Red-Letter Day for Portugal's Luciana Diniz and Lennox as they Conquer All in Round 10 of the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping series at Zurich

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Luciana Diniz recorded her very first Rolex FEI World Cup victory and her first 5-Star Grand Prix success today.

Portugal's Luciana Diniz with with (on left) Mr Cedric Muller, Rolex Market Manager Switzerland and (right) Mr Urs Theiler, Co-President of the Organising Committee for CSI Zurich.

“Since the Olympic Games in London we have been placed in almost every Grand Prix we have competed in, except not in Geneva, but we have been very consistent for a long time now, for almost two years in fact”

Portugal’s Luciana Diniz and Lennox stormed to victory in a thrilling four-horse jump-off at the tenth leg of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2012/2013 Western European League series in Zurich, Switzerland today. The Brazilian-born 42 year old was second to go against the clock, and threw down a target time that proved impossible for the rest to catch.

It was a tough day at the office for the 39 starters, with the tight first-round time-allowed of 69 seconds catching out 16 horse-and-rider partnerships, while a total of eight had just one fence down and two missed out on the jump-off when collecting just a single time penalty. For the second week in succession Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Bella Donna were amongst the latter, but their fifth-place finishing spot added 12 valuable qualifying points to her collection so the three-time Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion now looks well-assured of a place at the Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April.

For Diniz however, today was very much a red-letter day. “This is my very first World Cup win and my first 5-Star Grand Prix success - I’m very happy!” she said this afternoon.

Particularly Influential

Many riders had difficulty in establishing a rhythm over the 13-fence first-round track designed by Switzerland’s Rolf Ludi, with the triple combination at fence five and the penultimate double both proving particularly influential. But for America’s Richard Spooner it all ended before it even began as the 15 year old Cristallo stopped twice, in determined fashion, at the very first fence for elimination.

From the London Bus wall at fence four to the triple combination at five, which consisted of a vertical with a water tray followed by an oxer and then another water-tray vertical, the pressure mounted. Some horses found the bending line from fences six to eight a bit of a puzzle, often doing a double-take at the hedgerow filler in the rustic oxer at seven only to find it a long stretch on three strides to the following oxer.

The four-stride distance from the oxer at fence ten to the flimsy white planks at fence eleven required control and accuracy as 2007 Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, Switzerland’s Beat Mandli, found out when he checked his 13 year old horse Louis between the two fences only to grind to a halt when the stride completely disappeared.

And the track was relentless right to the very end, the approach to the penultimate double, oxer to vertical, not quite working out for a large number of runners along with the holding five strides to the final upright.

It was Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and Gotha FRH, winners at Mechelen in Belgium in December, who were first to find the key to the course, but another ten took their turn before Diniz and Lennox followed suit. And when, in the closing stages, World No. 1 and last week’s winner in Leipzig, Germany’s Christian Ahlmann went clear with Codex One he was immediately joined in the select group of foot-perfect performers by reigning FEI European Jumping Champion, Rolf-Goran Bengtsson from Sweden partnering Casall la Silla.

Against the Clock

Von Eckermann led the way against the clock, but the 31-year-old Swede, who has established a great partnership with the former Ludger Beerbaum ride, Gotha FRH, made an awkward turn to the London Bus wall, now the third fence on the track, for four faults in 37.35 seconds.

Diniz took a more cautious approach here, but then galloped on to the remaining second element of the triple combination before swinging swiftly left-handed to the double, and driving on fearlessly to the following vertical before sweeping left for the final long run to the oxer at ten on the far side of the arena. The clock showed 35.17 seconds as she crossed the line, and it was clear she had thrown down the gauntlet.

Ahlmann and Codex One however seemed to have it all under control with a confidence-filled ride that left all the poles in place. But when the German pair posted a time of 35.42 seconds it was even more obvious just how quick the Portuguese partnership had been. And although, last to go, Bengtsson and Casall La Silla gave it their best shot, they were 0.13 seconds off the pace after their smooth run and had to settle for runner-up spot ahead of Ahlmann in third.

A Matter of Time

Diniz pointed out afterwards that it really was only a matter of time before she and Lennox would come up with a top-class result like this one.

“Since the Olympic Games in London we have been placed in almost every Grand Prix we have competed in, except not in Geneva, but we have been very consistent for a long time now, for almost two years in fact”, said the rider whose career path into equestrian sport was all but inevitable. Her mother, Lica, won the Brazilian National Dressage Championship title eight years in a row, while her brothers, Andre and Fabio, are top-class polo players.

Talking about her relationship with Lennox she said “we are both in great form right now and we try very hard for each other, we trust one another and we enjoy ourselves! He is a special horse with a lot of character. He can get a bit excited but that’s because he is trying so hard to do his best for us!”

She modestly insisted that she was “very surprised” to be quickest in the jump-off. “I honestly didn’t think I could beat the others, not with Christian and Rolf coming after me because they are absolutely the best in the world!” And now she is planning for the Final in Gothenburg.

“We have a couple of months now to prepare for that and I’m looking forward to it already!” she concluded.

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Louise Parkes
Fédération Equestre Internationale
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