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Fellers and Flexible ‘dialed in’ for Del Mar GPs

Confidence high after last week's historic World Cup Final championship

Special to the Horsetrader - April 30th, 2012 - Show & Event News

DEL MAR – Fresh off his historic Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping Final win April 22 in the Netherlands, Flexible arrived at the Del Mar Fairgrounds Monday, poised for two Olympic observation grand prixes this weekend at the Del Mar National Horse Show.

Rider Rich Fellers, the first American to win the World Cup final in 25 years, is focused on tasks ahead — qualifying and preparing for the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

“We’re dialed in -– both of us,” said the Oregon-based Fellers, who has been riding Flexible for owners Harry and Molly Chapman since he helped them acquire the Irish-bred chestnut stallion in 2002. “Hopefully, we’ll still be dialed in for Friday and Saturday nights!”

After last week’s dramatic, three-round jump-off win over Swiss rider Steve Guerdat and his 11-year-old gelding, Nino des Buissonnets, on show jumping’s largest international stage, Fellers and Flexible bring the spotlight to the Del Mar National Horse Show, one of just four contests nationwide that will serve as U.S. Show Jumping Team Observation events for the 2012 Olympic Team selection. Others will be the Kentucky Spring Horse Show in Lexington, Ky., May 8–13; the Devon Horse Show in Devon, Pa., May 29–June 2; and the Spruce Meadows Horse Show in Canada, June 13–17.

Fellers and Flexible are one of 38 horse-and-rider teams on the USEF long list who must compete in at least two of the observation events in order to be among the 12 who will make the list of Olympic riders by late June.

How will the World Cup Final win affect their chances?

“In any sport, confidence is huge, and right now, my confidence is very high,” Fellers said. “And Flexible’s confidence is very high in me as a rider — we’re together.”

“The World Cup is behind us now,” he added. “We have big, big things to look forward to with the Olympic observation trials this week, and then we have a trial at Spruce Meadows and hopefully make the team, and then we can focus on London.”

After the grueling World Cup and travel home from Europe, Flexible will have an easy week leading up to Friday night’s $50,000 Surfside Grand Prix, followed by Saturday’s $100,000 Grand Prix of Del Mar — both Olympic observation events.

“He jumped hard, obviously, last week at the World Cup, so I am going to save him as much as I can,” Fellers said. “I’m just going to work him on the flat, and his first jump will be in the warm-up ring before the Friday evening class. I’ll jump him in that class, and I’ll jump him Saturday night in the second observation trial, then he’ll be good until Spruce Meadows.”

Fellers and Flexible stormed to victory in a thrilling World Cup jump-off in ‘s-Hertogenbosch. All but written off twice during his career due to severe injury, Flexible overcame the odds to return to the top of the sport. Unorthodox in his movement and jumping style, and the oldest in the competition, Flexible showed the same kind of spirit as his sire, Cruising, who was runner-up at the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 13 years ago in Gothenburg (SWE). Flexible was second at the same venue himself in 2008, and has competed at all of the last five Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals, but this year the spotlight was his.

And the courageous stallion and Fellers fought every inch of the way, bringing the packed stadium to their feet in an emotional tribute after their incredible round in the jump-off.

In the jump-off, after Guerdat set the target with one more fabulous clear in 26.61 seconds, Fellers was waiting in the wings and saw the Swiss rider go.

“I hopped off and watched Steve through the curtains – I thought it was seven (strides) from the triple bar (second-last on the jump-off course) to the Rolex vertical (last fence), but he did eight,” Fellers said. “I know Flexible very well and he’s quick across the ground. I don’t know Steve’s horse, but I just trusted that I could do eight to the last and be faster and be lucky.”

And so he was, breaking the beam in 25.97 seconds.

Guerdat said afterwards, “My horse is very fast and I thought without taking too much risk it would be enough, but afterwards I realised I lost time turning back to the triple bar. I can only blame myself and I’ll have to do better next time,” he said.

Fellers sang the praise of course designer Konickx.

“He did a world-class job from the first day until the end,” he said. “I think the week was quite safe, I don’t think any horses lost their heart or their courage, but at the same time it was very difficult and top level jumping.”

Asked about how it felt to be the first American rider to take the coveted FEI World Cup™ Jumping title in 25 years, he said, “We were due – that’s a long time with all the red coats that come to this final!”

And he talked about his wonder-horse, whose resilience is something of a phenomenon.

“He was, as a younger horse, extremely excitable — he’s very quick and twitchy,” he said. “He’s kind of a wild character, but he’s gradually mellowed as he’s matured. He’s like a pet, I love him and he loves me, we have a great relationship and we know each other very well.”

Asked if he really believed he could clinch the crown of crowns when following Guerdat into the ring for the final time today, having come so close to victory before, Fellers said, “I just thought I HAVE to do it this time – you don’t get too many chances!” And what about Flexible? At 16 years of age, is he coming toward the end of his career? “Well he’s not telling me that if he is! He feels more like a 12-year-old!”

(First two riders in third-round jump-off against clock)
Place/ Rider/ Horse/ Country/ Score/time
1 Rich Fellers/ Flexible/ USA/ 0/0/0 5.97
2 Steve Guerdat/ Nino des Buissonnets/ SUI/ 0/0/0 26.61

Remaining riders finished with the following penalty points:
3 Pius Schwizer/ (SUI)/ 5
4 Philipp Weishaupt/ (GER)/ 10
5 Kevin Staut/ (FRA)/ 11
6 Rolf-Goran Bengtsson/ (SWE)/ 12
7 Maikel van der Vleuten/ 15
7 Marcus Ehning/ (GER)/ 15
9 Rik Hemeryck/ (BEL)/ 16
10 Harrie Smolders/ (NED)/ 17

More results: See website http://bit.ly/25A_WC

2 comments have been made on “Fellers and Flexible ‘dialed in’ for Del Mar GPs”

  1. Patti Newton Says:

    This pair is so exciting to watch! The electricity in the air is palpable as they negotiate the course in their unique and crowd-pleasing style! We are thrilled with their accomplishments and proud to host them once again here at Del Mar!

  2. Warren Says:

    Thanks, Patti! We’re looking forward to all the world class action. See you there…

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