On a thrilling night of top sport, and in front of a sold-out stadium of screaming spectators, Brazil’s Marlon Zanotelli and the 14-year-old chesnut gelding VDL Edgar M scorched to victory in the penultimate leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Western European League in Bordeaux, France.
A world-class 38-strong line-up of stars always promised a cracking competition and, when almost half (17) of them left course designer Jean Francois Morand’s first-round track in place, it came down to a thrilling race against the clock.
For much of the class, it looked like young Swiss challenger Édouard Schmitz would take victory, but last to go Zanotelli had other ideas. For the second week in-a-row, Schmitz had to settle for second, while double world champions, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and the great King Edward, finished third.
“It was definitely a big advantage to start last,” the delighted Brazilian rider said afterwards. Initially VDL Edgar didn’t seem to be going nearly quickly enough, but when he arrived at the third fence in about 15 seconds it was clear his speed was deceptive.
“I’m very lucky to have Angelica there to watch and tell me exactly what to do, she knows Edgar so well and she knows me a little bit too!” he explained. His wife, Sweden’s Angelica Augustsson Zanotelli who won the second leg of the series in Helsinki (FIN) last October and who competed that night for a total of 12 first-round faults, had seen the entire jump-off unfold.
“We made a plan with the strides and the rollbacks and everything and I just stuck to the plan. Luckily Edgar was amazing today, he’s been so consistent this year, and I’m just delighted with the result. And the public were fantastic,” Zanotelli added after breaking the beam in the winning time of 35.39 seconds, just 0.33 ahead of Schmitz.
“I’m very lucky that family Gjelsten were able to buy him for the (Tokyo) Olympics and now for this season. He’s just everything a rider wants, he’s careful, he has scope and for me the most important part is that he’s so clever, so sensitive to the rider, so responsive and he’s getting quicker and quicker!”
Ireland’s Denis Lynch finished in seventh place with Brooklyn Heights, picking up 10 points and moving up to 12th on the standings, within touching distance of the World Cup Finals in Omaha. The top 18 from the Western European League will make the cut. Henrik von Eckermann lies regally at the head of affairs with a massive 102 points followed by Frenchman Julien Epaillard in second and Daniel Deusser in third.
The final qualifying round takes place in Gothenburg, Sweden on February 26th next.