April 19, 2012 -- Competition got underway at the Indoor Brabant Thursday evening in the 2012 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final with the first leg of the four round competition. Of the 37 combinations that went to task over Louis Koninck's 13 obstacle course, nine were representing the United States. With the faults converted format, riders needed to ride forward and efficiently while still jumping carefully. American Rich Fellers rode like a man on a mission to set a blazing pace no else could catch to head the field after day one.
Fellers (Sherwood, Ore.) guided Harry and Mollie Chapman's Flexible to a clear round to stop the timers at 60.26 seconds. The pair surged to the head of the field on the strength of tight, efficient turns and the 16-year-old stallion's natural speed.
This is the second time the pair have won the initial round of a Finals after having lead after day one at the 2010 Rolex/FEI World Cup Finals in Geneva, Switzerland. Additionally, they were second overall in the 2008 edition of the competition held in Gothenburg, Sweden.
"It's always incredible to win at a World Cup Final." Fellers said of his partner of ten years. "He has some longevity in the sport. He's a tough horse and is continuing to learn. He's a better horse now then he was in Gothenburg."
The only time a clear round looked in doubt for Fellers and his diminutive partner was heading into the double combination at fence five off a short turn. However, Flexible was unfazed by a slight stumble before the fence and just kept jumping.
"I made a little mistake in the turn back to the double verticals. Fortunately, my horse is clever and didn't seem to mind. I didn't slow my horse down enough before the turn so I had to add a stride late but he didn't seem to mind."
Kirsten Coe (Johnston, S.C.) followed Fellers into the ring three rides later and produced another clear jumping effort for the United States. However, a more conservative pace meant she and Ilan Ferder's Baronez completed the course in 65.76 seconds. They lay in eighth place following Thursday's opening round.
Rounding out the U.S. riders in the top 20 placings are Richard Spooner, Beezie Madden and Charlie Jayne. All three posted competitive times but each had costly faults moving them down the order. Spooner (Agua Dulce, Calif.) and Show Jumping Syndication International's Cristallo faulted at the oxer jumping into the Rolex combination at six and stand equal 14th. Madden (Cazenovia, N.Y.) and Abigail Wexner's Cortes 'C' lay 16th after adding four penalty seconds to their time as a result of faulting at the ninth fence an oxer down the rail. Jayne (Elgin, Ill.) and Pony Lane Farm's Uraya had rails at fences 6B and 12 and stand 20th.
Kent Farrington and Margie Engle, both of Wellington, Fla., each were forced to add eight penalty seconds for two knock downs on course. They stand 22nd and 25th on RCG Farm's Uceko and Gladewinds, Griese, Garber, and Hidden Creek Farm's Indigo respectively.
Also competing for the U.S. were Francie Steinwedell-Carvin (La Canada, Calif.) and Prentis Partners' Taunus and Michelle Spadone (Kennett Square, PA) with Morgan Hill Partners' Uwwalon. Each collected faults over the course and lay 29th and 32nd.
Fellers will head into the second round Friday with the early lead in the 2012 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final and 38 World Cup points. Steve Guerdat of Switzerland stands second finishing just over a second off the pace and Belguim's Rik Hemeryck is third after stopping the timers 2.4 seconds later than Fellers. Guerdat and Hemeryck head into tomorrow's second round with 36 and 35 World Cup points respectively following their second and third place finishes.
The second round of the 2012 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final gets underway Friday at 7 p.m. CEST.
Watch live action from the Rolex/FEI World Cup Final on http://www.feitv.com.
Follow the 2012 U.S. Jumping Team; http://usefnetwork.com/featured/2012Jumping/
Details about the Finals are available at http://www.indoorbrabant.com/