Robert Smith galloped to victory at the final leg of the Western European League FEI World Cup Jumping series in Gothenburg at the weekend. The win puts him in contention for a qualifying spot for next month’s final in Las Vegas.
In a truly thrilling competition that included some fascinating twists and turns, Smith used Kalusha’s devastating speed to put the result beyond question when fourth-last to go in the 11-horse jump-off. Ireland’s Jessica Kuerten was pleased to slot in to second place with Quibell as this booked her ticket to the USA final.
Olaf Petersen’s first-round track saw several of the favorites go out of contention including last weekend’s winners Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet, who hit the middle part of the combination to join eight others on a four-fault result. John Whitaker missed the jump off by a whisker when Exploit du Roulade left all the fences up but was just one second outside the time-allowed.
An uncharacteristic mistake by German’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum riding Shutterfly in the jump off put her out of the reckoning. The German partnership looked set to produce a difficult target for the remaining riders as they jumped the final fence clear but then turned right, instead of left, and had to circle before crossing the finish line, collecting four faults.
Michaels-Beerbaum’s compatriot Marco Kutscher set the first real target when jumping clear in 40.99sec with Controe. Ludo Philippaerts was also clear but almost a second slower with Chatman. Nick Skelton and Arko scorched around in 40.08sec to set the quickest time to date but had one fence down on the way.
Jessica Kuerten knew a qualifying spot was within her grasp and she gave it everything she had to stop the clock in 40.25sec.
“Quibell made her grand prix debut here two years ago and I was confident of her,” she said afterwards. “We were under a lot of pressure and I put in an extra stride in front of the last fence because the crowd were making such a noise I thought she might lose her concentration. I had to go clear, I had to finish in the first four to qualify and when I was
coming into the last I just kept thinking — keep left, keep left.”
However, Smith set off from the start with his foot to the floor on Kalusha and broke the beam in 39.07sec.
“I knew I could be fast in the jump-off — he’s a very quick horse and to be honest it went my way a bit, [but] I thought I could do it,” explained Smith. “The course needed a horse to be careful and my horse doesn’t like hitting fences. He moves across the ground so well and he’s careful, it all adds up to being quick and I can go flat out with him.”
Lars Nieberg and Lucie were challenging strongly until making exactly the same mistake as Michaels-Beerbaum after the last fence, to be penalised with four faults in the quick time of 43.69sec. When Marcus Ehning (Gitania) and America’s Peter Wylde (Pinocchio) each collected four faults it was all over.
“It’s touch and go whether I will make it to Las Vegas but I’d really like to get there,” Smith said when it was confirmed that he now lies 23rd on the leader board. “That’s borderline for qualification so I’ll have to wait and see.”
“My first choice of horse for Vegas would be Mr Springfield but he won’t be ready until the outdoor season starts so I’ll have to take the two horses I have here this weekend. The crowd have been brilliant to me. This is my fourth win over the last few days and they gave me a fantastic reception.”
World Cup Jumping in Gothenburg
1. Kalusha (Robert Smith) GBR 0/0 39.07;
2. Quibell (Jessica Kuerten) IRL 0/0 40.25;
3. Controe (Marco Kutscher) GER 0/0 40.99;
4. Chatman (Ludo Philippaerts) BEL 0/0 41.75;
5. Arko (Nick Skelton) GBR 0/4 40.08;
6. Pinocchio (Peter Wylde) USA 0/4 40.25;
7. Lelodie (Linda Heed) SWE 0/4 42.19;
8. Pella VH Achtenhof (Frederik Gustafsson) SWE 0/4 42.54;
9. Lucie (Lars Nieberg) GER 0/4 43.69;
10. Gitania (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/4 45.40;
11. Shutterfly (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) GER 0/4 46.86;
12. Exploit du Roulard (John Whitaker) GBR 1 flt.