In the first 5-Year-Old qualifier a total of 111 horses jumped clear from a field of 228 starters. As course designer Luc Musette explained,
“it is not possible to build the fences any bigger, and the quality of the young horses ensures you have a lot going clear!” It was a bit tougher in the second qualifier with 74 clear from 225 starters, but today 20 of the 50 starters made the cut into the Final jump-off, so this was never going to be an easy one to win.”
One of the sensations of the weekend was 16-year-old Irish schoolboy Michael Pender who first put the ISH mare Z Seven Canya Dance (Can Ya Makan/Cavalier Royale) into pole position with a foot-perfect run in 39.04 seconds only to overtake his own target time with his second ride Z Seven Caretina (Coltaire Z/Caretino) who broke the beam in 38.86 seconds. He looked to have gold and silver in the bag until last man in, The Netherlands’ Willem Greve, pushed him off the top step of the podium when just 0.4 seconds quicker with the KWPN stallion Garant (Warrant/Verdi TN). The Dutch gold medallist said:
“I bought the horse in May and my home rider competed him in some national shows. I think he is a real Grand Prix horse. The course designer did a great job, it was difficult enough, the time was short but you didn’t see any horses crashing. If you wanted to go fast in the jump off in the final that was your own decision. I never went fast before with Garant, but I knew he had the quality to try it. If you come to these Championships you need a little bit of luck to get to the finals but participating is already a super experience for the rider and the horse. I try to come here every year.”
Pender was plenty happy with silver and bronze. The young Irishman who was on the Irish team at the Junior European Championships this summer said:
“These medals are the biggest thing I’ve won until now – I’m still going to school but I definitely want to be a professional rider! I had a win at Dublin Horse Show and I already did some jump-offs with my horses. They are careful and they have scope so I knew I could go for it today!”
The Irish had even more to celebrate when Gerard O’Neill produced the only clear in the jump-off to take the 6-year-old title with the gelding Killossery Kaiden (Lux Z/Cruising). There were 65 clears from 264 starters in the first qualifier in which the eventual champions finished fourth behind last year’s 5-year-old bronze medallists Willem Greve and Formidable. There were 64 foot-perfect runs in the second qualifier in which a single error pinned the Irish pair into 93rd spot, but having made the cut into the final 40 they were the only ones to keep a clean sheet, O’Neill gambling on a careful round which paid dividends at the end of the day.
From County Kilkenny in Ireland, O’Neill is a regular producer of top-class horses and a successful and respected competitor on the national circuit. As he explained at today’s press conference, amongst the horses he has produced are Zigali PS which competed successfully for 2008 Olympic champion Eric Lamaze from Canada and who is now campaigned by Maria Ortega Perez from Spain, and the brilliant mare Castlefield Eclipse who has been the backbone of Swiss teams for many years with Paul Estermann in the saddle.
“I’ve been riding this horse for about 18 months now and he did well in the HSI series for young horses at home in Ireland but I wasn’t so fast so I didn’t really expect to win! It’s my third time to ride here and now I have the gold medal so I’m pretty happy! This is a great show with super courses and fantastic organisation.”
The silver medal went to the KWPN gelding Fernando (Zapatero VDL/Larino) ridden by The Netherlands’ Julian de Boer whose time of 35.53 was more than 10 seconds faster than the winner’s, but who left a fence on the floor in the last round. The rider who lives in the north of Holland was riding his grandfather’s horse, and as fate would have it his success was a bit random. He said with a smile:
“Normally I would have left yesterday but I stayed for the party, and this morning I put the horses on the truck but I delayed leaving because a rider withdrew and I was the first reserve. I got a call to ask if I wanted to ride in the final, so I took the horse off the truck again and now I have the silver medal!”
Bronze medallist Thierry Goffinet from Belgium was understandably disappointed because his costly single error with the BWP gelding Kannabis van de Bucxtale was unexpected. He explained:
“My horse was second at the Belgian Championships and has been jumping super at international shows. The fence I had down in the jump-off today is the first fence he has knocked down this year in competition!”
In the 7-Year-Old division there were 63 clear rounds from 189 starters in the first qualifier but just 42 in the second competition in which five horses were eliminated and 10 were retired. In today’s finale just five made it through to the jump-off and the three medallists all went double -clear – Belgium’s Thierry Goffinet claiming the gold with the mare Think Twice lll Z which is by the stallion Toulon out of the mother of Portuguese rider Luciana Diniz’s wonderful horse Winningmood. Goffinet explained:
“Think Twice is a super horse, we won the Belgian Championships in Lummen this year and finished in the Criterium for 7-Year-Olds so this is a very consistent jumping horse. She can be fast, we knew that, but I didn’t go crazy in the jump-off. I only pushed to the last fence and that was enough to take the win!”
Silver went to another mare, the BWP grey Jeleena de Muze (Tornedo FCS/Chin Chin) ridden by Stephex Stables’ star rider Lorenzo de Luca. The Italian rider who was still well-pleased with his result said:
“I’m only riding this horse since the Knokke show in July and we were first to go. We have not competed in many shows together so I didn’t know the horse so well”
Bronze went to the bay KWPN gelding Everest (Carambole/Indoctro) with Dutchman Luc Steeghs in the saddle. The rider explained:
“The horse is owned by a Lebanese family and I am training him for the children to ride. He was bought as a 4-year-old at the Hendrix auction.”
Talking about the courses taken on by horses and riders all week, Steeghs continued:
“medals could have been won by a lot of different horses here – little mistakes, one day going clear and the next day having one down could make all the difference, but the standard has to be high because this, after all, is a World Championship for young horses so it has to be testing!”
Five-Year-Old Final: GOLD – Garant (William Greve) NED 0/0 38.46; SILVER – Z Seven Caretina (Michael Pender) IRL 0/0 38.86; BRONZE – Z Seven Canya Dance (Michael Pender) IRL 0/0 39.04.
Six-Year-Old Final: GOLD – Killossery Kaiden (Gerard O’Neill) IRL 0/0 47.85; SILVER – Fernando V (Julian de Boer) NED 0/4 35.53; BRONZE – Kannabis van de Bucxtale (Thierry Goffinet) BEL 0/4 40.02.
Seven-Year-Old Final: GOLD – Think Twice lll Z (Thierry Goffinet) BEL 0/0 40.06; SILVER – Jeleena de Muze (Lorenzo de Luca) ITA 0/0 40.73; BRONZE – Everest (Luc Steeghs) NED 0/0 42.12.