Marc Houtzager wins the 7th leg of the FEI World Cup…

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ell today’s Olympia World Cup track may not have been as mind-blowing as Geneva but it certainly presented its challenges. Bob Ellis (GBR) set a tough track within the tight confines of the Olympia stadium and plenty of riders were confronted with it’s difficulties. 35 horses in total were entered, including Bronze medalist Cian O’Connor, all four members of the British Olympic team and all three Whitaker boys; Robert, John and Michael. Geneva’s World Cup winner Edwina Tops Alexander, leading French rider Kevin Staut along with Penelope Leprevost and Roger Yves Bost, as well as US Olympian Laura Kraut were also amongst those to grace the start list. The youngest rider to compete was 19 year old Spaniard Manuel Anon riding his lovely bay mare Rackel Chavannaise. The oldest rider to compete today was the legendary John Whitaker at 57 years young. John’s younger brother, Michael Whitaker, was also in attendance riding Antello Z. Michael is in fact the rider who has ridden in the most World Cup events and the most World Cup finals then any other rider in history.

Well Marc may not have thought so but his jump off time this afternoon for the 7th leg of the World Cup series would prove to be the fastest by 2 whole seconds. Holland’s Olympic Team silver medalist shook his head as he left the international ring, clearly not confident that his time would be fast enough to stay on top with Gerco Schroder, Nick Skelton, Luciana Diniz and Penelope Leprevost still left to go in the eight horse jump off. But sure enough, Marc’s jump off proved to be very fast and very well executed with none other then his big bay Sterrehof’s Tamino. The towering combination, well known for their ability to jump big and technical tracks rather then their speed, proved to be the best today in the second to last Western European World Cup event of the year.

Marc Houtzager became the first Dutchman in 4 years to win the London Olympia World Cup title today beating his fellow Olympic team mate Gerco Schroder and the ever-ready Eurocommerce London. Crowd favorites Peter Charles and Nick Skelton were also amongst those who just couldn’t better the time and score of the Dutch combination. Sweden’s Malin Baryard Johnsson and the show’s sponsor’s very own H&M Tornesch would call on all their experience today as they were one of only three clear rounds with a time of 36.63 seconds. Malin, who states London Olympia as her favorite show of the year, had expected great hopes of winning in London. Malin, who lived in England for many years, training with the legendary John Whitaker was very clearly at home with the H&M banners flying high.

Britain’s very own Guy Williams and Titus were the first combination in the ring for the competitive jump off. They had both the second vertical and the famous London bus down proving that this jump off would be a battle to the end. Peter Charles was the only Brit clear in the jump off with Murka’s Odie de Frevent. Making London Olympia his first five-star international event since the Olympics, Peter had a moderate time of 37.54 seconds.

Malin Baryard-Johnsson, fashioning a very festive H&M green jacket, would follow Peter with efficient time, making quick work of the fast track with her reliable stallion Tornesch. The Swedish jockey was clearly very happy with the round as she left with a smile and plenty of pats for her stunning bay steed. Marc and Tamino would be the first of two Dutchman in the jump off. Picking up speed from the start, Marc piloted the towering Tamino around the track with expert precision, displaying all the competitive fervor from the Global Champions Tour final in Abu Dhabi to the Gucci Masters in Paris. Clocking in at 34.67 would prove to a tough time to beat.

Marc’s fellow Olympic team mate Gerco Schroder would enter the ring next. Riding his classy stallion Eurocommerce London, even Marc had doubts that he could remain in the lead as Gerco and London have proven time and time again to be a very fast combination. But alas it was not to be, as the Individual silver medalists had two rails down and finished with a time of 35.48 seconds.

Next was crowd favorite Nick Skelton and Big Star, highly regarded amongst their peers and thoroughly loved my the British public. You knew who it was as the applause rose and rose, as the bell was sounded Nick and Big Star looked determined to make it a British victory for the Olympia crowd but alas Nick and his beautiful bay stallion would rather ironically have the London bus blocks down. Despite a disappointing finish, the Olympic combination received the biggest applause from the adoring crowd. Clearly as highly regarded amongst the public as they are amongst their fellow competitors.

