26 October - Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, led a Swiss victory gallop at the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League in Helsinki, Finland today. A new venue presented a real challenge for both horses and riders due to restricted space. But the 32-year-old, and the gelding with which he claimed individual gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games, the enigmatic Nino des Buissonnets, used that to their advantage and left the result beyond doubt with a superb run when second-last to go against the clock.

Last man in was Martin Fuchs, and the 22-year-old steered PSG Future into runner-up spot ahead of Pius Schwizer in third. The Swiss were understandably buoyant at the end of the day.  “We Swiss are in good shape right now!” said Schwizer this evening.

New venue

As the 30th Helsinki Horse Show moved to the Helsingin Jäähalli, the city’s oldest indoor ice rink, course designer, Frenchman Frederic Cottier, had to be at his creative best. Guerdat explained, “the arena is quite tight, the length is ok but if it was three or four metres wider then it would be easier. The fences came up really quickly for the horses and riders, but the courses got better every day and we got more used to it. Today’s was the best course of the weekend, and this was definitely the best class” said the man who is now heading the Western European League leaderboard, and well on the way to qualification for the series Final in Las Vegas, USA next April.

Making the cut into the jump-off was not an easy task as there was no room for adjusting stride patterns throughout the 12-fence track. Once riders committed themselves to going on a certain distance they had to stick to their decision even if the fences didn’t come up right, and Italy’s Franco Francesco was eliminated for a fall when the line he took to the penultimate oxer left him too far away, and his grey mare, Banco Popalare Bari Cassandra, decided to slam on the brakes.

With 15 through to the timed round however the 7,000 spectators were guaranteed an exciting battle, and it more than lived up to expectations.

Copybook tour

Great Britain’s Yasmin Pinchen had produced a copybook tour when posting the first clear of the competition with her bay mare Ashkari, but it all went wrong for the 21-year-old Londoner at the second fence on the jump-off track. Riders needed to make a sharp turn to this vertical if they were to be in with any chance of a good placing, but the British pair met it all wrong and racked up a total of 23 faults.

Going later in the draw was an advantage as riders could work out where time could be saved as they moved on to the oxer at fence three and swung left-handed to the planks at five which had taken a significant toll in the first round. From there it was on to the water-tray oxer at six which had also proven influential before a roll-back to the first two elements of the former triple combination. Once that was behind them there was only the final Longines fence, changed from an oxer to a vertical this time around.

Third to go, it was young Brazilian star, Marlon Zanotelli, who set the early target with a great round from Extra van Essene in 36.18 seconds. And his lead wasn’t threatened by a nice, but cautious, clear from Finland’s Anna-Julia Kontio and the elegant grey, Fardon, or by French 23-year-old, Alexandre Fontanelle, who, however, was most impressive with breaking the beam in 39.27 seconds with Prime Time des Vagues.

Five-stride distance

Norwegian veteran, Geir Gulliksen, was the first to attempt a five-stride distance instead of six from the second to the third fence with the hard-pulling Edesa S Banjan, but his time of 37.66 seconds still left Zanotelli out in front. However when, four horses later, Schwizer did the same he swept way into the lead with his stunning eight-year-old Sixtine de Vains who stopped the clock on 35.33. Now it was a matter of who could beat that, and although Frenchman Kevin Staut, with another eight-year-old Ayade de Septon et HDC, gave it his best shot as did Germany’s Christian Ahlmann with Cornado ll, it took last week’s winners, Jur Vrieling and Zirocco Blue, to oust the Brazilian from pole position when crossing the line in 35.78 seconds.

The Dutchman’s chances of doing a back-to-back double were instantly dashed however by Guerdat’s super-smooth run with Nino who was in his element as he soared home in 34.96 seconds. And when fellow-countryman, Fuchs, gave chase with PSG Future and sealed runner-up spot when crossing the line in 35.10, there were big smiles all round in the Swiss camp.

Very happy

“I’m very happy! When I saw Pius I knew we would have a Swiss win and I did what I could but I’m very happy with second place!” said Fuchs afterwards.

Talking about the challenge of riding in today’s relatively small arena, Guerdat joked, “Switzerland is a small country so we are used to small things!” And discussing the jump-off, he pointed out that his ride was more difficult than it appeared.  “When I saw Pius go, I thought I can go faster than that if I don’t fall asleep!  But when I was riding it then it seemed quite far from fence to fence and it felt quite slow. But Nino is so quick, there were not too many options and I could still add a stride from 2 to 3 and be quick enough” he explained.

With 35 points already on the Western European League leaderboard, the Olympic gold medallist has only a little more to do in order to guarantee his place in the Las Vegas start-list next April. He intends to pick the last few points he needs over the next few weeks.

“Next week I will take Concetto Son to Lyon (FRA) and I will change horse for Verona (ITA) the following week. I’ll go back on Nino for Stuttgart (GER) but I won’t be taking him to the Final. I want to save him for one more championship” he explained.

