Kevin Staut broke German hearts today when, despite all the odds being in favour of a home-side win, it was the Frenchman who came out on top in the fifth qualifying round of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League series at Stuttgart.  Partnering the on-form grey mare Silvana HDC, Staut snatched what looked like certain victory from Germany’s Marcus Ehning and Noltes Kuchengirl when quicker by a margin of just one-hundredth of a second in an action-packed 11-horse jump-off against the clock.

Third place went to Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood, while Sweden’s Jens Fredricson and Lunatic slotted into fourth.  Today’s result leaves Staut with the same number of points as Western European League leader Sergio Alvarez Moya from Spain who went out of contention this afternoon with a single mistake in the opening round of the competition.  The Spaniard, however, continues to head the league table going into the next round at Geneva, Switzerland in December because he has had more consistently strong results so far throughout this Rolex indoor season.


First-round Track
Germany’s Christa Jung, one of the few female course designers on the international Jumping circuit, said before the competition began that she expected between eight and ten clears over her first-round track. With such a high-quality field of 40 starters however, it was no surprise when that number was exceeded.
With eight of the top-10 in the current Rolex World Rankings list, including World No. 1 and reigning Olympic champion Steve Guerdat from Switzerland in action, this was always going to be a heavyweight contest.  And the home nation demonstrated its exceptional strength when six of the 10 German entries qualified for the barrage.
A total of 11 horse-and-rider combinations collected just a single first-round fence-penalty, and for many this came at the triple combination at fence six where the final element regularly hit the floor.  As Staut explained afterwards, those running later in the class had something of an advantage. “There was a big water-tray oxer going in and coming out (at the triple combination), and many horses had some faults, particularly at the exit fence.  In big Grand Prix competitions like this it is good to have the information about how the fences are jumping, and so it is always better to go towards the end of the class.  When you don’t have that information, then it is much easier to make a mistake” he pointed out.
An interesting addition to the Rolex FEI World Cup™ jumping Western European League startlist today was Jessica Springsteen who represented the USA along with her trainer Laura Kraut.  Both ladies picked up eight faults on their tour of the track but the decidedly less-experienced 20-year-old Springsteen, daughter of rock legend Bruce Springsteen, showed the potential that has seen her rise to prominence in recent times.
Second-Round Startlist
A look at the second-round jump-off running order continued to suggest a German victory, as four former Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping champions were included and they were all from the host country.  Ludger Beerbaum and Christian Ahlmann are both one-time champions, while Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning have each taken the title on three occasions.
And it was Michaels-Beerbaum who led the way against the clock.  The Los Angeles-born 42-year-old however is carefully producing her latest star ride, the nine year old mare Bella Donna, and is in no rush to put her under pressure.  So she steered her way home to set the target with a fine clear in the generous time of 52.41 seconds.
Jens Fredricson and Lunatic are never ones to hang about however, and the Swedish pair showed a new route home when turning sharply right-handed after clearing the FEI vertical which was now third fence on the track.  That left them way up on time going to the following oxer, and from there it was a case of running as quickly as possible through the two remaining elements of the former triple combination, clearing the following vertical and then turning back sharply again to race down the long distance to the final obstacle, the wall which was previously jumped in the opposite direction as the first fence in the opening round.  Fredricson cleared the line more than eight seconds quicker, and this was always going to be a competitive effort.
Tight Turn-Back
Next in was Germany’s Carsten-Otto Nagel with Corradina, but they didn’t attempt the tight turn-back after the third fence so crossed the line clear but more than a second off the pace.  And Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Winningmood also took the longer way around but such was their speed that they went into the lead when breaking the beam in 43.90 seconds.
Marcus Ehning however is the master of cruise control as he demonstrated so brilliantly at the previous leg in Verona, Italy a week ago.  And when he brought the 14 year old mare, Noltes Kuchengirl, home in 42.67 seconds after succeeding in taking the short-cut after the third fence, it seemed unlikely that could be beaten.  There were still six left to run however, and they were all going to give it their best shot.
Ireland’s Denis Lynch crossed the line with Abbervail van het Dingeshof in 44.42 seconds, and still not a fence had fallen during the jump-off, and then Ludger Beerbaum gave a masterclass in encouraging a young horse to give of his best when bringing the eight-year-old Guidam stallion, Zinedine, through the finish when registering 48.72 on the clock having also taken the longer route.
Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and Embassy II were the first to lower a fence this time out – the first element of the two remaining parts of the triple combination.  But then Staut set sail with Silvana, and although the pair looked fast they never appeared under maximum pressure as they galloped down to the last and re-set the target having squeezed Ehning down to second by an agonising one-hundredth of a second margin.
The penultimate partnership of Christian Ahlmann and Codex One seemed to lose their symmetry at the vertical three from home when arriving on an awkward stride, and it completely fell apart for them at the final wall which they demolished when the stallion found himself at the very base of it on take-off.  And when the French partnership of Penelope Leprevost and Nayana also got themselves into a muddle to complete with 13 faults this time out, it was all over, and Staut had it in the bag.
Always Going to Be Tough
“When you have so many clears then the jump-off is always going to be tough as everyone tries to go faster and faster” the Frenchman said afterwards.  Staut is something of an indoor specialist, and has won the Western European League of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series for the last two seasons.  “Silvana is in top form and is jumping fantastic, so I had the confidence to try the tight turn after the FEI vertical and then really tried to go as quickly as I could to the end.  But it was so close!” he admitted. “The time for Marcus was so good and I only just did it!” he added.
Today’s win has steeled his determination to do something he has had in his mind for some time now.  “I’ve been very successful in the Rolex series for quite a few years, but this season I am more keen than ever to get to the Final”, he pointed out.  Asked if that was because he wants to add the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 title to his list of not-inconsiderable achievements, he replied, “yes!  I will be trying my very best to do that!”
His will compete in Abu Dhabi (UAE) and Paris (FRA) before the next leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping series which will take place in Geneva, Switzerland on 2 December. And then he will go to the following two legs, in London (GBR) and Mechelen (BEL). And, with so little between him and league leader Sergio Alvarez Moya, it seems a third consecutive Western European League title is very much on the cards.
For further information on the fifth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League 2012/2013 at Stuttgart, Germany go to website or contact Press Officer Joerg Klopfer at Email, Tel +491754349686. The next leg takes place in Geneva, Switzerland on Sunday 9 December.  For all information on the Swiss fixture go to website or contact Press Officer, Corinne Druey, at Email, Tel +41 213 128222/ +41 79226 7859.


