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Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum Wins Every Round and Clinches Title

The 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Finals concluded with two thrilling rounds of jumping competition. Twenty-nine horses entered this third leg of the Final, which started on Thursday. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum remained at the top of the leader board after her victories on Thursday and Friday, but McLain Ward was hot on her heels.

This round of the competition is run in a format unique to the World Cup. The placings from the first two rounds were converted into World Cup penalty points to determine the overall ranking. Then, the riders rode the first round of the day, in which their faults were added to their World Cup points. The 22 riders with the lowest score, along with any with clean rounds who chose to ride again, moved on to the next round—which was scored the same way.

Course Designer Anthony D’Ambrosio continued to increase the difficulty each round. Both legs of Sunday’s competition had 12 efforts, as high as 1.62m (5’3”) and as wide as 1.85m (6’).

Despite the questions asked on course, however, there were 11 clear rounds, including three riders from the United States: Todd Minikus with Pavarotti, Beezie Madden with Danny Boy, and McLain Ward with Sapphire. Twenty-three riders moved on to the second round, led by Michaels-Beerbaum with zero points, Ward with two, and Albert Zoer close behind with four. With the top three so close together, just one time fault or rail dropped could significantly change the standings.

For the second round, D’Ambrosio increased the technical and physical aspects up a notch, including several tests of scope for these horses and riders—who had already jumped a challenging course just a short time before. It started off immediately with a line from a vertical at one with a flowing six strides to an oxer at two. Around the corner to a skinny vertical at three that was the first jump in a bending line of five strides to a big and wide vertical-oxer double combination. The seventh element, the Rolex triple combination built with two big oxers and a vertical, took its toll as a multitude rails were dropped there. The biggest problem spot, however, was the final oxer. It was 1.85m wide, and nine of the twenty-three riders did not get quite high enough to clear the width.

The final course was challenging enough to cause three riders to retire, and several had multiple rails down. The first to go clean was Steve Guerdat of Switzerland with Tresor. He finished with 19 World Cup points for the 2009 competition, which put him in eighth place. Last year’s second place winner and crowd favorite Rich Fellers had a difficult day with enough faults to drop him in the rankings and out of contention for the title.

The cheers were loud for Rodrigo Pessoa, who having jumped clear in the first round today improved his ranking from seventh to fifth place going into the second round. Almost clean, he had a rail on the last jump and finished fifth overall.

Christina Liebherr and L.B. No Mercy, fabulous and second on Thursday but encountering some problems on Friday and placing13th, was in fifth place overall going into the first round today. Illustrating that her Friday performance was not to be repeated, the pair jumped two clear rounds, moving up to fourth place.

Albert Zoer and Oki Doki put in yet another clear round and stayed in third. With only four penalty points, he was still in reach of the title if Ward and Michaels-Beerbaum riding after him had any faults.

The arena filled with thunderous applause for Ward, who with only two penalty points he had a chance to take the title away from Michaels-Beerbaum. To the crowd’s delight, Ward and Sapphire had a flawless round, maintaining his second place rank and continuing to nip at Meredith’s heels.

All that was left was to see if Michaels-Beerbaum would continue her streak of clear rounds. Just one rail would push her down to a tie with Zoer, but the pressure did not seem to affect her. She rode yet another cool and perfect round, leaving every rail in place and clinching the title for herself and Shutterfly. This win makes for the third World Cup title for this dynamic duo.

“I think this was absolutely a great event,” said Michaels-Beerbaum at a press conference after the awards ceremony. “The best horses and riders were here.” She also said, “I think this was my most perfect win, winning all three rounds, but it was also the hardest win ever. McLain made it difficult for me, there was no room for error.” She added that it was a good come-back after her just missed bronze medal experience in Hong Kong.

As for Ward, he said, “We came up two seconds short. It’s a fine line in sports but that’s what it is all about. I’m very proud of what my horse did this week. I’m proud of my team.”

As winner of today’s event, Michaels-Beerbaum took home $122,488, for a grand total for the week of over $230,000 and three Rolex watches. For second place, Ward earned $95,186 today, for a grand total of over $158,000, and Zoer won $61,364 today for a grand total of over $98,000.

This was the fifth year Las Vegas Events hosted the FEI World Cup Finals. An ideal location for exhibitor and spectator alike, those in attendance at the press conference on Sunday were extremely pleased to hear Robert Ridland, the event’s Show Jumping Manager and CEO of Blenheim EquiSports, announce that there is a plan to make a bid for the 2014 World Cup Finals to return to Las Vegas.

In 2010, the show jumping event will be held in Geneva, Switzerland, the home of Rolex, and in ‘S Hertogenbosch, Netherlands, for dressage.

 

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