May 3, 2002 -- McLain Ward continues to knock at the door, but the world's leading rider, Ludger Beerbaum, tops the standings after Friday's second leg of the FEI World Cup Final here in Leipzig, Germany.
A nine-horse jump-off made for very exciting sport for the nearly capacity crowd and when it was over, Germany's favorite son ( at least in equestrian sport) Ludger Beerbaum had beaten defending champion Markus Fuchs and Tinka's Boy by less than one second. There were only three clears in the jump-off. In addition to Beerbaum and Fuchs, Otto Becker also from Germany and the talented Capitol son, Dobel's Cento, had a slow and careful ride.
"My goal in coming here was to be in the top ten," said Becker, " and so far we are right on target."
Another impressive performance came from Lars Nieberg on Adlantus As FRH who was the only rider to dare an inside turn to the Audi oxer. He succeeded brilliantly here only to have the last fence come down . Nevertheless, he moved up to a tie for fifth place overall with Markus Fuchs, an impressive jump from twelfth going in. At the end of the second competition, there are four Germans in the top six of the overall standings. They seem determined to win on their home ground at the first World Cup Final to be held in Germany since Dortmund in 1990.
In case anyone is confused by the World Cup system, class results are added together and converted to points which determine the standings overall, the main factor in determining the final results. The leader, Beerbaum, has zero penalty points.
McLain Ward and Viktor had an excellent first-round clear over a course that certainly separated the contenders. Going into the jump-off in the 'cat seat' - the last to go - they looked like taking it all until a difficult turn into an imposing wall with a plank over it caused the plank to come down.
"They were a bit too fast," said team coach Frank Chapot, " but McLain is a real competitor so he will be a force on Sunday." Ward currently stands second in the overall rankings, only two points away from Beerbaum, a very narrow margin with two big courses to jump on Sunday.
The competition started on a high note for the Americans when in the first round Margie Goldstein Engle, first in the ring with Hidden Creek's Perin, had a textbook clear to demonstrate that yesterday's disaster was unusual. The pair were last minute additions to the U.S. contingent when Todd Minikus' horse was unable to travel and were handicapped by having no indoor tune-ups prior to coming over. Margie had no hope of improving her chances as far as the Word Cup title was concerned but just wanted her horse to compete at his normal standard.. In the jump-off, Engle set off with Hidden Creek's Perin at a gallop but he too was caught out at the plank that fell for Ward and Viktor.
Both Richard Spooner's great horse Robinson and Ray Texel's talented mare Fleur continued not to show their usual form here, perhaps unsettled by the indoor venue, as they picked up 18 and 12 faults respectively in the first round Vanessa Haas, a Yale student who rides with Lauren Hough , also had 16 faults with Cinoa. Will Simpson's Irish-bred El Campeon's Ado Annie was clear to the end where she had the last two down.
"She got a little tired," said Will.
Leslie Howard had a disappointing day when Priobert de Kavlarie, who has been prepared especially for this final, had two unfortunate rubs, which probably puts them out of contention since they are in fourteenth spot with a score of 14 penalty points. Laura Kraut's Anthem and Lauren Hough's Windy City only had one rub and they currently stand twelfth and fifteenth overall.
The U.S. riders who are not qualified for Sunday's final round will compete tomorrow in the Grand Prix.
Leipzig is one of the oldest cities in Germany and has the charm that comes from cobblestone streets and ancient structures. We have been holed up at the Liepzig Messe trade centre, so I am looking forward to a city tour in the morning.
For more detailed results, visit www.engarde.de