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Ireland's Jessica Kuerten Leads World Cup Final; Americans Peter Wylde & Rich Fellers Right Behind

GOTEBORG, Sweden, April 25--Ireland's Jessica Kuerten and Castle Forbes Libertina captured the second leg of the World Cup Final before a packed stadium Friday night.

Right behind were Americans Rich Fellers and Flexible and Olympic team gold medalist Peter Wylde and Esplanade 7. Only the deciding event on Sunday remains to determine whether the Stars and Stripes will be raised over the stadium for the first time in 21 years.

A formidable group all tied in fourth place is lurking, though.

The 2007 World Cup victor, Beat Mandli of Switzerland on Ideo du Thot, German superstar Ludger Beerbaum, the winner here in 1993, and his impressive new All Inclusive NRW, and his sister-in-law, the California-born Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and the Octavia Farms, LLC-owned Shutterfly, winners of the 2005 World Cup.

The arena where the World Cup started 30 years ago was packed and ready for a nail-biting night of competition, the second of three contests to determine the annual global championship.

Thirty-eight combinations from 19 nations competed on the course that many riders described as "extremely difficult."

That there were only five clear rounds proved them right.

Pre-event favorite Kurten, whose lead is only two points, appeared to hold back tears when she talked about the "tough" competition in Friday night's competition, but added: "It may be time for another woman to win" the final.

The heart-stopping ride of the night, though, was by Fellers, 49, of Wilsonville, Ore. on the 12-year-old Irish bred Flexible owned by Harry and Mollie Chapman.

The pair were in fourth place coming into Friday night's class and were one of five combinations to make it to the jumpoff.

Fellers and Flexible were blazing at a pace to win. Their time of 36.28 secs. was 0.63 secs. better than Kurten.

However, they dropped the last rail to the audible disappointment of the crowd. Fellers had nothing but praise, though, for the "fantastic" mare that has posted two consecutive fourth place finishes.

The 2004 Olympic team gold medalist Wylde, who lives in Maastricht, the Netherlands, and Louisburg Farm's Esplanade 7 turned in a flawless peformance.

Wylde said he had "no expectations" despite their seventh place finish Thursday.

U.S. riders Lauren Hough, 30, of Wellington and Quick Study, owned by Laura Mateo, and Danielle Torano, 34, of Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. on Vancouver d'Auvrey owned by Sir Ruly, Inc., overcame their shaky start of these finals to place well Friday.

Each pair dropped a single rail, but Torano also incurred a single time penalty and they placed 8th and 10th, respectively.

Kent Farrington, 27, also of Wellington and Up Chiqui, an 11-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding owned by Alex Boone, William Dobbs and Jim McNerney, had two rails down and was tied for 11th in a group that also included Richard Spooner, 37 of Agua Dulce, Calif. on Cristallo, owned by Show Jumping Syndication Int'l.

Brianne Goutal, 19, of New York and the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, Onira, owned by Cloverleaf Farm, placed 25th,

Margie Engle, 50, of Wellington, on Hidden Creek's Quervo Gold, 26th, Mandy Porter, 42, of Encinitas, Calif. on Wild Turkey Farm's 11-year-old Belgian warmblood mare, Summer, 29th, and

Todd Minikus, 45, of Wellington, Fla. on the 12-year-old mare, Olinda, owned by Houlihan Lawrence, 30th.

Canadians Jill Henselwood and Black Ice and Darrin Dlin and Catwalk finished 18th and 33rd, respectively.

(Reporting from Goteburg provided by Pelle Wedenmark for HorseSport USA)

Photo: The USA's Peter Wylde and Esplanade 7 in the World Cup Final second round in Goteborg, Sweden Friday night. The pair placed second and are third overall with one more class, on Sunday, to determine the World Cup champion.


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