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Christian Heineking and AJE Cluny Take Charge in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas, presented by Interactive Mortgage

Christian Heineking and AJE Cluny

Las Vegas, NV - It was a jumping Saturday night at the one and only South Point Equestrian Arena when thirty-three competitors representing thirteen countries were vying for valuable North American League points in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas, presented by Interactive Mortgage. Seven riders returned for a remarkable jump-off that required the precision of Longines timing to clarify. Second to last to go, Christian Heineking (GER) aboard the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding AJE Cluny beat the leading time held by Mexico's Enrique Gonzalez by one one-hundredth of a second to take the win.

A favorite tradition of the Las Vegas National Horse Show, Opening Ceremonies began with the Parade of Nations, with each rider introduced to a cheering audience, setting the scene for some show jumping splendor. Entertainment ensued as the lights went down and Playing By Air lit up the arena with glowing acrobatics.

Parade of Nations

The entertainment didn't end there, as the thrills and spills of international show jumping followed. Some of the the best in the field had rails, even a fall, as they attempted the 1.60m track set by the brilliant Brazilian Course Designer Guilherme Jorge.

Noting that the conditions, materials and field of riders were all top notch, Jorge said. "The idea is to prepare them to go to the finals in Omaha so I tried to put up a course that was tough enough. I tried to spread the difficulties out on the course. But we also have a good crowd here, so I wanted to have a nice jump off."

World Cup Champions, Olympic Medalists and CSI5* athletes mixed with up-and-coming horses and riders all faced the jump challenges that included a scopey triple combination at 6a,b,c, an arched wall at fence 8, not seen earlier in the week, followed by a tall Interactive Mortgage vertical at the far end of the ring.

Of the thirty-three who attempted the track, seven were fault-free, one, Liubov Kochetova (RUS), had just a single time fault, nine had four faults, and two riders, WIll Simpson (USA) and Bliss Heers (USA), parted company with their mounts in the triple combination.

Second to go, Swedish rider Hanna Mauritzson riding the 11-year-old Irish Sport Horse gelding Parkmore Lux (Ritz Fuente LLC, owner), answered all the questions asked on course for a fault-free performance. Not until up-and-coming superstar Tina Yates galloped in thirteenth and had a clear round on Highpoint Farm LLC's Dutch Warmblood stallion Zelote VDL, did more riders jump clean.

Tina Yates and Zelote VDL

Jorge's jump-off course allowed options for tight rollbacks, inside turns, one bending line where several left out a stride, plus a long gallop to the final oxer towards home. First into the ring, Mauritzson rode the track clean in an efficient 42.07, followed by Yates who blazed around clean in 38.50.

Gonzalez masterfully topped that time, with tidy turns and a nice gallop to the final oxer in 37.83 for the lead. Nassar was amazingly fast on the catty Lordan, but caught a rail coming out of the double, for four faults in 36.86. Barge rode more a conservative clean round, and Klatte had trouble in the double.

But Heineking went all out. With rounder turns and choosing to add and not leave out a stride in the bending line, he was a fraction behind Gonzalez going to the last jump. Galloping for glory, he flew over the final oxer, stopping the clock in 37.82 seconds to steal the top spot by .01 seconds.

A man of few words, Heineking claimed he was surprised that his time was fast enough for the win, as he thought he had slowed down in a couple places. Gonzalez (pictured right on Chacna) explained, with good humor, that he wasn't certain what had happened.

Indicating that the two athletes are in fact good friends and he was happy to be sitting in the top three alongside Heineking, Gonzalez said, "I was watching the screen in the warm up ring, and it runs a little bit behind the live action and when he was coming to the last fence I honestly thought I was going to win. I saw Christian's face saying, 'Oh, so close,' but he didn't know he was so close on the right side of the time!"

After earning second here in Vegas and a win in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar, Gonzalez jumps to the top of the standings in the North American West Coast Sub-League.

As the press conference came to a close, a group of fans waited in the foyer for the much-anticipated chance to get autographs from the top three riders of the night.

Christian Heineking and AJE Cluny with Connie Sawyer, Robert Ridland,
Evette and Gregg DeLong

Click to watch a video clip of the winning ride

Click the image below for full class results.


$100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Las Vegas, presented by Interactive Mortgage

Photos by McCool Photography

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The North American League
is one among sixteen taking part in the highly successful and global FEI World Cup™ Jumping series, which has been in existence since 1978. This season includes 115 qualifiers in 43 countries, leading to the star-studded Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Omaha, Nebraska from March 29 - April 2, 2017.

A minimum of $2.4 million prize money is up for grabs across the North American League series and the chance to qualify for the jackpot of more than $1.4 million on offer annually at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final.

A total of 14 athletes from the North American League will qualify for the Final, alongside the winners of the 15 others leagues around the world. The Las Vegas National was one of only seven shows on the West Coast chosen to be part of this prestigious league. More at #FEIWorldCupNAL #RideToOmaha #TwoHearts

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