ROLEX FEI WORLD CUPTM JUMPING 2009/2010
Mechelen (Bel), 30 December 2009
SATO SPRINGS A BIG SURPRISE AT MECHELEN
Japan's Eiken Sato sprung a massive surprise when scooping the honours in the seventh leg of the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World CupTM Jumping series in Mechelen, Belgium today. With his 10 year old stallion BV Project Cartoon Z the relatively unknown 23 year old from Nagano produced one of eight first-round clears over the massive track built by Lucien Somers and with youthful enthusiasm then devastated the opposition with a daredevil ride against the clock. Ireland's Jessica Kuerten had to settle for second with her great mare Castle Forbes Libertina while the host country's Patrick McEntee and Ever Mury Marais Z slotted into third.
Sato looked as cool as a cucumber while executing his historic victory, but with a great tremble in his voice he said afterwards "I have this most wonderful horse, and I am so lucky. He's not just my horse - he is my friend!".
BIG AND BOLD
During the course-walk, Kuerten described the track as "big and ugly", and that was how it certainly must have seemed to the early starters, many of whom found it too great a challenge. It was not particularly technical and the time-allowed was generous, but it demanded scope from the horses and strength from the riders, and 13 partnerships came into the ring before the first clear round was recorded by the home side's Yves Vanderhasselt and Adamo Van'T Steenputje. By then there had already been four retirements and one elimination as proof of just how difficult it could be.
The short-strided double at fence seven was the bogey fence of the day, catching out many of the favourites including the Dutch duo of Albert Zoer and Oki Doki, Belgium's World Champion Jos Lansink with Valentia van 'T Heike, Germany's Daniel Deusser (Hooligan de Rosyl), Switzerland's Christina Liebherr (LB Lilas de la Chaise) and Great Britain's Ellen Whitaker (Equimax Ocolado) amongst others. However it was the triple combination three fences later that kept Natale Chiaudani and SNAI Seldana di Campalto out of the jump-off when the mare hit the first of the two yawning oxers on entry, and the Italian joined 11 others with an irritating four-fault first round tally.
Vanderhasselt had celebrated his first-round clear as if he had won an Olympic medal, and understandably so as the 30 year old, who is a former European Pony Champion, is not a full-time professional rider but spends his days managing the family transport business. With two fences on the floor second time out however he left the door wide open for the remaining seven who followed him, and next to go was fellow-countryman Dirk Demeersman with his handsome nine year old stallion Cicero Van Paemel. In an emotional retirement ceremony, Demeersman's former top ride, Clinton, said his goodbyes the previous evening but even though Cicero hit the front element of the dreaded double this time out it is clear the Belgian rider has found himself a replacement with potential.
Germany's Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z had made it all look very elementary first time out but they fell foul of the new oxer at fence 15 this time, so it was Spain's Pilar Cordon who set the first target with a very nice clear from Herald in 42.21 seconds. Sato blasted that into oblivion however when following with a thrilling round in which he threw caution to the wind and galloped home in 38.82 seconds and when Frenchwoman, Penelope Leprevost, also fell prey to the double with Mylord Carthago the young man from Japan still held the advantage.
The final two looked threatening however, particularly the penultimate partnership of Jessica Kuerten and Castle Forbes Libertina whose speed is legendary. But the Irish rider said before the competition began that she might be cautious because today was Libertina's first time back at top level following a seven-month layoff due to a leg injury. In the first round the mare was full of fire and pulling hard, and although Kuerten did take off the handbrake in round two the Irish partnership were not flat to the boards as they broke the beam, clear once again, a second short of the target time in 30.31 seconds. Last into the ring was McEntee for Belgium, and he carefully calculated the risks before he started. "I had to make a choice between going for the win, and maximum points, or going for a place with good points - I need points so I decided to be a bit careful" he explained. And it paid off as his clear round with Ever Mury Marais Z left him in third place, and with today's 17 points added to the 11 earned in Lyon last month he is making steady progress on the road to the final in Geneva next April.
Sato could hardly believe what he had achieved. Based for the past five years in Grobbendonk, Belgium with horse dealer Axel Verlooy who regularly trains Japanese riders, he has been learning his trade but only began to really make his mark after the purchase of Cartoon from the Zangersheide Stud 12 months ago. "A lot of people had seen him, but nobody thought he was special - I know he's a very special horse" the riders said. They have developed a remarkable bond which is evident in the way they respond to each other - "Cartoon gets very excited when he sees Eiken - he can't wait for him to come into the stable and talk to him" said Patrick McEntee's groom.
Asked what his plans were going into the ring with speed-merchant Jessica Kuerten following behind him Sato said "I just thought I'd give it a try and go as fast as I could because I knew Jessica wouldn't be jumping out of a trot!". Kuerten was very happy with Libertina's runner-up result. "This is her first 5-Star show after her injury, we have done three little shows and then did one jump-off class here and she was clear but there were too many in the jump-off so I decided not to go in the second round that day" she explained. And did she hold back in the jump-off this afternoon? "I didn't think I'd be clear when I saw the course but when I was I decided I'd have a go against the clock" she pointed out.
