Fellers Flies to the Lead with Flexible at Rolex/FEI World Cup Final in Geneva
RELEASE: April 15, 2010
AUTHOR/ADMINISTRATOR: Joanie Morris with Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Gro
Rich Fellers and Flexible Lead the Way (Rebecca Walton/Phelps Media Group)
– American Rich Fellers held nothing back and continued to prove the US domination in the Palexpo Arena at the 2010 Rolex/FEI World Cup Final. Riding Flexible, Fellers (Wilsonville, OR) had the fastest round of the day to take the lead after the first leg of the 2010 Final. Flexible crossed the finish line ½ second faster than teammate (and 2009 runner-up) Sapphire, ridden by McLain Ward.
Owned by Mollie and Harry Chapman, Flexible has his own runner up accolades from 2008 in Gothenburg, Sweden, but Fellers feels that the horse has improved, and therefore has a better chance in 2010 than he did two years ago.
“I think whenever you come to these events you like to think it’s our year, it’s our time,” said Fellers. “He’s a great horse, he knows his job, and he never stops improving so I think we have a better chance this year than at Gothenburg.”
The 13-year-old Irish Sport Horse stallion turns on a dime so the course suited him in the first leg of the Final: a one round Table C class over a course designed by Rolf Ludi. Flexible defies his size, and jumps with the best horses in the world despite standing just shy of 16 hands. While trying his heart out – Flexible makes it look easy, especially turning away from the fences.
“It was a challenging course starting with the very first fence,” said Fellers. “You had to get a lot of speed around the turn to the first line and keep it throughout the course. I thought it was very well laid out for a speed class. There were a lot of rollback turns, right turns, left turns, and places to gallop. It was just a challenging course all the way around.”
When Flexible and Fellers stopped the clock 70.63 seconds, the trip all the way from Oregon was worth the miles and it seemed impossible that anyone would be able to threaten their lead.
Ward tried, but found himself in the same position as he did in 2009 after the first leg: in second place. The World Cup format proves to be a process of stamina as much as one of brilliant rounds and Sapphire’s greatest strength is her scope and consistency – so for Ward, the quest for his first Final victory continues to be an uphill climb. Sapphire dazzled despite falling a moment short of the win.
“My horse jumped really well, I don’t think I could have beaten Rich because I took every risk that I could and he was still faster,” said Ward (Brewster, NY). “You just go one day at a time. My horse has been in really good form for a couple of years now, but a lot of things have to go your way. So I just focus on each night and see where we are on Sunday.”
The 15-year-old Belgian mare has developed into one of the most renowned show jumping horses in history. She has won two Team Gold medals and every major Grand Prix on the North American continent.
Of the 10 American riders, four ended up in the top seven. Todd Minikus set a blistering early pace with Pavarotti to end up fifth and Mario Deslauriers, who won the Rolex/FEI World Cup Final in 1984, had a masterful effort with Jane Clark’s nine-year-old Urico to end up seventh.
It has been 23 years since Katherine Birdsall and The Natural last took top honors for the United States at the World Cup Final.
Fellers and Flexible now lead the field of 43 with 44 World Cup points.
The Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final II, which includes a jump-off against the clock takes place at 7:15PM local time on Friday evening. The US riders have already been winning at a rapid pace in Geneva, please see: http://www.usef.org/_IFrames/newsDisplay/viewPR.aspx?id=5619 for news from the early classes. ENDS
Results and live video are available here: http://www.worldcupgeneva.com/en/Start-lists-and-results.html. US coverage is available here: http://www.usef.org/_IFrames/breedsDisciplines/discipline/competitions/RolexWC.aspx.
To listen to an interview with Rich Fellers: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/RGE%20Rich%20Fellers%20RD1.mp3
For an interview with McLain Ward: http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/RGE%20McLain%20Ward%20Rd1.mp3