Equestrian: Kuerten lays down marker
Jessica Kuerten crowned a sensational weekend when finishing a close second in the last qualifying round of the Rolex FEI World Cup series at 's-Hertogenbosch yesterday.
Sweden's Olympic individual silver medallist Rolf-Goran Bengtsson pipped her by the narrowest of margins in Holland.
Kuerten kicked off with third place in Friday's Speed event, riding Castle Forbes Libertina, and then brought Castle Forbes Cosma out to finish fourth in the 1.50m Winning Round competition just two hours later.
Another fourth placing, this time with Myrtille Paulois, brought her winnings to almost €10,000 on Saturday afternoon and yesterday she was still at full throttle when securing fifth place with Cosma in the Accumulator which preceded the World Cup class.
The 13-fence course designed by Holland's Louis Konickx proved a little too jumpable and allowed 16 through to the second-round jump-off which consequently turned into a relentless gallop against the clock.
Kuerten and Lady Georgina Forbes' brilliant mare set off at break-neck speed when eighth into the timed round and shattered all previous targets when crossing the line in 32.60 seconds.
The next seven couldn't oust the Irish pair from pole position, but, last to go, Bengtsson set off on the smoothest of rounds with his stallion Casall la Silla, who never looked under the slightest pressure as he cruised down all the long lines and around the sharpest turns to break the beam one-tenth of a second quicker.
Kuerten knows that there are now high expectations that she could win the final in Geneva in a fortnight but admitted that she does not enjoy the pressure of championships.
"I much prefer a single competition rather than three hard days of jumping and that's why I'm almost sure I will take Libertina to Geneva," she said.
The mare is not long back from a seven-month injury lay-off so she is feeling particularly protective about her. But she and her three mounts are in the form of their lives and if she can come out in Switzerland in the form she showed over the weekend, then Kuerten will be the one to beat.
Meanwhile Holland's Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas claimed victory in the World Cup Dressage final at 's-Hertogenbosch on Saturday.