By Louise Parkes
Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher produced the performance of a life-time when winning the fourth leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 series at Stuttgart today. And his victory was all the more celebrated because he was competing in front of his local crowd.
The 41-year-old Swiss-based rider simply galloped the rest into the ground with a stunning run from Embassy ll in the nine-horse jump-off against the clock. And it was a field of champions he left in his wake, including reigning Olympic gold medallist, Steve Guerdat from Switzerland, who had to settle for runner-up spot for the third time this season. The Olympic champion has, however, now risen to the very top of the Western European League leaderboard and can relax for the remainder of the winter months in the knowledge that he has earned his place at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final which will take place at Lyon, France next April.
Course-designer, Christa Jung, has a long and distinguished link with the Stuttgart fixture and presented a superb track that brought the cream to the top once again today. The jump-off line-up also included two FEI World Cup™ Jumping triple champions, Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, the reigning FEI European Champion, Roger Yves Bost from France, Billy Twomey who has been a linchpin of the Irish team for many years, Australian star Edwina Tops-Alexander and rising American star Lucy Davis. And it didn’t disappoint, with an almighty and thrilling battle deciding the final placings.
Jung’s first-round challenge weeded out her nine clears from the field of 40 that included 12 riders representing the host nation. Starting them out over an oxer, the big blue wall at fence two was one of four obstacles standing at the maximum 1.60m and that led on to the triple bar at three and the following vertical at fence four. The latter proved the undoing of two partnerships, as Norway’s Stein Endresen bit the dirt when the grey, Cassiopeia, stopped here and Germany’s Patrick Stuhlmeyer decided to retire with Lacan when the 10-year-old also ground to a halt at this one. After the oxer at five riders turned down a long line that began with a vertical at six, oxer at seven and another narrower vertical – 1.60m tall – at eight, before turning left-handed to the water-tray oxer at nine.
The most influential fence on the track was next, and all three elements of the orange-coloured triple combination – vertical, vertical, oxer – fell throughout the competition. The one-stride distance between elements was testing, and 17 horses faulted here. The vertical at 11 was followed by a tricky double which opened with an oxer and finished with a vertical topped by a white plank, while the final oxer at fence 13 also played its part, penalising several who would otherwise have kept a clean sheet. The time-allowed of 69 seconds kept riders on their toes, and The Netherlands’ Gerco Schroder riding Catelino van de Helle, and Germany’s Maurice Tebbel with Cooper, each collected just a single time fault in otherwise flawless performances to slot into tenth and eleventh spots respectively.
Ireland’s Billy Twomey and the his long-time partner, the 16-year-old mare Tinka’s Serenade, set the jump-off target at 38.67 seconds when first to gom but US rider, 20-year-old Lucy Davis, lost her chance with Barron when kicking out the first of the remaining two elements of the former triple combination, now the fourth obstacle on the new track. Jung’s test was about turning skills, balance, speed and sharpness, and the German crowd went wild when Marcus Ehning reset the parameters with a great round from Cornado NRW that included a very tight angle at the white oxer at fence 15, just three from home, which helped them to stop the clock on 38.21 seconds.
However Guerdat and his Olympic ride, Nino des Buissonnets, immediately displaced them at the top of the order when cruising even further ahead to break the beam in 37.57 seconds, so when Dreher entered the arena it seemed that might be as fast as it could get. But the German wasn’t intimidated. His horse had been showing form all week and he set off at a blistering pace, with Embassy ll showing a very clean pair of heels as he raced through the finish more than a full second faster than the Olympic gold medal winning duo.
Try as they would, the rest couldn’t catch him, Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and her hugely popular veteran partner Cevo Itot du Chateau crossing the line in 39.09 seconds, Roger Yves Bost losing out when his European Championship winning mare, Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois, slipped on the turn after fence four which resulted in a pole down at the following oxer, Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum going clear but slow with Bella Donna and only 1993 FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion Ludger Beerbaum seriously putting on the pressure with a great round from Chaman that slotted him into third place in 37.74 seconds.
Beerbaum was one of the first to congratulate the winner. “Well done Hansy!” he said at the post-competition press conference. “I think he really deserved to win today, the jump-off was world class. When you see the time he achieved, and that of the other competitors, it shows just how unbelievable his jump-off was. Today it was impossible to beat him!”
Talking about his own result, Beerbaum continued “ I think I performed close to my maximum, I am more than pleased. I’ve started to collect some World Cup points which was my personal goal”. And the German ace complimented Jung’s course-building talent – “I would also like to say that we had one of the best courses ever – it was not easy to build a course bearing in mind the quality of the riders that are here in Stuttgart. The jump off was exciting, no question”.