The next leg takes place in Lyon, France on Sunday 2 November.

Result: 1, Nino des Buissonnets (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/0 34.96; 2, PSG Future (Martin Fuchs) SUI 0/0 35.10; 3, Sixtine de Vains (Pius Schwizer) SUI 0/0 35.33; 4, VDL Zirocco Blue NOP (Jur Vrieling) NED 0/0 35.78; 5, Extra van Essene (Marlon Zanotelli) BRA 0/0 36.18; 6, Cornado ll (Christian Ahlmann) GER 00 36.57; 7, Ayade de Septon Et HCD (Kevin Staut) FRA 0/0 37.24; 8, Edesa S Banjan (Geir Bulliksen) NOR 0/0 37.66; 9, Prime Time des Vagues (Alexandre Fontanelle) FRA 0/0 39.27; 10, Fardon (Anna-Julia Kontio) FIN 0/2 41.11; 11, Sea Coast Forlap DC (Daniel Deusser) GER 0/4 35.90; 12, Gotha FRH (Henrik von Eckermann) SWE 0/4 35.97; 13, Casello (Douglas Lindelow) SWE 0/8 36.50; 14, Connery (Luca Moneta) ITA 0/12 36.48; 15, Ashkari (Yasmin Pinchen) GBR 0/23.

Full result here 

Facts and Figures:

Helsinki, Finland presented the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League today.

The event took place at a new venue, Helsingin Jäähalli, Helsinki's oldest indoor ice rink.

The city of Helsinki has hosted the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series for 29 years.

The show this year celebrated its 30th anniversary.

The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League series takes place over 12 rounds, with riders counting their best six results.

The Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Final will be held in Las Vegas, USA from15-19 April 2015.

Today's course designer was Frenchman Frederic Cottier who also designed the tracks for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 at Normandy, France.

40 horse-and-rider combinations competed.

1 elimination - for Italy's Francesco Franco for a fall from Banca Popolare Bari Cassandra at the penultimate fence in the first round.

15 qualified for the second-round jump-off against the clock.

The winner was Switzerand's Steve Guerdat partnering Nino des Buissonnets, the horse with which he won individual gold at the London 2012 Olympic Games.

Swiss riders filled the top three places - Martin Fuchs lined up second with the 10-year-old PSG Future and Pius Schwizer finished third with Sixtine de Vains.

The youngest horses in today's competition were both 8-year-olds and both qualified for the jump-off.

Schwizer's third-placed Sixtine de Vains is only 8 years old.

Fourth place went to The Netherlands' Jur Vrieling and VDL Zirocco Blue who won the opening leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League at Oslo, Norway last Sunday.

After two rounds of the Western European League, today's winner Steve Guerdat, who finished third last weekend in Oslo, now heads the Western European League leader board with a total of 35 points.

In the Western European League, a total of 40 points is usually sufficient to qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final.


Steve Guerdat SUI, talking about the Swiss working as a team in Helsinki - “it’s great to be able to talk together and train together, and it’s great to have a team on site and not to be on your own”.

Anna-Julia Kontio FIN - “I was very happy with both of my rounds. My target was to finish in the top 10 and I made it! Yesterday in the Grand Prix my horse got nervous in the jump-off and we had two fences down. Today I wanted two clear rounds and I’m happy. I’m also happy that Martin (Fuchs) got something to bring home!”

Steve Guerdat SUI - “It was a fantastic course and a great arena. The Organising Committee did a great job, and the atmosphere was even better than it used to be”.

Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League - Standings after Round 2 at Helsinki (FIN):

1.    Steve Guerdat SUI                -    35

2.    Jur Vrieling NED                -    33

3.    Marlon Zanotelli BRA                -    21

4.    Kevin Staut FRA                -    21

5.    Pius Schwizer SUI                -    18

6.    Marco Kutscher GER                -    17

6.    Martin Fuchs SUI                -    17

8.    Christian Ahlmann GER            -    15

9.    Douglas Lindelow SWE            -    14

10.    Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum GER        -    13

11.    Bart Bless NED                -    12

12.    Geir Gulliksen NOR                -      9

13.    Alexandre Fontanelle FRA            -      8

13.    Edwina Tops-Alexander AUS            -      8

15.    Anna-Julia Kontio FIN            -      7

15.    Linda Heed SWE                -      7

17.    Daniel Deusser GER                -      6

17.    Gregory Wathelet BEL            -      6

19.    Henrik von Eckermann SWE         -      5

19.    Penelope Leprevost FRA            -      5

Full standings here


image: Swiss riders filled the top three placings at today’s leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Western European League series at Helsinki in Finland led by Olympic champions Steve Guerdat and Nino des Buissonnets. (FEI/Tapio Maenpaa)