Three Olympic riders advanced to the jump-off in the third leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2016/2017 North American League Western Sub-League. Last to go in the jump-off order, Enrique Gonzalez (MEX) rode the most efficient track to claim victory aboard 9-year-old mare Chacna.
Under the indoor lights at the Del Mar International Horse Show in California (USA), a starting field of 28 attempted the track designed by Frank Rothenberger (GER). Knowledge proved to be the defining factor as the 52-year-old veteran rider delivered one of the rare clear first round performances before recording a clear jump-off round with the fastest time by over two seconds.
France’s Eric Navet, riding Catypso, finished in the runner-up position while Brazil’s Eduardo Menezes rounded out the top-three placings with Catalina. Egypt’s Nayel Nassar narrowly missed out on the final round with an unfortunate rail at the first round’s fence no. 1, but with the fastest, four-fault round, he and Lordan finished fourth. The highest placing U.S. rider was Karl Cook who ended the evening in fifth with Tembla.
The first round track was technical and challenging, with the most difficult question coming in the final line of a triple-bar fence to a forward four stride to a short, vertical-oxer double combination. Menezes, who rode 15th in the order, was the first to fit in a very short five strides to ride clear through the line. After seeing his success, many of the following riders replicated the decision, including his business partner and the evening’s victor, Gonzalez.
“When I walked the course, I thought only about the four stride,” Gonzalez said. “But fortunately, I went late and everyone had problems jumping that line. I saw Eduardo in the warm-up, after he did it in five, and he told me, ‘You have to do it in five.’
“My mare has a big stride and I’ve been working with her for the last month in making her stride shorter and more compact so this was a big question. But I know her very well now, and I was sure she was capable of doing it. When you make a decision like that, you have to have the partnership with your horse and really know and trust you can do it—there can be no doubt that you can do it.”
Rothenberger accurately predicted only three would ride his course clear this evening, after setting a demanding track that emphasized adjustability in an indoor setting, where jumps come up quickly. In the jump-off, a long gallop between the first and second fence set the lead rider, Menezes, up for a rail when he allowed his horse to get too flat in an effort to save time. He eventually finished on an eight-fault score. Navet made a more measured, yet clear, effort that ultimately left the door open for Gonzalez. The Mexican rider cut a tighter rollback turn to the final fence, and despite a hard rub that forced the plank into the air, it landed back into the cups and Gonzalez emerged the victor.
“I think Chacna likes jumping indoors, and she’s definitely a contender for FEI World Cup™ Finals,” Gonzalez said, who will next show at Thermal CSI4* in November before the Western Sub-League event in Las Vegas on November 19. “By the time it comes in April, if we are lucky to make the points, she will have the mileage and experience to do it.”
Following tonight’s event, Karl Cook currently holds the top position in the Western Sub-League standings while Audrey Coulter (USA) stands atop the leaderboard for the Eastern Sub-League standings going into the next events for both Western and Eastern Sub-Leagues on October 29.
Photo: FEI/Julia Borysewicz