Runner-up Guerdat was gracious in defeat. “Congratulations to Hansy, I think he did an amazing job. He is a great rider and a great guy, he really deserved to win today. I think I had one of the only horses that could beat him. I have to try a bit harder next time and come back for a win!” he said.
The reigning Olympic champion can now rest on his laurels knowing that his job is done. “I’m glad to be qualified for the Final, it makes my passage there less work for now!” he said this evening.
The right tactic
Dreher meanwhile reflected on a fantastic day’s work. “I am very happy, especially with my jump-off – I chose the right tactic. My horse was really strong for the last few weeks, and in two classes here we had just one fence down, he was really good so I was hopeful we would go clear today. To win I was not so sure however!” he admitted.
He said he believed he won the class by taking out a stride on the first line in the jump-off – “he’s a very fast horse – I made up on the first distance when I took one stride less and I think I won it there” he pointed out. Dreher has rocketed to prominence over the past three years thanks to a great bunch of horses which he rides from his base just outside Basel in Switzerland. “If you don’t have good horses then you have no chance, and I’m very pleased for Embassy. This is our biggest win ever. He has been in great shape this year, he won a class in Aachen and we rode together on the team at the Nations Cup in Rotterdam” he explained. Originally from Adelausen in Baden-Wuerttemberg, close to Stuttgart, It was also particularly pleasing to put on such a spectacular performance in front of his home crowd who went wild with delight at the success of their local hero.
Today’s result has boosted Dreher to sixth place on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League table. Great Britain’s Scott Brash lies second, German team-mate Marcus Ehning is in third, Portugal’s Luciana Diniz is in fifth place and Edwina Tops-Alexander lies fifth.
“I’d like to try to qualify for the Final, but for now all I know is that I plan to ride at Mechelen (Belgium) after Christmas” Dreher said this evening. “After that I have to talk to our trainer before I find out what other qualifiers I can go to” he explained. Following today’s extraordinary win however, it seems most likely that he will be provided with plenty more qualifying opportunities over the coming months.
The next leg of the series takes place at London/Olympia on Saturday 21 December. For details of the British fixture go to website or contact Press Officer Jo Peck, Email JoPeck@hpower.co.uk, Tel +44 1753 847 900.
Result: 1, Embassy ll (Hans-Dieter Dreher) GER 0/0 36.27; 2, Nino de Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 37.37; 3, Chaman (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 0/0 37.74; 4, Cornado NRW (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/0 38.21; 5, Tinka’s Serenade (Billy Twomey) IRL 0/0 38.67; 6, Cevo Itot du Chateau (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/0 39.09; 7, Bella Donna (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) GER 0/0 45.68; 8, Barron (Lucy Davis) USA 0/4 40.71; 9, Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois (Roger Yves Bost) FRA 0/4 42.75.
Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 Western European League – Standings after Round 4 at Stuttgart (GER):
1.Steve Guerdat SUI-51
2.Scott Brash GBR-41
3.Marcus Ehning GER-36
4.Luciana Diniz POR-32
5.Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS-32
6.Hans-Dieter Dreher GER-26
7.Patrice Delaveau FRA-23
8.Simon Delestre FRA-22
9.Christian Ahlmann GER-20
10.Maikel van der Vleuten NED-20
11.Pius Schwizer SUI-19
12.Athina Onassia de Miranda GRE-19
13.Nicola Philippaerts BEL-18
14.Luca Moneta ITA-15
14.Ludger Beerbaum GER-15
14.Shane Breen IRL-15
17.Malin Baryard-Johnsson SWE-13
18.Gerco Schroder NED-13
19. Billy Twomey IRL-12
19.Geir Gulliksen NOR-12
Facts and Figures:
Stuttgart, Germany presented round 4 of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 series.
40 starters from 19 nations – Australia, Austria, Azerbaijan, Belgium, Brazil, Finland, France, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Japan, Mexico, Morocco, Netherlands, Norway, Portugal, Spain, Switzerland, USA.
12 of the 40 starters were from the host nation.
The youngest horse in today’s competition was the 8-year-old Chico, ridden by Germany’s Philipp Weishaupt.
The oldest horse was the 17-year-old Cevo Itot du Chateau competed by Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander.
9 horse-and-rider combinations qualified for the second-round jump-off against the clock.
The time-allowed in the first round was 69 seconds.
13 fences in the first round and the most influential obstacle was the triple combination at fence 10.
1 elimination – Stein Endresen from Norway who fell when his grey, Cassiopeia, stopped at the vertical fence 4.
2 retirements – Germany’s Patrick Stuhlmeyer and Lacan following at a stop at fence four, and Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya and Carlo who retired after collecting 12 faults.
Course designer was Germany’s Christa Jung who was celebrating her 30th year of course-building at the prestigious indoor tournament.
The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2013/2014 Final will take place in Lyon, France from 17 to 21 April 2014.