Beerbaum outclasses rivals in great style
LUDGER BEERBAUM, number one show jumper in the world, more than justified his ranking by outclassing all comers in a dramatic race for the Prudential Steel cup in Spruce Meadows, Calgary, yesterday.
The German, who now has a hat-trick of Olympic gold medals to his credit after the team victory in Atlanta last month, was denied the defence of his individual title when the super-mare Ratina went lame after clinching team honours and had to be withdrawn.
But Beerbaum headed out to Calgary determined to get at least some financial compensation at the Spruce Meadows Masters and came out on top in yesterday's thrilling 17-horse jump-off that saw the lead change no fewer than five times.
Beerbaum set the early pace with Sprehe Rush On, but was swiftly relegated by a series of successively quicker rounds. None were more daring than that produced by Wednesday's winner, Ludo Philippaerts of Belgium, who rode into the ring with a broken nose and three smashed teeth caused by his horse King Darco throwing up his head while warming-up for the timed round.
Ignoring the pain, Philippaerts asked King Darco - himself only just recovered from a bout of colic that had kept him out action the day before - for a supreme effort and the nine-year-old responded brilliantly, hurtling into the lead only to be relegated by the next man in, Michael Whitaker.
The British rider has forged a great partnership with Touch-down since getting the leg-up onto James Kernan's stallion last month.
But even Whitaker's best wasn't good enough to stay out in front and he was promptly pushed down to the runner-up spot by Beerbaum and the grey Sprehe Avion.
Ireland's only hope, Kerrygold Grand Prix winner FAN Schalkhaar was withdrawn by Eddie Macken in deference to the big money competitions over the weekend, but Damian Gardiner, who made his Olympic debut in Atlanta last month kept the Irish in the money when picking up 6,750 Canadian dollars with three placings in yesterday's national classes.
Gardiner, who was based in Sane Fe, New Mexico but is relocating with the Pinon Farms string to California immediately after Spruce Meadows, notched up a second and two thirds with Pinon Whitaker, Lili and Muldoon.