But American Kate Levy makes a strong showing.
It had been 20 years since the legendary combination of John Whitaker and Milton accomplished the feat of winning both the Mercedes German Master and the Grand Prix of Stuttgart at the Stuttgart CSI (Germany), but on Nov. 19-23, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly made short work of doing it again.
Michaels-Beerbaum left no doubt about the fact that she came to Stuttgart to win, and everything went perfectly for her. “I wanted to achieve a good starting position in the first qualifier for the German Master, a speed class,” Michaels-Beerbaum said. This plan worked out as she and Shutterfly took second place behind Germany’s Janne-Friederike Meyer and Lambrasco on Thursday evening.
In the second qualifier early Friday evening, Michaels-Beerbaum rode Le Mans, with whom she turned in a safe but slow round. With a 15th place she safely qualified for the final of the best 12 riders from the two qualifiers.
With the greatest of ease in his jumping, Shutterfly made it into the jump-off of the final with seven more riders. American rider Kate Levy set the mark in the jump-off with a clear round in 40.96 seconds on the gray Belgian gelding Vent du Nord.
Her time proved hard to beat, but Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly dared an inside turn no one else had tried to shave off almost 1 second and take the top check. “I asked some colleagues if they believed that it would be possible to take the inside turn. They all said no, but I tried it nevertheless and it worked out. I believed in myself and my horse and succeeded.
“The Mercedes German Master is one of the best competitions we have in the show jumping sport. With its two qualifiers and a final, in which only the 12 best riders of the two qualifiers may compete, it is something very special. I have twice won the Grand Prix of Stuttgart but never before the German Master.”
The thrill of her victories was tinged with a bit of remorse at missing out on an individual medal from the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong. “I still mind that I did not take the inside turn over the flowers in the jump-off for an individual [bronze] medal at the Hong Kong Olympics, though I am more upset for Shutterfly than for myself,” said Michaels-Beerbaum. “He really deserved to have his name in Olympic Games history. He has won medals in all championships besides the Olympics.”
While the Italian Uliano Vezzani received praise for his courses at Stuttgart, the number of clear rounds in the Grand Prix of Stuttgart slipped out of his control. Of the first 15 combinations to jump, nine went clean—eight more joined them, bringing the jump-off total to 17.
Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly joined that list, though a rail kept Levy and Vent Du Nord from the second round. Michaels-Beerbaum acknowledged that she had a few lucky rubs on her way around the first course.
“I thought if I had so much luck in the initial round, then it was all the more reason to take great risk in the jump-off,” she said. And so she did.
“Of course, it was an advantage to go last in the jump-off, and I had been able to watch Steve Guerdat go. He was the only one to take the inside turn in front of the oxer and stay clear at the first element of the double combination. I knew if I wanted to win, I would have to do it the same way,” said the reigning World Cup Champion.
Her daring paid off as she stopped the timers just fractions of a second faster than Guerdat on Jalisca Solier.
Michaels-Beerbaum enjoyed driving two Mercedes she’d won out of the ring at Stuttgart. “It is a great honor for me to write show jumping history,” she said. “To achieve the hat trick of winning the Grand Prix of Stuttgart in three consecutive years and even with the same horse, and to celebrate with the German Master victory two victories in such big classes at the same weekend, is something very special. I know how hard and extraordinary this achievement is.
“This double success is the crowning of my and Shutterfly’s career. He is a very special horse for me. For Shutterfly, this was a very successful year. He only competed in nine or 10 shows but was always placed among the top. I am very proud how fresh and fit he is, which is remarkable for a 15-year-old horse.”
Kate Levy Wraps Up European Tour
Placing second in the Mercedes German Master at Stuttgart was the culmination of Kate Levy’s European tour. Levy travelled to Europe in the spring as a member of the U.S. team’s Super League squad after being short-listed for Olympic selection.
She decided to stay in Europe for the fall, renting stalls at a farm near Brussels, Belgium. She and Vent Du Nord notched top-10 finishes in grand prix classes at CSI shows such as Liege (Belgium), Caen (France), Chantilly (France) and La Coruña (Spain). They also won a class at the Nörten Hardenberg CSI (Germany). Vent Du Nord (Canadiannver—Zwichta, Quidam de Revel) is a 10-year-old Belgian Warmblood.
At Stuttgart, she qualified for one of the 12 spots in the German Master with seventh place in the first qualifier and 28th in the second qualifier.
Her jump-off round in the German Master was one of only three to come in below 41 seconds, and the only one to best it was Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on the inimitable Shutterfly.
“It was fantastic to be in this class and to show with the best horses in the world,” Levy said. “It was a great feeling to stand beside Meredith in the awards ceremony. I did not feel much pressure in the jump-off, since it was already a great achievement that I made it so far. I just let it go—I had nothing to lose. I never would have imagined to take second place in this famous class.”
When Levy first got Vent Du Nord five years ago as part of a multi-horse deal, she wasn’t immediately fond of him.
“He had such a strong character that I would not have chosen him, if he would have not been in this lot, but today we get along very well,” she said.
“With age he has become easier to deal with, and also I have adjusted to his strong character and leave it to him as much as possible. Today he is part of the family,” said Levy.
Levy has been on the road to recovery since a horse reared and fell on her in August 2007. She suffered a broken pelvis, hip, tailbone and pubic bone, as well as breaking her femur in eight places. During the selection trials for the U.S. Olympic team this spring, she still wasn’t 100 percent fit but has been recovering her strength.
Levy plans to buy a couple of young horses in Europe to take back to the States when she returns for the Florida circuit in January.
Levy did very well at Stuttgart with her second horse, the 10-year-old Holsteiner mare Can Get You, with whom she placed fifth in the opening class, but had one rail down in the 1.50-meter class. “She is still less experienced than Vent Du Nord but has maybe even more potential. I am really glad to have this horse to ride and that her owner Betsy Green so enjoys coming with her to the shows and seeing how well she develops.”