Result: 1, Silvana HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 42.66; 2, Noltes Kuchengirl (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/0 42.67; 3, Winningmood (Luciana Diniz) POR 0/0 43.90; 4, Lunatic (Jens Fredricson) SWE 0/0 43.97; 5, Abbervail van het Dingeshof (Denis Lynch) IRL 0/0 44.42; 6, Corradina (Carsten-Otto Nagel) GER 0/0 45.27; 7, Zinedine (Ludger Beerbaum) GER 0/0 48.42; 8, Bella Donna (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) GER 0/0 52.41; 9, Codex One (Christian Ahlmann) GER 0/4 43.54; 10, Embassy II (Hans-Dieter Dreher) GER 0/4 43.83; 11, Nayana (Penelope Leprevost) FRA 0/13 59.10.

Full result here

Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 – Standings after Round 5 at Stuttgart (GER):

1. Sergio Alvarez Moya ESP – 58
2. Kevin Staut FRA – 58
3. Jeroen Dubbeldam NED – 35
4. Pius Schwizer SUI – 32
5. Christian Ahlmann GER – 30
6. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER – 29
7. Marcus Ehning GER – 28
8. Scott Brash GBR – 26
9. Maikel van der Vleuten NED – 23
10. William Funnell GBR – 23
11. Jens Fredricson SWE – 22
12. Olivier Philippaerts BEL – 22
13. Luciana Diniz POR – 21
14. Roger-Yves Bost FRA – 20
15. Manuel Anon ESP – 20
16. Ludo Philippaerts BEL – 18
16. Beat Mandli SUI – 18
18. Luca Moneta ITA – 17
18. Penelope Leprevost FRA – 17