WEG Jumping Final Four from Four Continents for 1st Time
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
LEXINGTON, Kentucky, Oct. 8–The Final Four in the World Equestrian Games jumping championship were decided in an exciting two-round competitions Friday night and for the first time will come from four continents, including the first from Asia, for the Saturday showdown.
Reigning Olympic individual gold medal combination from North America, Eric Lamaze of Canada and Hickstead finished at the top of the rankings following five rounds of jumping over three days with Europe’s Philippe le Jeune of Belgium on Vigo d’Arsouilles, South America’s 1998 world champion Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil on HH Rebozo and from Asia the relative unknown but only rider to go clear in all five rounds, Adbullah al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia on Seldana di Campalto.
Eric and the 14-year-old Dutch stallion will be the first Canadian in the Fina Four at a WEG, which has been held every four years since the first combined world champions of international disciplines and outside Europe for the first time.
But the 28-year-old Abdullah Al Sharbatly sprang the biggest surprise to make the Final Four which tests horsemanship skills to the limit as the riders exchange horses in what has so far been an exciting see-saw contest at the Kentucky Horse Park. He is the first from the Middle East and the first Asian.
After securing the coveted top-four qualifying spot the Saudi rider said, “you never know what’s going to happen. Even if you ride perfectly well tomorrow you need a little luck and I think we will see a big surprise!”
The sole surviving American, McLain Ward on his two-time Olympic mare Sapphire, made a dramatic and determined effort Friday night to restore U.S. hopes on their home turf after a roller coaster championship. The U.S. led the competition by filling the top two slots on the leaderboard after the first day, but dropped to 10th in the team contest. The pair started the night in 26th place but their two clear rounds Friday night gave them a final result of seventh place.
Twenty-nine combinations started Conrad Homfeld’s course and that was reduced to 25 in the second round.
At the start of the second round al Sharbatly was lying fifth behind Pessoa in fourth, Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson in third, Lamaze in second and Le Jeune in pole position. Overnight leader Pessoa had slipped three places after a single first-round mistake but sixth-placed Bengtsson, fourth-placed Lamaze and second-in-line Le Jeune kept a clean sheet.
The second round track jumped considerably easier than the first, and there were 13 clears this time out. Carsten-Otto Nagel looked like he might sneak back into contention when Corradina was fault-free, but when al Sharbatly and Pessoa left all the poles intact the German partnership began to disappear from the reckoning. Bengtsson lost his grip on third spot when Ninja la Silla hit the oxer at fence five and that allowed the other two to move up. And when Lamaze and Hickstead also went clear and then Le Jeune returned with just a single time fault on the board the Final Four was decided.
There was a combination of amazement and curiosity about al Sharbatly at the end of jumping. He has only been riding Seldana di Campalto for six weeks. The rider has been mainly based in his home country, with occasional visits to the European circuit. He is a former winner of the FEI Children’s Championship and a gold medallist at the Pan-American Games when he was just 16.
“I bought this horse to try to qualify for the next Olympic Games, not for the World Championship,” he said. “Of course I wanted to win the World Championship, everyone does – I was just really happy for the first few days to jump clear but my horse is amazing. She is the only horse to jump five clear rounds here this week!”
Seldana di Campalto was ridden by Natale Chiaudani to take team silver for Italy at last summer’s Alltech FEI European Championships™ in Windsor, England. The mare and her new rider have quickly gelled after being sold in August.
“I’ve only taken her to two shows before this, at Gijon and Madrid,” he said, “so it’s been a short preparation for coming here!”
All four qualified riders are excited about the Final Four competition and the challenge of riding each other’s horses.
Pessoa said all the horses are very different. “When you come to a class like this you try to adapt to the horses – it’s about what you see, what you think, the impression that you get – you’ve only got a few minutes to get to know each one and you hope you can get a bit of a feeling for the horse in that time,” explained the 1998 World Champion who is bidding for his second title
Lamaze talked about his recovery after breaking his foot while competing in the Grand Prix at Aachen, Germany in July. This left him out of action for several weeks and he still walks with a brace for support. “It doesn’t affect me when I’m riding, only when I’m walking” he said. He was more concerned about the enforced break for his stallion Hickstead – “he doesn’t do well when he’s off, it’s better for him when he keeps going.”
Lamaze reckoned that Le Jeune’s stallion Vigo d’Arsouilles will be the toughest for him to ride tomorrow. “He’s big and he’s strong,” but Pessoa’s horse, Rebozo, owned by Double H Farm of Ridgefield, Connecticut and Wellington, Florida, should suit him because “he’s my type of horse.”
For Le Jeune there is a kind of “deja vu” because when he took team bronze at the WEG in Jerez, Spain in 2002 he was riding Vigo’s sire, Nabab de Reve. “This is a nice feeling having his son here eight years later.”
It is 12 years since Pessoa then aged 26 claimed his first world title in Rome and he was asked how much he himself has changed during that time.
“Well, I’ve put on a couple of kilos, I’ve had one divorce and one child and new owners, but I’m still the same!” he answered, adding that he still enjoys the thrill of this kind of competition.
“I’ve been lucky with my life and to be in a world championship final for a second time is a great opportunity.
“It’s a unique format and we all know what we have to do if we want to get close to a medal. The Final Four is a great way to determine a world champion because you are riding not just the horse you know, but the three others as well.”
Results of Friday night’s competition:
|2||744||P. Le Jeune||Vigo d´Arsouilles||4.110|
|3||667||R. Pessoa||HH Rebozo||6.800|
|4||610||A. Al Sharbatly||Seldana di Campalto||7.070|
|6||637||R. Bengtsson||Ninja La Silla||9.370|
|9||666||A. Miranda||AD Ashleigh Drossel Dan||12.850|
|10||676||T. Sugitani||Avenzio 3||13.400|
|11||647||B. Twomey||Tinka´s Serenade||14.540|
|12||609||K. Al Eid||Presley Boy||15.200|
|13||604||E. Alexander||Cevo Itot du Château||15.380|
|14||623||O. Guillon||Lord de Theize||15.700|
|15||625||K. Staut||Silvana de Hus||15.810|
|16||626||M. Ehning||Plot Blue||16.770|
|17||705||J. Lansink||Cavalor Valentina van´t Heike||17.630|
|18||690||C. Santis||Fanatico de Huincul||20.100|
|20||743||B. Nagel||Va et Viens van de Zelm||22.160|
|22||624||P. Leprevost||Mylord Carthago*HN||24.900|
|24||673||D. Fukushima||Weldon d´05||43.050|
|25||627||J. Meyer||Cellagon Lambrasco||17.310|
|26||621||P. Delaveau||Katchina Mail||19.720|
|27||636||M. Baryard-Johnsson||H&M Actrice W||24.910|
|29||718||P. Barrios||G&C Lagran||13.080|