Australia's Edwina Tops-Alexander and Cevo Itot du Chateau Take Sixth Leg of Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Series in Geneva by Storm

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The smallest horse-and-rider partnership proved the strongest and quickest in the exciting battle for Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifying points in the toughest of tough competitions

Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander and the brilliant little Cevo Itot du Chateau, winners of the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 series at Geneva, Switzerland today, pictured du

“he just has this really elastic stride, so you can take him back or ask him to go forward so easily. He’s so good and so clever, and he’s always rooting for you, he’s so very, very brave”.

One of the best-loved horses in the sport showed exactly why he is such a huge favourite with the public all around the globe when the diminutive 16 year old Cevo Itot du Chateau carried Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander to victory in the sixth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League series at Geneva, Switzerland today.

The big guns were out in force, with the start-list including 14 of the top 20 in the current Rolex World Rankings list and the reigning Olympic, World and European champions, but only eight made it through to the second round jump-off. And the little chestnut gelding led them a merry dance with a superb run against the clock that left Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya and Carlo having to settle for runner-up spot ahead of Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and Magnus Romeo in third while host nation representative, Janika Sprunger, slotted into fourth with Palloubet d’Halong.

“This was so special” said Tops-Alexander, “Itot is in such great shape and I really wanted him to win here in Geneva. He was already special in the way he jumped when we were second in the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final on Friday, but to win the World Cup qualifier, in such a tough class, he is just fantastic!” the 38 year old rider pointed out.

The result has rocketed the Australian rider up to tenth spot on the series leaderboard. But second-placed Moya, who was sharing pole position with Frenchman Kevin Staut following the previous leg at Stuttgart, Germany last month, has now forged way ahead of the rest of the field going into the next leg at Olympia in London (GBR) in two weeks’ time.

No Day for the Faint-hearted

Today was no day for the faint-hearted, with the first-round course set by Switzerland’s Rolf Ludi demanding courageous, forward riding and plenty of horse-power. The double at fence four claimed plenty of victims as some riders tried to shorten their turn to it and paid the price, often at the tricky planks at the second element. The following oxer was enormously big and wide and that too proved influential, but it was the the triple combination at fence six that penalised the greatest number - 12 in total from the starting field of 40 - with its very short single stride between the first two elements followed by two very long ones to the oxer on the way out. And with 14 fences on the course, the horse-and-rider partnerships were less than halfway round the track at this stage.

A looping line from the oxer at fence seven to the wall at eight which was adorned with knockable dairy cows, and then another oxer at nine led to a sweeping turn-back to the narrow gate at fence ten and on to the massive triple bar at fence 11.

The water under the oxer at 12 proved a distraction for some just three fences from home and was followed by the FEI vertical and, finally, another big oxer to finish.

Further Pressure

Adding further pressure over the tall, bold track was the cleverly-measured time-allowed of 79 seconds that was perfectly achievable for those capable of jumping out of a rolling, forward stride. But this was not a course for taking a pull, or indecision of any kind, and there were three retirements. Britain’s William Funnell called it a day after his gelding, Billy Angelo, took off a stride too soon at the triple bar, three-time Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion Marcus Ehning from Germany retired with Noltes Kuchengirl after lowering both elements of the double at fence four and US star, Richard Spooner, pulled up after two mistakes with Cristallo.

America’s Kent Farrington with Uceko were one of just two horse-and-rider combinations to collect an agonising single time penalty to miss the cut. And the packed stadium of home spectators groaned in dismay when their hero, London 2012 individual Olympic gold medallist Steve Guerdat, produced a sparkling round from Nino des Buissonnets only to break the beam almost a half-second over the time.

Well-Crafted but Cautious

It was a home runner who was first to go against the clock however, Janika Sprunger and her nine year old gelding son of the great Baloubet du Rouet, Palloubet d’Halong, setting the pace with a well-crafted but slightly cautious clear in 42.88 seconds. Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher and Magnus Romeo shaved more than a half second off that to go into the lead but still seemed to leave the door open for those who followed, and when Ireland’s Denis Lynch and Abbervail van het Dingeshof left two fences on the floor it was clearly still for the taking.

Tops-Alexander brought the competition to a whole new level when next to go. A great left-handed turn to the oxer at fence seven, which was now halfway around the new track, and a strong run on to the oxer at fence nine was followed by a very tidy turn-back to the narrow gate at fence 10, and little Itot’s deceptively long stride saw him well up on the clock going down to the penultimate triple bar after which the Australian pair galloped to the final vertical to race through the finish in 40.40 seconds to set the new target.

With four still left to go, and every one of them speed experts, it seemed possible that might be beaten, but reigning individual FEI European champion Rolf-Goran Bengtsson from Sweden faulted with Casall La Silla when attempting to take a stride out to the oxer at nine. And the same fence claimed the chances of Germany’s Marco Kutscher and Spartacus, while Frenchman Roger-Yves Bost and his Helsinki winner Castle Forbes Myrtille Paulois had a temporary lapse of communication on the approach to the following gate for another four-fault result.

Now only Spain’s Sergio Alvarez Moya, winner at Verona last month, stood between Tops-Alexander and victory. And, armed with the former Nick Skelton ride Carlo, it seemed quite possible that this burgeoning partnership could oust the Aussies from the top of the order. They gave it their best shot, but Moya’s stride adjustment on the run to the final fence saw them stop the clock in 41.64 seconds which would only be good enough for second place.

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Louise Parkes
Fédération Equestre Internationale
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