Saturday, May. 25, 2024

Beerbaum Is Best At Olympia

German rider Markus Beerbaum finally added his name to the list of winners of the $118,103 H&M World Cup-qualifier grand prix at the London Olympia International Horse Show--a class his brother Ludger has already won three times.

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German rider Markus Beerbaum finally added his name to the list of winners of the $118,103 H&M World Cup-qualifier grand prix at the London Olympia International Horse Show–a class his brother Ludger has already won three times.

This was Beerbaum’s fifth visit to Olympia, held Dec. 12-18 in London, England, and his first World Cup-qualifying win outside of the United States. He was aboard Leena. “Last year here, she jumped a good round but knocked one down in the jump-off,” explained Beer-baum. “But this year was her year. I’ve always wanted to win at Olympia and this is my first World Cup win in Europe, so it’s very special.”

From a field of 34 starters, 10 horses made it to the jump-off. Leading off for Great Britain, Mark Armstrong on Thesaura completed a very neat, fast clear round in 36.66 seconds. Tim Stockdale, also of Great Britain, fought back with even tighter turns on the gray mare Fresh Direct Corlato, shaving a whole second off the time.

The next riders bettered Stockdale’s time but failed to leave all the poles up, until Beerbaum and Leena jumped a tight, speedy round and, despite rocking the second-last pole, came in clear in 35.13 seconds.

The in-form Alois Pollmann-Schweck-horst of Germany, who had already won two classes at Olympia, rode next on the Holsteiner mare Candy. He came closest to beating Beerbaum, with a clear round just half a second slower, for second place. Beat Mändli on Indigo IX took third (35.48 seconds).

Beerbaum’s win was no great surprise to his fellow competitors, who agreed that his 14-year-old, Oldenburg mare, Leena, is one of the fastest horses around. “I took a great risk when I turned back to the double,” said Beerbaum. “But Leena has been in great form, and I knew I was probably riding the fastest horse. She can be funny at water jumps so her best season is indoors; she has great speed but also the scope to do grand prix.”

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Pollmann-Schweckhorst pronounced himself “a bit overwhelmed” by the form of his horses. “For me this is one of the most important shows of the season,” he said. “The presentation of our sport here is fantastic–just how it should be, so I like to bring my horses here in top form.”

Mändli, whose 10-year-old horse Indigo IX won his first grand prix at age 7, said he “tried to go for the time but it didn’t work. I thought I could maybe have tried toward the last fence, but I knew I had no chance against Markus.”

A Great Comeback
Stockdale was “over the moon” for his fourth-placed finish. He had no expectation of even starting in the World Cup class with Fresh Direct Corlato. This attractive 9-year-old, Holsteiner mare survived a van crash at the start of the year when another truck smashed into the back of Stockdale’s horsebox, shortening it by 2 feet, and she had to be cut free from the wreckage.

Then in June, further disaster struck: misjudging a water jump, Corlato somersaulted and crashed onto her shoulder, breaking her humerus bone and six of Stockdale’s ribs.

While recovering, Stockdale became a household name in Britain, taking the role of trainer to a diverse group of celebrities, teaching them from scratch how to show jump for the primetime TV celebrity challenge, Only Fools On Horses. Several of his pupils reprised their roles in a special class at Olympia earlier in the week.

Fresh Direct Corlato came back to work successfully after lengthy stall rest, began cantering only five weeks before Olympia, and had done just five days of jumping before this prestigious class. “She was jumping so well I decided to give it a go. I’m chuffed to bits,” declared a delighted Stockdale.

The win at Olympia moved Beerbaum up from 45th in the Western European League to 11th. Since 18 from the league qualify for the FEI Rolex World Cup Final in Las Vegas, Nev., in April, it looks as though Beerbaum will be joining his wife, 2005 World Cup Final winner Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, in Las Vegas.

Men Step Aside
Girl power ruled in the $98,419 Links of London Grand Prix. Of the first 14 competitors, there were just three clear rounds–all of them lady riders on mares. By the end of the first round, they had been joined by five gentlemen, but it was a lady, Eugenie Angot of France, who scooped the biggest prize of the show, becoming the first French winner of this class in 15 years.

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No Italian has ever won this class, but Jonella Ligresti-Bonomelli, first to go in the jump-off, made an admirable attempt to change that with a good clear round, in a reasonably fast time (41.08 seconds). Her Dutch Warmblood mare, Nanta, showed tremendous scope, never touching a rail in either round over a very big course, but she left too many corners uncut. The next to go, Julia Kayser of Austria on H.B.C. Pherna, showed the time could be beaten (39.92 seconds), although two down left her out of the running.

Angot was next to go on Cigale du Taillis, her 2004 Athens Olympics ride. Angot and the 16-year-old, Selle Francais mare have already made headlines this year, winning the $849,110 CN International (Alta.) at the prestigious Spruce Meadows Masters in September. She took a very tight inside line to all the fences and galloped flat out to the final oxer, leaving them all standing in a time of 37.01 seconds, challenging the remaining riders to chase her time.

Franke Sloothaak certainly tried, but he presented Aquino at such an angle to fence 3 that he ran out. Crowd favorite, Stockdale, again with the incredibly lucky Fresh Direct Corlato, rode a very calculated, tight round but without a gallop to the last, finishing clear in 39.43 seconds and second place.

The remaining three–Mändli, Pollmann-Schweckhorst and John Whitaker–all chased Angot’s time but tipped fences. Mändli, this time riding Ideo du Thot, the horse with whom he placed third in the 2006 FEI World Cup Final in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, came nearest with the quickest time of the evening (35.08 seconds) but had the second part of the double down for an unlucky 4 faults, putting him into fourth place behind Ligresti-Bonomelli.

Angot, 32, daughter of French composer Michel Legrand, admitted she knew her gallop to the last was a big risk. “If it didn’t come off, I don’t know what would have happened,” she said. “But I knew it was the only way to win.” Angot accepted her prize from HRH Camilla, Duchess of Cornwall, wife of Prince Charles and herself a keen horsewoman.

Stockdale had trouble believing his second place. “I was being a bit conservative in the jump-off,” he admitted. “But I wanted to take care of my horse after her year. It’s just a very happy ending to a rather eventful year.”

John Whitaker finished fifth on his new ride Casino, a horse he has had for less than a month, and was leading British rider of the show, while Pollmann-Schweckhorst’s sixth place, along with his two wins and second place in the World Cup-qualifier, and four other placings, earned him the show’s leading rider award.

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