France’s Hubert Bourdy and VDL Groep Eve des Etisses triumphed on home turf at the weekend, when they won the ninth leg of the FEI World Cup Jumping qualifiers in Bordeaux.
Ten riders jumped clear rounds over Frank Rothenberger’s challenging course to reach the jump off. Rothenberger had set out to build “a course on par with the one at Leipzig, a course for a field which includes some of the world’s best riders.”
He expected no more than six or seven competitors to make it through to the jump-off so he may have been surprised to see 10 first-round clears. But even more surprising was the fact that some of the odds-on favourites – Leipzig winner Nick Skelton, Amsterdam winner Lars Nieberg, Ludger Beerbaum, and top French rider Philippe Leoni – didn’t produce a clear round.
The first four riders in the jump off all collected faults, including France’s Jean Marc Nicolas with JPC Modesto Equifoam. But the French crowds were in for a surprise when Bourdy, who was fifth into the ring, tackled the second round with vigour, finishing clear in 38.43 with VDL Groep Eve des Etisses, which, he says, has shown she is “as capable of the best as of the worst“.
“I knew I had so many good riders behind me that I had to go quite fast,” he adds. “I was quickest on the course over the first four fences and then eased up a bit, especially before the last, which was a big vertical. I felt I had lost a bit of time there and that I would be caught, but it didn’t happen.”
And indeed Michael Whitaker, who followed Bourdy in the ring, was almost two seconds slower at 40.18. The British rider jumped clear with Portofino and looked set for the runner-up spot after Germany’s Alois Pollmann-Sweckhorst on Candy notched up 41.09sec and reigning FEI World Champion, France’s Bruno Broucqsault, had a fence down with his new horse Hooligan de Rosyl.
But Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Sandro Boy went for a careful clear in 40.07sec and pushed the Brit into third place with one rider to go.
Making up for earlier mistakes at both Leipzig and Amsterdam, German-based Irish rider, Jessica Kurten, jumped an assertive clear with her 11-year-old mare Quibell and finished in 38.69sec, snatching second place.
A mere quarter of a second earned Bourdy the 27,000 euros first prize and 20 points on the FEI leaderboard, which brings him into equal-24th position and opens up a chance for him to make it to the final in Las Vegas.
“I had already decided to go to Vigo next weekend and then to Paris-Bercy, so maybe now I will make it to Las Vegas,” he says. “If my mare is jumping as good as she did [on Saturday] when I get to Las Vegas then we will do well.”
Despite ending in equal-12th place at Bordeaux, Skelton still tops the FEI leaderboard with 60 points. He is 10 points ahead of equal runners up Marcus Ehning and Rolf-Goran Bengtsson with four qualifiers left to go in the Western European League.
Bordeaux was perhaps a bit of a disappointment for Ludger Beerbaum, who also finished in 12th place. However, the German rider may find solace in the news that he tops the FEI-Gandini world ranking with 2610.4 points. Rodrigo Pessoa is second with 2529.58 points while former number one, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, drops to third with 2488.75 points. The first Brit is Robert Smith, who is in eighth place with 1971.52 points, followed by Nick Skelton in 12th position with 1728.33 points.