19 October - The Netherlands’ Jur Vrieling produced another spectacular result today when winning the first leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League series at Oslo in Norway. Partnering VDL Zirocco Blue, the 45-year-old rider who played a pivotal role in securing both team gold at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy, France last month and the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping 2014 title in Barcelona, Spain last weekend was on fire once again when leaving a world-class field in his wake.

 Running fifth of the nine horse-and-rider combinations in today’s jump-off, he bettered the super-fast target set by Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets. But it was Germany’s Marco Kutscher and Cornet’s Cristallo who slotted into runner-up spot when relegating the Olympic individual gold-medal-winning partnership to third with a brilliant last-to-go effort.

Intensified the test

Course designer, Italy’s Uliano Vezzani, set a tough track for the first of the 12 qualifying rounds in this winter-long series, and the tight confines of Oslo’s Telenor Arena intensified the test. Difficult lines and big fences combined to ensure that only the sharpest and most careful horses would leave all the poles in place, with fences falling at every point around the ring. It seemed almost tailor-made for Guerdat’s Nino, whose lightning-quick reactions were put to good use in the opening round. But in the end the sheer confidence and competence of the Dutchman who has enjoyed an amazing summer season gave Vrieling the edge.

There were three crucial turn-backs on the jump-off course, and the first of these was after the oxer at fence two which was now followed by a new vertical. It was then a long run down to the double at fence eight which had caused a lot of problems in the first round before turning as quickly as possible to the oxer at nine. Despite being only 1m wide, it stood a full 1.60m tall and also proved quite tricky in both rounds as it came off a right-hand bend on a difficult angle. From there riders had to get gallop down the arena before turning left down the final line that consisted of fences three and four from the first round course. Belgium’s Bart Bles threw down the gauntlet with a great pathfinding effort against the clock with the stallion Lord Sandro DDH who broke the beam in 37.10 seconds after popping the penultimate vertical and final oxer in fine style.

Generous turn

Sweden’s Douglas Lindelow was next out of the starting blocks with the 11-year-old gelding Casello, but a generous turn to fence nine ensured they were no threat to the leading pair as they crossed the line in 39.05. Three-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, however set off on a determined run with the nine-year-old grey, Fibonacci, whose enormous jump and fabulous technique drew gasps from the crowd as they took over the lead in 36.89 seconds.

But then Guerdat set off with Nino des Buissonnets and, clearing the narrow oxer at nine at an acute angle and galloping the length of the arena before turning tight to the penultimate vertical, he was clearly up on time. As he raced through the finish, the clock showed a

A man with a plan

Not for Vrieling however. He was a man with a plan after talking with fellow-countryman Piet Raymakers. “Piet told me to take seven strides to the double and five to the last fence and that then I could win it.  He said he was sure my horse could do it” the flying Dutchman revealed afterwards.

So carefully following those instructions he did just that, Zirocco Blue easily making up the distance down the last line to get home precisely a second quicker than Guerdat and Nino, and that left the last four with a very big task ahead of them.

Brazil’s Marlon Zanotelli has really matured as a rider over the last 12 months and stands as tall as any on the top international circuit now. The 26-year-old produced a classy tour of the track from the 10-year-old Extra van Essene first time out, but this time they lowered the second element of the double at eight to finish eighth at the end of the day.

Third-last to go, Frenchman, Kevin Staut, opted for caution when already behind on time turning to the third fence with Reveur de Hurtebise HDC and came home safely in 37.1 seconds instead. And when Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and Ego van Orti hit both elements of the double, then only Germany’s Marco Kutscher stood between Vrieling and the win.

Never one to be under-estimated

Kutscher is never one to be under-estimated, and he very nearly did it with a heart-stopping run from Cornet’s Cristallo. Well in touch turning down the final line, he decided however to go on a six-stride distance, and it cost him by the narrowest of margins.

As Vrieling said afterwards, “it’s been so close in every class here at Oslo this week. Yesterday I lost the Grand Prix to Michael Whitaker by two-hundredths of a second but today I beat Marco by seven-hundredths, and that’s the sport!”. He was particularly proud of his 10-year-old stallion.  “This was Zirocco’s very first World Cup, and he won it - he felt really good!” Vrieling pointed out.

