Philippe Le Jeune of Belgium, Eric Lamaze of Canada, Rodrigo Pessoa of Brazil, and Abdullah Al Sharbatly of Saudi Arabia will face off in the Rolex Top Four in the Show Jumping World Championships. They’re now the only four riders who could wear the title of world champion of show jumping at the end of Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Each rider jumped faultlessly in tonight’s two rounds of the Show Jumping World Championships, presented by Rolex, over courses designed by Conrad Homfeld. They’ll decide the medals tomorrow (Saturday) night in a format used only at the Show Jumping World Championships—by jumping four rounds each, one on round their own horses and then one round on each of their competitors’ horses. The Rolex top Four will start to jump at 8 p.m.
“We’re here first for fair play and the welfare of the horse, and it’s not in anybody’s interest for us not to tell each other about our horses tomorrow night,” said Pessoa, 37, winner of the 1998 World Championships and the silver medal at the 2004 Olympics.
“I’m looking forward to riding the other three horses tomorrow, and I’m going to try to have fun,” said Le Jeune, 50, a two-time Belgian champion who finished eighth individually in the 2009 European Championships.
Lamaze, 42, winner of the individual gold medal at the 2008 Olympics, is nursing a broken foot, which he said doesn’t bother him when he’s riding, only when he walks. Nevertheless, he’s not worried about guiding three horses he’s never sat on before over big jumps. “I think it’s a great way to determine a world champion. To be named that, you have to be able to ride three other horses the right way,” he said.
At 28, Al Sharbatly is the youngest and least experienced rider of the Rolex Top Four. He was based in his native Saudi Arabia until moving to Europe earlier this summer, and he has been riding Seldana Di Campalto for only six weeks. He said he hadn’t expected to place this high in the Show Jumping World Championships after such a short partnership.
“I don’t want to think about tomorrow tonight. If I think about it today, it will not change anything tomorrow,” he said. “Even if you ride well tomorrow, you still need a bit of luck.”
Pessoa, who began riding HH Rebozo in March, is the only rider who has contested the unique format of the Show Jumping World Championships before. He was asked how he’s changed since riding to the title 12 years ago. “A couple of kilos heavier, one divorce and one child. But I still have the passion to compete, to win,” he said after a moment’s hesitation. “To be in the Rolex Top Four a second time is a great opportunity.”
Le Jeune and Lamaze have had much longer partnerships with their horses. Le Jeune rode Vio D’Arsouilles’ sire, Nabab De Reve, on the Belgian bronze-medal team in the 2002 World Championships and purchased the horse five years ago. Lamaze rode Hickstead to the Olympic gold medal he won two years ago.
Today’s attendance was 44,393. Total attendance for 14 days of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games is 423,386.
About the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championships of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Fédération Equestre Internationale (FEI). The Games are held every four years and this will be the first occurrence in the United States. Tickets to the 2010 Games are still available and can be purchased at www.alltechfeigames.com/tickets, at www.ticketmaster.com, through the Ticketmaster hotline at 1-800-745-3000, or at your local Ticketmaster outlet.
The Games are being broadcast on NBC Sports, which marks the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sport in U.S. television history. The 2010 Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of $167 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, Rolex, John Deere, Ariat International, Inc., Meydan, Kentucky Ale, and Rood and Riddle Equine Hospital. For more information on the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games please visit, www.alltechfeigames.com.