Beerbaum in masterful form
Ludger Beerbaum, who had warmed up for Saturday's Volvo World Cup victory by sharing the Puissance honours at the Olympia Christmas show on Friday night, was still in winning mode yesterday afternoon when he annihilated the opposition to pocket another £15,000 in the winner-take-all Vink Masters.
The German, who claimed double gold at this year's European championships, gave his Volvo winner, PS Priamos, a day off yesterday in preparation for tonight's £50,000 Grand Prix, but had a more than worthy understudy in Sprehe Rush On, which jumped no fewer than five clear rounds to clinch the Masters.
Incredibly, it was Ireland's Peter Charles - the man who had suffered most at Beerbaum's hand in Saturday's Volvo - who gave the German the opportunity to win yesterday. Charles had actually been more than happy to finish second in the Volvo with the talented seven-year-old Nustria, but he badly wanted to turn the tables on his rival in yesterday's feature.
Unfortunately for Charles, he was called upon to draw the names for the starting order and it was Beerbaum's that came to hand first. Naturally, Beerbaum opted to jump last of the seven starters and, by dint of his placing on the grid and - obviously - by clearing all the fences, it was Beerbaum rather than second last man Michael Whitaker who scooped the jackpot.
Charles had been quite happy with his early draw in Saturday's jump-off for the Volvo, when a sensational clear from Nustria had thwarted all bar Beerbaum. But Charles was unlucky to draw himself first off the blocks yesterday and was always going to be fighting an uphill battle under the Masters rules where the last clear wins.
Riding his Kerrygold Puissance champion T'Aime, which had faulted at Friday's final big wall, Charles survived the first three rounds but then wiped it all out when knocking the first fence at the fourth attempt. Switzerland's Willi Melliger went out in the next round, fairly swiftly followed by John Whitaker. But younger brother Michael was still in and any mistake by last man in Beerbaum would have left the Yorkshireman with the big money.
But Beerbaum had been in the driving seat on Saturday and he obviously liked the sensation. Just six fences, all at pretty daunting dimensions, stood between the German and a £15,500 pay cheque to go with the £25,000 Volvo estate car from Saturday's win. But although Sprehe Rush On rattled a couple of poles they all stayed put and Beerbaum cashed in yet again.
Magnanimous in victory, Beerbaum was quick to thank Peter Charles for giving him the best of the draw, just as he had been generous in his praise of the Irishman 24 hours earlier after defeating him in the Volvo. "It was a perfect round for a young horse", he said of the Belgian-bred gelding that Charles has already declared as his main hope for next year's World Equestrian Games in Rome.
Charles, who also rode Nustria to second place in the Dutch Volvo round in Amsterdam, is now lying in joint-12th place in the western European league on 34 points, with Millstreet winner Trevor Coyle next best of the Irish in equal 16th. Eddie Macken, who won the seasonal opener at Aarhus, is on 26 points in equal 20th.