TWO third place finishes in the FEI World Cup qualifier in the month of November sees Denis Lynch at the top of the Western European League and almost certain to qualify for the FEI World Cup Finals in Leipzig, Germany, next April.
Lynch was third in the fourth round of the series in Madrid, Spain, last Sunday aboard GC Chopin’s Bushi to earn €24,450 and a further 15 points towards qualification. Victory went the way of Frenchman Julien Epaillard who, remarkably, won all three feature classes at the venue.
He rode the relatively new mount Billabong du Roumois and admitted that the jump-off didn’t exactly go to plan. “I knew there were a lot of fast riders coming after me and it wasn’t the most beautiful jump-off I ever rode in my life, but it was big pressure and I also had a little bit of luck!”
Spanish course designer, Javier Trenor, presented a busy 13-fence first-round track with a tight time-allowed of 69 seconds, and it proved to be a significant challenge to the 68-strong starting field, with just six making it through to the jump-off.
The triple combination at fence five with its short distance to the oxer final element was highly influential, but for Swiss stars Steve Guerdat (Venard de Cerisy) and Martin Fuchs (The Sinner) it was the end of the course that caught them out, Guerdat’s gelding clipping the penultimate oxer and Fuchs’ horse lowering the previous one to deny them a spot in the second-round decider.
A total of 13 horse-and-rider combinations collected four first-round faults, while with just a single time penalty each Spain’s Manuel Fernandez Saro (Jarlin de Torres) and rising young British star Jack Whitaker (Haya Loma N) slotted into seventh and eighth places respectively and collected some valuable qualifying points.
Sweden’s Douglas Lindelow produced the first clear of the competition with Casquo Blue and led the way against the clock with a fence down in 43.34 seconds, but Epaillard always looked like he was going to be a lot quicker as he set off, next to go with the 10-year-old Billabong.
He first rattled the oxer at fence two before lifting the front pole off the second element of the former triple combination, only for it to drop right back into the cups for no penalty, so when they raced through the finish in 41.24 seconds they went well out in front.
And, try as they would, they couldn’t be caught despite a sensational effort from three-time World Cup champion Marcus Ehning from Germany who posted the quickest round of the lot with Stargold but a fence down meant he only finished fourth.
Denis Lynch raced through the finish in 42.87 seconds to hold provisional second place before the last man in, Germany’s David Will, gave it a good shot with C Vier to slot into second in a time of 42.71 seconds.
Epaillard has really gelled with Billabong since taking over the ride mid-way through the year. “He’s a super horse, he won the three-star Grand Prix in Gorla Minore (ITA) and the four-star Grand Prix in Saint-Lô (FRA) last month, and now a five-star here today - he’s super competitive!”
Runner-up David Will was happy with his result and said: “As last to go in the jump-off I wanted to try it all, but it is really difficult to beat Julien and this our first indoor show with C Vier.”
Lynch indicated that he will chase the league and hope to get his ticket secured for Leipzig. “I will go to the next leg in La Coruna in two weeks’ time and I’ll also go London (in December). I take every show as it goes but the goal is definitely Leipzig and now that I have picked up some points early it takes the pressure off a bit,” commented the Tipperary native who was delighted with his 15-year-old gelding, owned by Onyx Consulting.
Lynch is in pole position and with 37 points already accumulated he looks well set to make the cut to the Final. Winner of the first leg in Oslo, Kevin Jochems from The Netherlands, lies second and Sweden’s Jens Fredricson is currently in third ahead of Austria’s Max Kühner in fourth and Germany’s Christian Kukuk in fifth place.
But there’s still a long road to the Leipzig finale, with another seven qualifiers and a lot more excitement to come before the final line-up is decided.
Mikey Pender was also in action at the Spanish show and he placed third in Friday’s 1.55m feature jump-off class which was also won by Epaillard and Billabong du Roumois.
Pender guided the 11-year-old gelding HHS Calais (Cavalier Royale x OBOS Quality) to one of five clears against the clock, breaking the beams in 34.95 seconds to earn €14,250.
HHS Calais was bred in Kilkenny by the late Ita Brennan. Lynch slotted into fourth place with GC Chopin’s Bushi in 36.44 seconds.
Shane Breen finished seventh in Saturday night’s 1.50m class with Z7 Ipswich. The pair posted the fastest time (33.98) but a fence down meant they had to settle with the minor placing, just ahead of Lynch in eighth with the nine-year-old stallion Cornets Iberio. Victory in the class went, once again, to Epaillard, this time aboard Solero MS.