We all held our breadth as Portugal’s Luciana Diniz entered the ring with her Olympic mount Lennoxx. Luciana is often very fast and wastes no time at all around the turns but it would be the end of the course that would be Luciana’s undoing with 8 faults in total and a time of 35.57 seconds.

France’s leading lady rider would be the last to attempt the jump off and try to unseat the flying Dutchman. Her partner Kevin Staut, France’s leading rider, would watch on but despite both their hopes Penelope and the 11 year old bay mare Nayana would touch 1 rail and earn a time of 36.16 seconds.

It was all over and despite Marc’s humble expectations and doubts of his time, the towering combination would earn their first World Cup win of the 2012/2013 Western European World Cup series. With his win today, Marc pushes himself into 13 position of the World Cup standings, just under Scott Brash. Leading ladies, Malin Baryard Johnsson (now #9) and Penelope Leprevost (now #8) were rewarded well for their efforts today as they jumped up to top 10 and pushed Edwina Tops-Alexander and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum out of the top 10.

Sergio Alvarez Moya still keeps strong hold of his lead despite not attending this week’s World Cup event with 75 points. Kevin Staut inched a little closer with 63 points. Roger Yves Bost jumped from 5th to 3rd place with 39 points and Pius Schwizer dropped down one spot to 4th with 38 points. Marcus Ehning is barely ahead of Oslo World Cup winner Jeroen Dubbeldam with 36 points.

Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2012/2013 – Standings after Round 7 at London Olympia (GBR):

1. Sergio Alvarez Moya – 75 points

2. Kevin Staut – 63 points

3. Roger Yves Bost – 39 points

4. Pius Schwizer – 38 points

5. Marcus Ehning – 36 points

6. Jeroen Dubbeldam – 35 points

7. Luciana Diniz – 33 points

8. Penelope Leprevost – 33 points

9. Malin Baryard-Johnsson – 32 points

10. Christian Ahlmann – 30 points

Facts and Figures…

  • The London International Horse Show at Olympia staged the seventh leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League.
  • There are five further qualifying rounds to take place, at Mechelen (BEL), Leipzig (GER), Zurich (SUI), Bordeaux (FRA) and ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) before the final which will be held in Gothenburg, Sweden in April.
  • Today’s winner, Marc Houtzager, was a member of the silver medal winning Dutch team at the London 2012 Olympic Games.
  • 35 horse-and-rider combinations started in today’s competition.
  • 8 horse-and-rider combinations qualified for the second-round jump-off against the clock today.
  • 11 horse-and-rider combinations picked up just four faults in the opening round, and Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Plot Blue were the quickest of these to slot into ninth place.
  • Three retired in round one – Great Britain’s Robert Whitaker (USA Today) and Tim Stockdale (Fresh Direct Kalico Bay), and Ireland’s Cian O’Connor (Ulano).
  • All four members of the British gold medal winning team from the London 2012 Olympic Games competed along with the individual gold (Steve Guerdat SUI), silver (Gerco Schroder NED) and bronze (Cian O’Connor IRL) medallists.
  • The youngest horse in the competition was the 8 year old grey mare Erenice Horta, by Diamant de Semilly, and ridden by Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander.
  • The oldest horse was the 16 year old L’Espoir ridden by Norway’s Geir Gulliksen.

Quotes:

Malin Baryard-Johnsson – “My horse was injured just before the Olympic Games.  I rode in Lyon (FRA) and finished third in Verona (ITA) and was second today”.
Peter Charles, talking about Murka’s Odie de Frevent – “She came in a trade for a lame horse about a year ago.  I ride her in a polo pony bit”.
Peter Charles, talking about today’s course – “it was big enough, and in the jump-off you needed a very quick horse with rideability”.