ermany’s Christian Heineking and Aje Cluny winners of the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas. Ph FEI/Julia Borysewicz
All the right decisions, and perhaps a good dose of Las Vegas luck, led Germany’s Christian Heineking to victory in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas on Saturday November 19, 2016.
“It was a great course that was challenging enough,” Heineking said. “I’m very happy. The time was really close and luck was on my side today.
“It’s probably [Cluny’s] biggest win to date so far. I’m very happy with him. He had a late start, he’s a little bit older. He’s just getting there. After the win tonight, we have a little break now. We’re going to reconsider what we’re going to do. I have to talk to the other half of the ownership and see if we are really planning on Omaha, we have to go to Florida.”
Seven riders ultimately advanced into the jump off in the fifth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2016/2017 North American League (Western Sub-League) with Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez setting the time to beat midway through the order stopping the timers in 37.83 seconds. Gonzalez and the 9-year-old Hannoverian mare Chacna (Chacco-Blue X Narew XX) won the third leg of the Western Sub-League in October and looked to be on form to repeat victory.
Immediately following the class favorites, Egypt’s Nayel Nassar piloted the 12-year-old Hannoverian stallion Lordan (Lordanos X Landor) to a blistering fast time of 36.86 seconds, shaving nearly a second off Gonzalez’s time. But the tighter turn to the short course’s double combination cost Nassar a rail, and he finished in 6th. Earlier in the order, USA’s Tina Yates and 12-year-old KWPN stallion Zelote VDL (Chin Chin X Libero H) delivered an efficient double clear in 39.50 seconds to finish in 3rd.
“It is a little bit of a home show. I have family that live in Vegas and they came here. I’m a little bit on cloud nine. I had no expectations tonight so I was just happy to be in the jump off let alone ending up third. It’s really special. I have only jumped two World Cup Qualifiers besides this. This was my third and the first time I got points. After you jump a clear round and the audience explodes, it’s a type of euphoria. It ups the ante. It makes it fun.” Yates said.
As the dust settled in the South Point Arena, it was clear the night belonged to the penultimate pair to test the track designed by Brazil’s Guilherme Jorge: Heineking and 12-year-old OS gelding Aje Cluny (Cash and Carry X Starlight) made all the right decisions by angling into the double combination—without repeating Nassar’s mistake of cutting the turn too short—and by opening up to a big gallop to the final fence to clock in at 37.82 seconds, 1/100th of a second faster than Gonzalez.
“On the way from the combination to the wall, my horse was bucking a little bit, so that can be 1/100th of a second right there,” said Heineking about his track. “Cluny has been with us for the past two-and-a-half years, and he developed from a nice prospect to a really competitive grand prix horse. He just got more experience over the time and tonight was his night. He keeps going better and better and is more comfortable with the height. I’m very excited about the win and very proud of him.”
“Honestly, I was watching on the screen in the warm up ring and the screen runs a little bit behind the live [performance]. And when he was coming to the last fence, I honestly thought that I was going to win. And then when the clock kept going and it went to 37—you know sometimes the clock goes faster—and it stopped. And you could not see except for the 8. And I saw Christian’s face and I thought [his look meant] ‘Oh, so close,’ but it was actually because he was excited [that he won].” said Gonzalez.
In the first round, 33 starters attempted the fair, yet technical, course. Time didn’t appear to be a factor for the first few riders before it was shortened, which then caused a handful of time faults to accrue. Large oxers flowed to careful verticals, testing the rideability of the horses. A triple combination of a tight one stride from a vertical to vertical to a longer two strides to an oxer forced faults from over one-third of the field.
“The conditions here in Vegas are really good. The arena is a good size with good footing. The jumps, the atmosphere are very good. I had a really good group of horses and riders here. They jumped really well in the qualifying [class] on Thursday, and the idea is to prepare them to go to the Finals in Omaha, so I tried to put up a course that was tough enough, but also we had a good crowd here so I wanted to have a nice jump off. I tried to spread the difficulties on the course. I was really happy with it.” said Jorge.
“It was an amazing evening. It was a great class. We’re honored to have Guilherme fresh from the Olympics. When we walked the course, we knew it would be just right. This was a special day for us. We’ve been here in this building for ten years. To see where this horse show is going is very gratifying. And then to find out this morning that the World Cup Finals are coming back to Vegas in 2020—that was also very special.” said Robert Ridland.
Following tonight’s event, Mexico’s Enrique Gonzalez now holds the top position in the Western Sub-League standings. The next Western Sub-League event will be on Saturday, 28 January 2017 in Guadalajara, Mexico.