Longines FEI World Cup™ Juming, Verona, ITA 10 November 2014Allen Bertram riding Molly Malone wins the Verona legPhoto: Stefano Secchi/FEI
Allen makes his mark with spectacular win at Longines leg in Verona
by Louise Parkes
He's only 19 years old, but Ireland's Bertram Allen is taking the Jumping world by storm and today reigned supreme in his first-ever Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Western European League qualifier at Verona in Italy. Riding the 10-year-old grey mare, Molly Malone, with which he has secured phenomenal successes this year including victory in the Grand Prix at Dublin and 7th place individually at the World Equestrian Games, he beat a world-class field with a devastating turn of speed when second-last to go in this afternoon's 10-horse jump-off.
Runners-up were recently-crowned team world championship gold medallists Maikel van der Vleuten and VDL Groep Verdi from The Netherlands, while three-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion, Marcus Ehning from Germany, lined up third with Cornado NRW ahead of Sweden's Malin Baryard-Johnsson and H&M Tornesch in fourth place.
Today's jump-off was a thriller, and Allen's performance was described by many as one of those "I was there!" moments in the history of any sport.
Taking their toll
Course designer, Uliano Vezzani, set them a tough test, with the triple combination at fence nine and the double at fence 11 both taking their toll in the first round. And some riders, including Britain's William Whitaker with Fandango and America's Kent Farrington with Blue Angel, produced jumping exhibitions only to falter at the very last rustic oxer.
Italy's Piergiorgio Bucci led the way against the clock with the handsome and athletic Casallo Z and set the pace with a tidy clear in 37.06 seconds, but that was never going to be fast enough to take the maximum World Cup points on offer in a line-up filled with so many other shining stars.
The first of three Swiss contenders, Martin Fuchs, was a little quicker with PSG Future in 37.15, but Sweden's Malin Baryard-Johnsson shaved almost a second off that with a thrilling tour of the new track with H&M Tornesch when posting 36.28 on the board. Fuchs' fellow-countrymen, Pius Schwizer (Armani the Gun) and Olympic champion Steve Guerdat (Albfuehren's Paille), then both faulted before Ehning took over the lead with a sensational run from the fabulous grey stallion Cornado NRW. Ehning was one of several riders to reduce the distance between the opening oxer and the following vertical to six strides instead of seven, and his legendary corner-cutting was put to good use all the way to the finish where they broke the beam in 35.77 seconds.
Faster and faster
But the target-time just kept getting faster and faster.
Dutchman Maikel van der Vleuten cut every corner he could, and when he stopped the clock on 35.22 seconds it seemed that surely that was as quick as they could go. But Allen has one of the coolest young minds in the sport, and even though he took that extra stride down to the first fence, such is his extraordinary partnership with his lovely little grey mare that they simply made every turn just that little bit sooner over the remainder of the course, and rolled down to the final Longines oxer to break the beam in a sensational time of 34.89 seconds.
Last in was the reigning Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping champions Daniel Deusser riding Forlap, but a pole down put paid to their chances and it was Allen who stole all the limelight.
Coolness under fire
Allen believes he owes his coolness under fire to the amount of experience he gained during his hugely successful career with ponies. "You have to be able to deal with pressure at that level too, so I'm kind of used to it" he said evening.
He trains with Marcus Ehning who lives nearby in Muenster, Germany. Ehning was asked this evening what it feels like to be beaten by his pupil, and replied, "I have to say I have no problem with that all! I'm quite proud that I could help him a few steps on his way. I'm not really his only trainer, but any time he needs help I try to help him. We have been working together now for a few years and we have a good relationship" he pointed out.
Talking about his ride in the jump-off Ehning said "I had a very good run, but I knew when I was finished that these guys could be faster". And talking about his spectacular jumper, Cornado NRW, he added, "since last year, when he won the big class here on the Saturday afternoon, to this year he has improved really a lot. This is now his second show after the World Championship, and I feel that he is getting older and more relaxed. On the first day he was already very good here in Verona, and today in both rounds he was very good again, and I'm very pleased with him", he said.
Van der Vleuten was asked if he knew where he might have been faster on the jump-off track.
"I didn't lose too much time I think, everywhere I had a nice forward distance. If I compare my round to Bertram's he had a quicker turn to second-last jump, for the rest I was really happy with the way my round went" he replied.
Allen's career-progress has been exceptional, but despite his tender years he doesn't allow his success to go to his head. Talking about his ride against the clock he said ""my horse is naturally fast. I did one more (stride) down first distance, I got a great turn to the second fence and then everywhere else was quite sharp and to the second-last fence I risked it a bit".
He praised his mare, Molly Malone, for the part she played in today's fantastic victory. "I'm very happy and I'm very proud of my mare. This is one of her first shows since the World Equestrian Games and she gave me 100 per cent today" he said.
1, Molly Malone V (Bertram Allen) IRL 0/0 34.89; 2, VDL Groep Verdi TN NOP (Maikel van der Vleuten) NED 0/0 35.52; 3, Cornado NRW (Marcus Ehning) GER 0/0 35.77; 4, H&M Tornesch (Malin Baryard-Johnsson) SWE 0/0 36.28; 5, Casallo Z (Piergiorgio Bucci) ITAL 0/0 37.06; 6, PSG Future (Martin Fuchs) SUI 0/0 37.15; 7, Viking (Michael Whitaker) GBR 0/4 35.91; 8, Armani the Gun CH (Pius Schwizer) SUI 0/4 36.15; 9, Forlap (Daniel Deusser) GER 0/4 36.98; 10, Albfuehren's Paille (Steve Guerdat) SUI 0/8 37.04.
Longines FEI World Cup™ Juming, Verona, ITA 10 November 2014Van der Vleuten Maikel riding VerdiPhoto: Stefano Secchi/FEI