Sunday, May. 26, 2024

It’s Going To Be A Shutterfly-Sapphire Showdown

This Rolex FEI World Cup Final is shaping up to be an epic battle between two titans of the show jumping world. Sapphire and Shutterfly are two of the best horses in the world, and they’re going head-to-head here in Las Vegas, Nev. Sunday—the last leg of the competition—will be an intense day of dueling.

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This Rolex FEI World Cup Final is shaping up to be an epic battle between two titans of the show jumping world. Sapphire and Shutterfly are two of the best horses in the world, and they’re going head-to-head here in Las Vegas, Nev. Sunday—the last leg of the competition—will be an intense day of dueling.

Shutterfly and Michaels-Beerbaum have won two World Cup Finals—in 2005 and 2008. Tonight’s Leg 2 win earned her another watch from Rolex. “If I wasn’t an ambassador for Rolex, I might start a watch store; I’m very lucky to have a number of these beautiful watches over the years,” she said.

“I’m absolutely delighted with my 16-year-old horse, who feels like he’s going on 9. He’s in great form and that make me happy. I’m just going to try and keep my concentration and confidence. I know how things go and anything can happen, but I’m thrilled with my horse’s performance so far.”

McLain Ward, who has yet to win a World Cup title and wants it so badly, is right behind her on Sapphire. He and Michaels-Beerbaum were one-two yesterday in the speed leg, and they repeated that finish again tonight, Apr. 17, in Leg 2 of the Final. When the points they earned from their placings in Legs 1 and 2 are converted, they’ll go into Sunday with Michaels-Beerbaum in first with 0 faults and Ward right behind her with 2 faults.

Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly shaved a full second off Ward’s jump-off time with Sapphire. “I take my hat off to Meredith,” Ward said. “I went as fast as I possibly could go. There wasn’t one place I could have gone faster. And she beat me. It’s a commendable performance. I’m going to keep doing what I’m doing; you don’t want to wish a mistake on anyone, but it could happen!”

The Need For Speed

Tonight’s jump-off, with 13 who went clean in Round 1, was a speed contest. Beezie Madden had set the early pace with a clean go on Danny Boy in 34.83 seconds. Albert Zoer and Oki Doki made short work of that mark, however, jumping in 34.72 seconds to take over the lead. “I rode pretty fast. Oki Doki has a slow gallop, and I know I have to ride really fast. I felt he jumped great, so I was quite satisfied,” Zoer said. With third place in the class, Zoer and Oki Doki moved up to third in the overall standings, with 4 faults to their names.

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Ward made it clear he was on a mission when he cantered into the ring on Sapphire for the jump-off. He lit her on fire over the first few jumps and then rode a dramatically tight turn to the last jump. Ward gets every fraction of a second he can out of Sapphire, who isn’t a naturally fast horse. He was almost a second faster than Zoer, stopping the timers in 33.77 seconds.

But Shutterfly is anything but slow. He and Michaels-Beerbaum were in perfect sync over the jump-off, and their seemingly impossible turns put them a full second ahead of Ward. “He’s a racehorse type, and when he’s on, like he was tonight, he doesn’t spend any time in his turns,” she said. “I had a super turn from the second fence to the third, and then I was really fast turning back to the Rolex vertical.”

Rich Fellers is still in striking distance of the leaders. He and Flexible jumped a phenomenal jump-off round tonight. They made the crowd hold their breath when they caught a flyer to the first jump, but the little Flexible makes the impossible look easy and skimmed over it. Unfortunately, a light rub on the FEI vertical dropped it. Their time (34.41 seconds) with 4 faults put them eighth in the class and into fourth overall in the standings. They’ll go into Sunday with 6 faults.

“I think he just jumped a little low on that one,” Fellers said. “I felt good there. I was thinking ahead about the turn, and I thought everything was just right. I was waiting for him to back off, and he rubbed it. But I’m really pleased with him.”

Americans Move Up

Madden’s good day on the young Danny Boy—placing fourth in the class—has vaulted her up to a three-way tie for eighth in the standings with Ludger Beerbaum and Ben Maher. Madden masterfully guided the obviously green Danny Boy, 9, around the ring. “It was amazing,” Madden said. “I have to say I had a couple of questionable jumps in the first round, but other than that I thought he jumped fantastic, and in the jump-off even better. He felt really solid. I’m thrilled with him. I didn’t expect this much.”

Richard Spooner switched horses today, bringing out the veteran Cristallo. The feisty bay gelding jumped Round 1 effortlessly and then returned to put in another clear round in the jump-off. Their time of 34.87 put them fifth in the class, which moved Spooner up into a three-way tie for 11th.

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“I was very proud of Cristallo. He jumped about as well as he’s jumped in his career,” Spooner said. “The jump-off was fast. I went as fast as I felt I could go. It was just a little too slow, but it was still a great round. I’m looking forward to Sunday. I’m a bit out of it, but that certainly moved me up.”

Switzerland’s Christina Liebherr, who was thrilled to be second in the first leg yesterday, didn’t have as good a go tonight. L.B. No Mercy looked a bit less rideable in Round 1 of this leg, but they jumped clear. But in the jump-off, they had a miscommunication on the first turn, and Liebherr had to circle before the jump. They finished with 10 faults in the jump-off for 13th place. That dropped them to a tie for fifth in the overall standings, with 7 faults. Denmark’s Thomas Velin is tied with her for that fifth-place spot on Grim St. Clair.

The other U.S. riders had a mostly better day. Hillary Dobbs, 20 and in her first World Cup Final experience, qualified for the jump-off with a great first round on Quincy B. “I was elated just to have gone clear in the first round. It’s not something I expected,” she said. “I couldn’t have asked him to jump any better. He really tried his guts out.” With 4 faults in the jump-off, she now stands in a tie for 16th and will carry 16 faults into Sunday.

Mandy Porter is in a tie for 18th place on San Diego, while Christine McCrea is tied for 21st on Vegas. Ashlee Bond had a four-fault round tonight, but she’s in 23rd with Cadett 7. The other U.S. riders—Danielle Torano, Todd Minikus and Michelle Spadone—all had rails. Unfortunately, Up Chiqui didn’t want to play tonight. After he spun and bucked on the way to the first fence, Kent Farrington jumped the first two jumps. Up Chiqui put the brakes on again before Fence 3, and Farrington raised his hand to retire.

U.S.-based Australian rider Harley Brown also had his round unravel. After a few early rails, he became a bit unsteady in the tack, and he came off Cassiato after Fence 9, landing on his feet.

Darragh Kerins, the Irish rider who lives in Connecticut, jumped a four-fault round tonight and is tied for 18th in the standings.

Find results of Leg 2 here…


Find overall standings after Legs 1 and 2 here…

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