Rich Fellers didn’t quite hold onto his lead in the World Cup Finals today in Round 2, which is run in a grand prix class format. But he’s still tied for second in the overall standings.
By placing second in the second leg, Swiss rider Pius Schwizer has taken over the lead. Schwizer rode Ulysse to fourth place the day before in the speed leg, and then switched to Carlina for Round 2 today. He went last in a three-horse jump-off, and rode somewhat conservatively to place second and accumulate enough points for the lead. Another Swiss, Steve Guerdat, is tied with Fellers for second.
Schwizer might be in the lead overall, but today belonged to the young German rider Philipp Weishaupt. Weishaupt claimed the win in Round 2 with a jump-off round almost a second faster than Schwizer’s. Schwizer, 49, is a man of few words in a press conference, almost coming off gruff and dismissive. But Weishaupt, 26, charmed the press corps with his enthusiasm and eagerness to chat.
Weishaupt shared that having Pius jump off after him was nerve-wracking. “It’s a nightmare to have Pius behind me,” he said. “The last two years, in four or five grand prix classes, he’s beaten me. I was always in the lead and Pius always came with Carlina or Ulysse and beat me. Now I celebrate that this time, I didn’t let it happen.”
Weishaupt laid down quite a challenge as the second to jump off. His fellow German Marco Kutscher had set a brisk pace on Cornet Obolensky. “I tried to put some pressure on my colleagues, but in the end it wasn’t enough,” Kutscher said. “Philipp was 2 seconds faster than me. Cornet isn’t the fastest horse and maybe in the end I could have risked a little bit more.”
But Weishaupt credited Kutscher’s pace as his inspiration to step on the gas aboard Monte Bellini. “Marco was really fast already, so I had no choice; I had to go for it,” Weishaupt said. “My jump-off felt really good and smooth. All the turns were good, which made it really hard for Pius because the pressure was really on him.”
Watch Weisthaupt’s jump-off round and see an interview with him…
Kutscher and Weishaupt both are protégés of German legend Ludger Beerbaum and assistant riders at his farm in Reisenbeck, Germany. Weishaupt, the German national champion in 2009, has been riding for Beerbaum for nine years and is originally from Bavaria. Interestingly, Weishaupt’s horse for his Round 2 win, Monte Bellini, is a son of Kutscher’s former Olympic and World Championship mount Montender.
Schwizer certainly wasn’t slow—his time even going a bit casually beat Kutscher’s. But he has his eyes on a bigger prize than just the one leg of the World Cup. “I’m very happy with the way Carlina jumped today. The plan was to stay clean and the most important thing is [the two final rounds on] Sunday,” Schwizer said.
Not Quite, But Still Close
Fellers missed making the jump-off by just one rail. On his way around the first round, Flexible clipped the back rail of the oxer at 11B, in the middle of the triple combination. “He was jumping out of his skin as usual. It was a funny triple. I don’t know what was really affecting the horse’s vision or what they were looking at, but that’s not a typical rail for Flexible. And he actually had it pretty hard, he kind of came down on it. I felt like I rode in well and I don’t know what I would have done differently there. But that’s sport,” Fellers said.
With those 4 faults and an efficient time, Fellers and Flexible placed eighth in the class, which put them into a two-way tie with Swiss rider Steve Guerdat for second place with 1 fault to their name. World Cup scoring converting each riders’ placings in Rounds 1 and 2 into points. Then, the rider with the most amount of points—the overall leader after Round 2 (Schwizer now)—is assigned 0 faults, and those after him assigned faults in increasing amounts according to their point totals. So, Schwizer had 0 faults to his name before the two rounds of the last day, and Guerdat and Fellers have 1 fault each. Over the last two rounds, riders simply add any faults incurred to their total. The rider with the least amount of faults in the end wins.
Fellers knows the competition is far from over, and he’s looking forward to Sunday’s challenge. “I’m an optimistic guy. I thought when I came out of the ring, ‘At least I don’t have to jump him off.’ He’ll just be that much more fresh for Sunday, which is a lot less stress for sure. He felt good today. The plan for Sunday is two clear rounds. I like zeroes,” Fellers said.
Weishaupt’s Round 2 win, combined with a 14th place in the speed leg the day before, has put him into a three-way tie for fifth with Eric Lamaze and Rik Hemeryck.
Interestingly, all three riders involved in the jump-off in Round 2 rode different horses than they’d ridden in the speed leg the day before. Weishaupt rode Souvenir in Round and Monte Bellini in Round 2. Schwizer rode Ulysse in Round 1 and Carlina in Round 2. And Kutscher rode Satisfaction in Round 1 and Cornet Obolensky in Round 2.
Just A Few Mistakes
Beezie Madden is the next-highest placed U.S. rider after Fellers. She’s in eighth with Cortes C after turning in a fast four-fault round today to take fifth place in the class. Madden and Cortes C had the same rail as Fellers—the oxer at B of the triple combination.
“I was very happy with the way he went and the way the round went. He just needs a little more experience for that kind of triple combination,” Madden said. “The rest he jumped so easy and went so nice. I think the course tested a little of everything, it was scopey in the triple and tested rideability with some tricky lines and fences in the corners of the ring. If I could have been in the jump-off and moved up some more places, that would have been better. But maybe he’ll be better off [for not jumping-off]. A lot can happen still.”
There are three U.S. riders right in the middle of the pack. Richard Spooner and Margie Engle are tied for 16th, and Margie Engle is in 18th. Spooner and Cristallo had two rails today and finished 21st in the class. Meanwhile, Engle had a bit of a Hail Mary round on Indigo to finish with just one rail. Indigo double-clutched over a liverpool oxer early in the course, but jumped it clean. “The five strides [to Fence 7] got a little far away and I don’t think he saw the back rail until he got up in the air,” Engle said. “I think he misjudged it just a hair. But he tried his heart out once he got there and he gave it a really good effort.” After that, Indigo seemed to back off the fences a bit, but Engle rode him hard and got him back in the groove. She looked to be having a miraculous clear round, but the crowd groaned with her when a rail fell at the last oxer.
“I watched so many riders have time faults, and I thought I was closer to the time than I was and just rushed the last jump. It didn’t feel like he had it very hard, just brushed it in front. I didn’t allow him to take his time,” she said.
Kirsten Coe, in just her second World Cup Final, didn’t have quite the round she wanted in Round 2, collecting 13 faults on Combina. “I thought the beginning of the course was good, but then he lit up a little bit,” Coe said. “When he gets like that he gets a little stiff in his jump. I had a few jumps down behind. It wasn’t ideal but now probably he’ll come out and be very good on Sunday. The more he jumps the better he goes.”