19 year old Bertram Allen lies at the top of the scoreboard at the end of the morning session of individual speed Jumping in Caen’s d’Ornano Stadium. Putting up a mature performance aboard his speed demon, the 10-year-old grey mare Molly Malone V, Allen scooted over Frederick Cottier’s 14 fence track, cutting corners with precision for a time of 77.01 and pole position.
He left older and far more seasoned riders trailing in his wake, including local heroine Penelope LePrevost, who flew around the track with her big jumping chestnut mare Flora De Mariposa for a time of 77.82 and second place at this stage.
Their round was not without incident, however, as the nine-year-old dropped a hind leg in the middle of the blue and white oxer at 6, but quickly extracted it again, only to come perilously close to touching the tape on the Deauville water fence at 7.
Peder Fredricson is in third, the Swede’s clean jumping 10-year-old grey H&M Sibon clocking a time of 78.86. Fredericson is one of the few riders to have represented his country in both eventing and showjumping at top level.
Sydney 2000 Olympic Champion Jeroen Dubbeldam looked to have half let off the handbrake with his KWPN gelding Zenith SFN and they stopped the clock on 79.52 for an initial fourth place for The Netherlands.
Christian Ahlmann and Codex One, the first of the truly world class combinations to enter the arena early this morning, knocked five seconds off the previous best horse — Ireland’s Imothep ridden by Darragh Kenny — stopping the clock on 79.65sec and becoming the first to break the 70 barrier for an early lead.
They shaved off the seconds with their expert tight turns, not least between the first and second fence, the purple and white FEI upright, and prompted a sea of red, yellow and black flags to wave in the stands as they crossed the finish line. They now lie in fifth spot.
Columbia’s Roberto Teran Tafur left a lot of bigger names trailing in his wake when piloting his 11-year-old KWPN mare Woklahoma into seventh slot, just behind France’s first rider Simon Delestre (Qlassic Bois Margot) but in front of the great American McLain Ward (Rothchild).
The nearly leaders
Some class acts so nearly jumped their way to the top of the leaderboard but their fast, sub 80sec performances were marred with a rail down, which, in this contest, adds 4sec to their time.
Mclain Ward flew around aboard Rothchild to clock 78.13, but one of the bogey fences, the oxer at 11, fell leaving this fancied pair on 82.13. Maikel van der Vleuten also broke the 70 barrier but his horse, VDL Groep Verdi TN NOP, also took out a rail on fence 11 when he didn’t get the height he needed to clear the front rail.
The next rider into the arena, Sweden’s Alexander Zettermann, riding Cafino, dislodged the front pole on the Land Rover oxer at 4 or their time would have been sub-80 too.
Seventy-six horses, out of a total of 153, have jumped this morning in the d’Ornano Stadium, negotiating Frederic Cottier’s clever and influential 14-fence course. There have been just 26 clear rounds.
However, this first leg of the World Championship jumping boasted unprecedented drama with six eliminations, including three falls, and numerous refusals.
The two biggest shocks have been the demise of Brazil’s Doda De Miranda, who fell off at the upright at fence 9 when Ad Rahmannshof’s Bogeno stopped. The second surprise came when 18-year-old Jos Verlooy was eliminated for the fancied Belgians. De Miranda’s Bogeno kicked out a rail on fence 6, put a foot in the water at 7 and then applied his anchors at the planks at 8a, decanting his jockey — to gasps from the crowd.
Chile’s representative Rodrigo Carrasco was booted from Bardine’s saddle so violently at the first element of the rustic double at 8a that he virtually took the Oldenburg mare’s bridle with him as he plummeted to the floor.
There are no faults put on the scoreboard in this exciting 1.50m speed class, just four time penalties added for a dislodged rail.
The pressure is on, however. Only the top five teams here qualify for the Rio Olympics, with the only other opportunity to qualify at Aachen next year. There the top three earn a ticket to the great South American show.
Top 5 results (Half way point)
1. Bertram Allen (IRL)/ Molly Malone V – 77.01
2. Penelope Leprevost (FRA)/ Flora De Mariposa – 77.82
3. Peder Fedricson (SWE)/ H&M Sibon– 78.86
4. Jeroen Dubbeldam (NED)/ Zenith SFN – 79.52
5. Christian Ahlmann (GER)/ Codex One – 79.65
Source: Normandy 2014