Today however was all about a talented young man and a horse that only he and his trainer could see had the makings of a champion. "I rode at the WEG in Aachen in 1996 and went to Hong Kong Olympic Games last year but I never before had a horse like this" he said this evening. And his plan now? "Kentucky - I want to go to the WEG in Kentucky and when we get there we will see what we can do....."
The next leg of the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World CupTM Jumping series takes place in Leipzig, Germany in three weeks time.
Japan's Eiken Sato created a sensation when steering BV Project Cartoon Z to victory in the seventh leg of the 2009/2010 Rolex FEI World CupTM Jumping series in Mechelen, Belgium today where Philippe de Baets, Director, Rolex Benelux presented him with his award. Photo: Dirk Caremans.
Result: 1, BV Project Cartoon Z (Eiken Sato) JPN 0/0 38.82; 2, Castle Forbes Libertina (Jessica Kuerten) Irl 0/0 39.31; 3, Ever Mury Marais Z (Patrick McEntee) Bel 0/0 39.78; 4, Herald (Pilar Cordon) Esp 0/0 42.21; 5, Taloubet Z (Christian Ahlmann) Ger 0/4 39.39; 6, Mylors Carthago (Penelope Leprevost) Fra 0/4 40.50; 7, Cicero Van Paemel (Dirk Demeersman) Bel 0/4 43.41; 8, Adamo Van'T Steenputje (Yves Vanderhasselt) Bel 0/8 45.76; 9, Silvana (Kevin Staut) Fra 4/67.55; 10, Quarco de Kerambars (Rik Hemeryck) Bel 4/67.66. Full results at http://www.scg-nl.nl/
ROLEX FEI WORLD CUPTM JUMPING - Standings after Round 7 at Mechelen, Belgium:
1. Eric Van der Vleuten - 57
2. Pius Schwizer - 48
3. Kevin Staut - 45
4. Natale Chiaudani - 43
5. Rodrigo Pessoa - 41
6. Daniel Etter - 40
7. Michael Whitaker - 39
8. Ludger Beerbaum - 34
9. Marco Kutscher - 34
10. Penelope Leprevost - 32
11. Marcus Ehning - 31
12. Patrice Deleveau - 29
13. Philipp Weishaupt - 29
14. Jessica Kuerten - 28
15. Zoer - 28
16. Dermott Lennon, Ben Maher - 28
18. Patrick McEntee - 26
19. Svante Johansson - 22
20. Daniel Deusser - 22
21. Beat Mandli - 21
22. Eiken Sato - 20
Facts and Figures:
40 starters in the competition
1 elimination - Germany's Andreas Knippling with Chaman
4 retired including Finland's Nina Fagerstrom (Wivina), Denmark's Tina Lund (Zamiro), and Belgium's Niels Bruynseels (Aluna) and Christophe Vanderhasselt (Ultra Top Van T Paradus).
12 finished the first round with just four faults
This was the 29th annual indoor show at Mechelen which is dedicated to the memory of Belgian show jumping legend, the late Eric Wauters.
The bogey fence on the course was the double at fence seven.
Eiken Sato, today's winner : "I knew that Jessica and Libertina could beat us, so I thought I had to be very fast in the jump-off".
Patrick McEntee, who finished third : "Today there were many big stars who had fences down in the first round - it was a tough course"
CALENDAR OF EVENTS FOR WESTERN EUROPEAN LEAGUE: 1, Oslo (Norway) 9-11 October; 2, Helsinki (Finland) 15-18 October; 3, Lyon (FRA) 28 Oct-1 November; 4, Verona (Italy) 5-8 November; 5, Stuttgart (Germany) 15-22 November; 6, London-Olympia (Great Britain) 15-21 December; 7, Mechelen (Belgium) 26-30 December; 8, Leipzig (Germany) 21-24 January; 9, Zurich (SUI) 28-31 January; 10, Bordeaux (France) 5-7 February; 11, Vigo (Spain) 11-14 February; 12, Gothenburg (Sweden) 25-28 February; 13, s'Hertogenbosch (The Netherlands) 25-28 March; FINAL - Geneva (Switzerland) 14-18 April.
Broadcast Schedule can be downloaded from www.feiworldcup.org
Photo Catalogue - Photographs of winning riders in high/low resolution can be downloaded from FEI Photo Calalogue at www.fei.org>Media>Photo Catalogue - no reproution fee ut photographer must be credited (name appears under picture). Usage strictly for editorial purposes.
Media Guide - 2009/2010 Media Guide filled with useful facts, figures, statistics and contact details can be downloaded from www.feiworldcup.org - click on Jumping then Media. Hard copy available from FEI Communications - Email email@example.com.
FEI World CupTM Jumping has entered its 32nd season. The series, created in 1978, today comprises 14 leagues on all continents. The best riders from 121 preliminary competitions will qualify for the final in Geneva, Switzerland which takes place from 14-18 April 2008.
The Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI), founded in 1921, is the international body governing equestrian sport recognised by the International Olympic Committee (IOC) and includes 133 National Federations.
Equestrian sport has been on the Olympic programme since 1912 with three disciplines - Jumping, Dressage and Eventing. It is one of the very few sports in which men and women compete on equal terms. It is also the only sport which involves two athletes - horse and rider. The FEI has relentlessly concerned itself with the welfare of the horse, which is paramount and must never be subordinated to competitive or commercial influences.