Pius Schwizer (above) won the opening speed leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final tonight in Lyon.
Riding 32nd of 40 riders, the Swiss star put in a neat, tidy round on the 10-year-old chestnut gelding Quidam Du Vivier to finish in 63.37sec.
“It’s his first international victory, but he’s naturally super super fast,” said Pius of the horse he has been riding 4 months. “I saw Patrice [Delaveau, leader before Pius] go and knew I’d have to be very fast to win this class, but today was his day.”
The World Cup format permits riders to swap horses during the final and Pius will ride Toulago in tomorrow’s grand prix.
The runner-up, France’s Patrice Delaveau — who made a notably tight turn on the switchback to fence 8 — stopped the clock on 63.67sec with Lacrimoso HDC.
“There can be extra pressure riding in your home country, but the positive factor is the crowd like to see you win and spur you on, so it can go both ways,” said Patrice, who will ride Lacrimoso throughout the final.
Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum held the lead from 5th draw until Patrice’s round two-thirds of the way through and closed the evening in 3rd with Chaman.
“I wouldn’t have changed anything if I’d gone later — I was absolutely happy with my round and my horse,” he said. “There was nothing I could have done better today.”
Ludger rides Chiara 222 tomorrow.
Britain’s riders both suffered disappointment. Michael Whitaker was 1st in with European team gold medallist Viking and took out fence 9, an upright off a 4-stride related distance. He holds 16th place.
“He jumped really well and tried hard — it all went according to plan, he just touched one and it came down,” said Michael. “But he’s very consistent and jumps very few bad rounds, so I’m quietly confident.”
“I’m really annoyed because she jumped fantastic and it was just a very slight mistake — I maybe should have sat up a touch taller,” said Scott.
Riders are given points for their placings in tonight’s speed leg and tomorrow’s grand prix. After tomorrow evening’s contest, points are transformed into penalties — with the leading rider having 0 penalties — and carried forward into Monday’s final decider.
Scott believes he is out of the running for top spot now.
“It’s pretty frustrating,” he said. “You could still win it from where she’s at, but from the horse and rider combinations in front of us there’s not just 1 good one, but about 8 top top ones — I can see at least one jumping clear all the way through.”
Ireland’s Billy Twomey has made a good start in the final, taking 8th tonight on the 17-year-old mare Tinka’s Serenade.
Full report on the FEI World Cup dressage and showjumping finals in H&H next week, out 24 April.