands 20th but could be qualified since Meredith does not count among the top 18 and Nick Skelton (ninth) has already withdrawn from the final.

Western European league leader Robert Smith is the only rider definitely qualified for Great Britain. He might be accompanied by Michael Whitaker (19th), while Maher (28th) would have to be among the top three at Gothenburg to make it for the final.

Third-ranked Gerco Schroeder is the only rider among the top 20 for the Netherlands at the moment, but some others still have a chance. Harrie Smolders, Leopold van Asten and Piet Raymakers are currently tied for 23rd. Among the top 10, who can be considered to have their tickets in their pockets, are Austria's Thomas Fruhmann (fourth), Switzerland's Beat M�ndli (fifth), Ireland's Jessica K�rten (seventh) and Italy's Juan Carlos Garcia (eighth).

France might be represented by Philippe Leoni (12th) and Jean-Marc Nicolas (18th), Belgium by Patrick McEntee and Sweden by Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (both 15th).

While Michaels-Beerbaum snatched the World Cup class for Germany, on the days before in the World Cup pre-qualification and the Audi Grand Prix, the German riders did not have a great impact.

In the $72,854 Audi Grand Prix, a Dutch victory pleased the audience. Albert Zoer topped a nine-horse jump-off to win aboard Okidoki with the fastest of only three clear rounds in 34.72 seconds. Runners-up became the Dubai winners K�rten and Libertina (0-0/35.91) ahead of Patrick McEntee aboard Marais Z (0-0/44.50).
 
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