Rodrigo Pessoa galloped away with his second victory in the FEI World Cup 2003/2004 series in Paris-Bercy tonight and rocketed from equal-11th position to take over runner-up spot on the leaderboard with just two more qualifying rounds remaining before the Final in Milan next month.
"I was lucky to be last in the jump-off" the Brazilian rider said afterwards, "I could see the others go first and thatís always a big advantage ñ it minimises the amount of work I have to do" he added.
He had the best of the draw in both rounds of the competition after sharing victory with Patrice Deleveau in Fridayís Preliminary competition and was clearly on form at the French fixture when placed consistently on each day of the show.
Only six riders found the key to French course-designer Serge Houtmannís 13-fence track in the FEI World Cup qualifier which was sponsored by Grand Prix Rolex. With 33,000 Euro going to the winner there was a lot at stake along with those valuable FEI World Cup points, but the upright coming out of the tricky combination at fence five and the oxers at fences three and seven which had to be jumped off a wide bend caught out a good number of runners with a total of 15 starters returning home with a frustrating four faults on the board to leave them all sharing seventh position and collecting just 555 Euros for their efforts.
Included in this group was German ace Ludger Beerbaum who is struggling to make any real impression on this series and the home sideís Eugenie Angot who took everyone by surprise when heading the line-up at the previous leg in Vigo, Spain.
Switzerlandís Markus Fuchs, back in action again after resting the leg which has been giving him some considerable cause for concern in recent months, was amongst the bunch of five riders who collected eight faults but, first into the ring in the opening round, Malin Baryard was forced to retire with H&M Butterfly Flip.
The Swedish star took a very heavy fall in the warm-up arena on Friday and was suffering such pain in her shoulder that she just rode into the ring and then left again in the Preliminary competition, and today the discomfort was still so significant that she decided to abandon her tour of the track at an early stage.
Jean-Marc Nicolas also suffered a back-injury on Friday but the Frenchman carried the hopes of the Parisian crowd into the six-horse jump-off after making easy work of the first-round track. A single mistake at his second attempt saw him set the early target at four faults in 41.57 seconds but a smart clear from 2002 FEI World Cup Champion Otto Becker and Dobelís Fiala put Germany out in front.
Belgiumís Ludo Philippaerts and Parco raised the temperature however when shaving almost a second off Beckerís time as they crossed the line without penalty in 37.52 seconds and when the other two German contenders Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst (Diamonds Daylight) and Marcus Ehning (For Pleasure) faulted once, Ludo was still in control until Rodrigo cantered into the ring.
When the Brazilian rider says Baloubet du Rouet is "in good form, in very good form" then the other riders have to take note, and as Pessoa increased the pressure the 15 year old stallion simply switched into a cruise mode that was always going to bring them home quicker than the rest. When asked afterward how he planned his course so that he would cut almost one second off Ludoís target to clinch the win Rodrigo replied "I just went a little faster everywhere and when the horse is in this kind of form I know I can do it. As it happened the design of the jump-off course was good for me ñ it suited my horse" he said.
Ludo may have been disappointed at having to settle for second place but this result was good enough to promote him from ninth to pole position on the leaderboard with Rodrigo in second while former joint-leaders Jos Lansink and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum have been pushed down to third.
Just two more qualifying rounds remain ñ at síHertogenbosch in Holland in three weeksí time and in Gothenberg, Sweden early next month. Qualification is still within reach for many of those outside the current top-20 but itís time to pull out all the stops as the heat is turned up at the Dutch fixture.
RESULT: 1, Baloubet du Rouet (Rodrigo Pessoa) Bra 0/0 36.66; 2, Parco (Ludo Philippaerts) Bel 0/0 37.52; 3, Dobelís Fiala (Otto Becker) Ger 0/38.23; 4, For Pleasure (Marcus Ehning) Ger 0/4 39.53; 5, JPC Modesto Equifoam (Jean Marc Nicolas) Fra 0/4 41.57; 6, Diamonds Daylight (Alois Pollmann-Schweckhorst) Ger 0/4 43.74; equal 7, Querly Chin (Christophe Barbeau) Sui, Eurocommerce Montreal (Wim Schroder) Ned, VDL Groep Eve des Etisses (Hubert Bourdy) Fra, Cyrenaika FRH (Philippe Leoni) Fra, Dileme de Cephe (Bruno Broucqsault) Fra, Quibell (Jessica Kurten) Irl, Hofgut Liederbachís Abrisca (Pia-Luise Aufrecht) Ger, Fidji DíEvordes (Robert Breul) Fra, Luc (Richard Davenport) GB, Envoye Special (Patrice Deleveau) Fra, Quilano de Kalvarie (Michel Hecart) Fra, Cigale du Tallis (Eugenie Angot) Fra, Lauriston (Peter Wylde) USA, Goldfever (Ludger Beerbaum) Ger, Equest Carnute (Thomas Velin) Den 4 faults; 22, ET Royal Volo (Tony Andre Hansen) Nor 5 faults; 23, Cinderella (Maria Gretzer) Swe, Le Coup C (Maurice Van Roosbroeck) Bel, Pro Pilot 11 (Edouard Couperie) Fra, Portofino (Michael Whitaker) GB, La Toya (Markus Fuchs) Sui 8 faults; 28, VDL Groep Roofs (Jan Tops) Ned, Meurerís Le Patron (Toni Hassmann) Ger, Marius Claudius (Robert Smith) GB, Rockmount Flight (Gerfried Puck) Aut, Galet DíAuzay (Michel Robert) Fra 12 faults; 33, H&M Butterfly Flip (Malin Baryard) Swe, VDL Groep Innovation (Steve Guerdat) Sui, Taylor Made (Gianni Govoni) Ita Ret