Germany takes the early lead in Jumping, but France and Sweden are close behind

BJS 1438 822 HM All In Peder Fredricson

With four fast and fabulous rounds, Team Germany established the advantage in the Speed class on the opening day of the Longines FEI Jumping European Championships Rotterdam 2019 today.

Sweden’s Peder Fredricson and H&M All In, individual gold medallists at the 2017 Championships, won today’s competition with a sensational run that saw them pin Austria’s Max Kuhner and Chardonnay into runner-up spot ahead of Britain’s Ben Maher and Explosion W in third.

Reigning World Champion Simone Blum (DSP Alice), Christian Ahlmann (Clintrexo Z), Marcus Ehning (Comme Il Faut) and Daniel Deusser (Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z) all finished in the top-13, and they go into tomorrow’s first round of the team competition in pole position ahead of France in second and Sweden in third. Great Britain lies fourth, Switzerland fifth and the defending team champions from Ireland are lying sixth of the 15 competing nations.

However first-day results are reconfigured into points, and when the team competition proper gets underway tomorrow with the first of two rounds that will lead to the medal ceremony on Friday, they have only a narrow advantage over France. And there’s less than a single fence between them and Team Sweden in third place. Great Britain and Switzerland are just over two fences behind, while the defending champions from Ireland and Team Israel are also in hot pursuit in sixth and seventh places respectively.

A total of 15 nations started the competition today, and 10 of them are also hunting down one of the three team qualifying spots on offer for the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games. So, just as it was in the Dressage Team Championship earlier in the week, the next two days of competition will be as much about good placings as they will be about getting on the medal podium, and once again Team Germany is in command at the outset.

Course designer Louis Konickx presented a great first-day challenge in which the narrow Longines wall at fence five, the 4-metre-wide open water at nine and the penultimate double that led the way down the final line all proved influential. Strong as the German contingent were today however, it was the defending individual gold-medal-winning partnership of Peder Fredricson and H&M All In who topped the individual leaderboard ahead of Austria’s Max Kuhner with Chardonnay in second and Britain’s Ben Maher and Explosion in third.

Kuhner, who has made a great recovery following a shoulder operation three months ago, was delighted to find himself in runner-up spot because he says his Chardonnay is not the quickest horse “but we improve together and we get a little faster with age!”

Maher was second-last to go of today’s 70 starters. “It’s always hard to wait until the very end, I didn’t get to see Peder or Max go. Explosion is naturally a fast horse, and he was very excited to be here yesterday, he was fresher than normal. I just couldn’t take a big risk today on the line with the Longines wall, that’s where these guys were better than me today. Explosion has won a lot but he’s young and he’s being a little bit careful sometimes at these jumps”, he explained.

He said the British have team gold as their target but you could tell this afternoon that the Germans, who hold the record with seven team golds in the 62-year history of the European Championships, are feeling fairly confident even though Christian Ahlmann insisted, “we’ve had a good start but its not much more, there’s a long way to go.” His breathtaking round with Clintrexo really bolstered their position, and this pair look to have a great week ahead of them, leading all the way up to Sunday’s individual final.

“He’s a breeding stallion but you can’t feel it, he’s a very kind and sweet horse, very positive and really quiet. He’s a bit shy in the warm-up so you have to be aware of that, but in the ring he is fighting for his rider. He’s not spooky at all, so he makes your life easy!”, said Ahlmann who finished fourth today ahead of Swiss star Steve Guerdat and his super-mare, Albfuehren’s Bianca, in fifth.

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