Talking about the grey, which is by the legendary Mr Blue, he continued, “I got him as a four-year-old and he was a real challenge”. Zirocco enjoyed dislodging his riders whenever he could, so he wasn’t the most popular horse at the time. Vrieling however persisted, and his work has paid off handsomely. “I always knew the quality of the horse, he can be naughty sometimes, but that’s part of what makes him so special!” the rider explained.

Kutscher was happy with his second place. “My horse is very fast and competitive, so if I do get into a jump-off I’m always feeling positive. But today everyone was faster and faster with every round, and I did six (strides) in the last line. I’m very pleased with his performance anyway, it was a good day for me” he added.

Very happy

Third-placed Guerdat said “Nino jumped amazingly well so I’m very happy with him, this was his first show since the WEG”. He knew exactly where he lost time in the jump-off. “I had to add a stride going to the double, and I did that in the first round too, so I was just not fast enough” he explained.

For Vrieling, today’s win is another reminder that when you are on top form, then no ambition is too great. With his usual modesty, he said yesterday that he can hardly believe what he has achieved over the past year, but he is riding high and on great form now going into the winter season.

Asked today if he thought he could win the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Final, he replied with a laugh, “yes I can, but I have to get there first!”  His next step on the road that leads to the Final in Las Vegas, USA next April is round two of the Western European League series at Helsinki, Finland next Sunday.

Result: 1, VDL Zirocco Blue NOP (Jur Vrieling) NED 0/0 34.22; 2, Cornet's Cristallo (Marco Kutscher) GER 0/0 34.29; 3, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 35.22; 4, Fibonacci (Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum) GER 0/0 36.89; 5, Lord Sandro DDH (Bart Bles) NED 0/0 37.10; 6, Reveur de Hurtebise HDC (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 37.16; 7, Casello (Douglas Lindelow) SWE 0/0 39.05; 8, Extra van Essene (Marlon Zanotelli) BRA 0/4 36.02; 9, Ego van Orti (Edwina Tops-Alexander) AUS 0/8 41.60.

Full result here

Facts and Figures:

Oslo in Norway presented the first leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League today.

The competition took place at the Telenor Arena.

The winner was The Netherlands' Jur Vrieling with VDL Zirocco Blue.

Vrieling played a crucial role in the Dutch team victories at both the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy last month and the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ Jumping Final in Barcelona, Spain last weekend partnering VDL Bubalu.

40 starters in toad's competition.

9 clear in first round.

Course designer, Italy's Uliano Vezzani.

Youngest horse in today's competition was the 8-year-old mare Sixtine de Vains ridden by Switzerland's Pius Schwizer for 4 faults in first round.

There was a total of ten 9-year-olds competing in this opening leg of the series.

The oldest horse in today's competition was the 15-year-old mare VDL Groep Sapphire who was retired by rider, Maikel van der Vleuten from The Netherlands, in the first round.

The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 League consists of 12 qualifying rounds.

The second leg will take place next Sunday at Helsinki in Finland.


Jur Vrieling NED: “the course designer did a terrific job. The course was heavy enough and technical enough but not crazy”.

Uliano Vezzani ITA, course designer: "I’m very happy, it was fantastic to have nine in the jump-off. This was a good day for the first leg of the series, not too complicated, but it was a good class and we had a fantastic winner".

Jur Vrieling NED, when asked about his competition plans for the coming months: “Next week I take Zirocco to Helsinki,  then I go to Doha with Bubalu for the Global Champions Tour Final and we will see from there”.

Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League - Standings after Round 1 at Oslo (NOR):

1.    Jur Vrieling (NED)            -    20

2.    Marco Kutscher (GER)            -    17

3.    Steve Guerdat (SUI)            -    15

4.    Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum (GER) -     13

5.    Bart Bles (NED)                -    12

6.    Kevin Staut (FRA)            -    11

7.    Douglas Lindelow (SWE)        -    10

8.    Marlon Zanotelli (BRA)        -      9

9.    Edwina Tops-Alexander (AUS)    -      8

10.    Linda Heed (SWE)            -      7

11.    Gregory Wathelet (BEL)        -      6

12.    Penelope Leprevost (FRA)        -      5

13.    Christian Ahlmann (GER)        -      4

14.    Pius Schwizer (SUI)            -      3

15.    Cameron Hanley (IRL)        -      2

16.    Yasmin Pinchen (GBR)         -      1

source: fei.org

image: The on-form Dutchman, Jur Vrieling, won the opening leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League series at Oslo in Norway today. (FEI/Roger Svalsroed).