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March 24, 2006

The Sixth Sense Prevails In Leipzig

Just one day before his 55th birthday, Austria's Thomas Fr�uhmann won his second World Cup qualifier of the 2005-06 season aboard The Sixth Sense in front of a crowd of 8,500 spectators at Leipzig, Germany, Jan. 22.

With 20 World Cup points from Geneva (Switzerland) and another 20 for his Leipzig victory, the 1991 World Cup champion improved from 16th to sixth in the standings for the Western European League. In the past, 40 points would normally be enough to qualify among the 18 finalists from the Western European League. But four of the 12 qualifying competitions for this league have yet to come, and Fruhmann also intends to compete at Bordeaux (France) and Vigo (Spain) to ensure his place in the World Cup Final, to be held at Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in April.

In Friday's preliminary class, Fruhmann and the 10-year-old gelding finished second behind Ireland's Jessica Kurten and Castle Forbes Libertina to claim a good starting position for the $105,115 World Cup qualifier, which was also the Grand Prix of Leipzig sponsored by the Sparkasse.

Fruhmann and the Westphalian gelding were second-to-last in the grand prix, posting the 13th clear round out of 40 participants over Frank Rothenberger's course. They claimed the right to start last in the jump-off, since the final ride in the first round, Dubai's grand prix winner Kurten and the 10-year-old, Westphalian mare Castle Forbes Libertina, dropped a rail.

In the jump-off, no one before Fruhmann, the Austrian 1992 Olympic team silver medallist, had succeeded in besting Ludger Beerbaum's mark of a clear round in 33.70 seconds, which the German rider had set aboard the 14-year-old, Hanoverian mare Gladdys S as the third starter in the jump-off.

But then came Fruhmann, who bested the time of the 2001 European Individual Champions by half a second, with a clear round in 33.12 seconds. In addition to his 20 World Cup points, he also earned a purse of $25,912.

Lots Of Competition
Third place went to Beerbaum's employee, the reigning double European Champion Marco Kutscher, who was not competing his European Championship mount Montender but the 10-year-old, Holsteiner gelding Cash (0-0/34.15). The 2000 Sydney Olympic team champions from Germany, Otto Becker and the 17-year-old, Oldenburg stallion Dobel's Cento, finished fourth, followed by the 1996 Atlanta double Olympic champion Ulrich Kirchhoff, who has again, with the 11-year-old, Holsteiner gelding Carino, a top mount beneath his saddle.

Two of the top favorites did not even proceed to the jump-off: The World Rankings leader Marcus Ehning of Germany had one pole down with Sandro Boy at the beginning of the initial round, and the reigning World Cup champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum had one pole down and a refusal plus 2 time penalties in the initial round with Checkmate.

Fruhmann admitted that he was surprised with the form of his horse: "So far, he has done quite a few major classes, and this was only his fourth World Cup competition. I'm very pleased and happy with his performance. Ludger posted a really fast time, and I knew that I had to go as fast as I possibly could if I wanted to have any chance of beating him. Fortunately, The Sixth Sense is a real fighter."

Fruhmann, who became a father last November, discovered The Sixth Sense in the autumn of 2003. The horse is now owned by his first wife, Serena Hamberg, and Fruhmann has built him up very carefully since he knew at once that this was a top-class horse.

The Vienna-born rider had his most successful stint in the 1980s and early 1990s, when he was working for Alwin Schockemoehle at Muehlen in Germany. With Alwin's Hanoverian stallion Grandeur--the sire of horses like Gladdys S--he won the German Show Jumping Derby at Hamburg three times and was a regular winner of major grand prix classes. After his team silver medal at Barcelona and his return to Austria he quieted down but never totally vanished from the international scene.

As the sports director of the CSI Wiener Stadthalle (Austria), he kept in close contact with the top sport over the last two decades. And he never gave up searching for a top mount, which he has found in The Sixth Sense. Though his aim is to go to the FEI World Cup Final, he is not sure if he wants to try for the World Championships at Aachen in August.

"It depends how The Sixth Sense is doing in the outdoor season. I will decide this about two months before the WEG," he said.

Fruhmann, who lives in Salzburg, Austria, close to the German border, also has a second top mount with the 9-year-old, Belgian gelding Limited Edition, with whom he placed second in a two-phase class and fifth in a speed class at Leipzig.

Different Goals
While Fruhmann's aim is the World Cup Final, Beerbaum has already set his mind on the World Equestrian Games. With Leipzig's second place, the 1993 World Cup champion has just 25 World Cup points on his account, which puts him in 14th position in the Western European League.

Kutscher has a different priority from Beerbaum. For him, Kuala Lumpur comes first, and he will continue to try to increase his points. So far he has just 22, which puts him, together with four other riders, in 18th place. In the lead is Switzerland's Beat Mandli with 56 points, followed by the Netherland's Gerco Schroeder with 52 points and Germany's Marcus Ehning with 48 points.

In the World Cup preliminary class, Peter Wylde had only one pole down aboard La Corrada, a 12-year-old, Holsteiner mare who he has ridden since November of 2005. He placed 28th, but this dropped him out of Saturday's World Cup qualifier by one rank due to a very difficult qualifying system, which has a lot of pre-qualified riders who do not need to place in the preliminary class.

La Corrada, who was previously ridden by Germany's Iris Bayer, is also for sale, but Wylde has an even newer ride aboard Hockey Bleus d'Amaury. The 11-year-old, French stallion is owned by top French rider Michel Robert, who asked Wylde during the CSI-W Geneva in December 2005 if he wanted to ride his mount and help him sell it. So the U.S. rider started to ride Hockey Bleus d'Amaury three weeks before Leipzig, where they went very well in the Championat of Leipzig, and Wylde is convinced, due to the quality of the horse, that it will not be very difficult to find a buyer.

"Of course, I would love to find somebody who would buy the horse for me. But I would also be happy to find an owner who would keep Quo Vadis for me. The mare is now 10, and I have had her since she was a 6-year-old, and she has been doing amazingly well throughout the last year," said Wylde. "I would love to keep both horses."

In the Championat of Leipzig, Wylde and Hockey Bleus d'Amaury qualified for the jump-off along with six others out of 53 competitors. As the third to go in the jump-off they had one pole down at the second fence and another at the second-to-last fence, placing sixth. Before the last starters, Marcus Ehning and Lord's Classics, Beerbaum aboard Enorm and Dutch rider Eric van der Vleuten aboard Paloma had shared the lead with a time of 41.37 seconds.

But Ehning's ride scored the victory with a clear round in 40.45 seconds, which solved the dilemma of how to split the one kilogram gold ingot for the winner.

Fein Cera, with whom Wylde won the individual bronze medal in the 2002 WEG at Jerez and was member of the 2004 Olympic gold team, has had a rest since Munich Indoors in early December, where she had placed in the grand prix.

"I am riding her every day, and she is very fit," said Wylde. "I will start to compete her again at Arazzo in Italy in April. Depending on how she is doing in the beginning of the outdoor season, I will try to qualify for the WEG team. Fortunately, I would not have to fly her to the States to qualify there, since the final team selection will be done in Europe, which suits me well."
 
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