America’s Beezie Madden (54) almost made it look easy as she moved one step closer to clinching the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2018 title in Paris (FRA) with her second victory of the week tonight with Breitling LS. Last to go in a thrilling nine-horse jump-off she cruised home to overtake The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders (37) and his lovely stallion Emerald, while Henrik von Eckermann (37) clinched third with the mare Toveks Mary Lou. And that result has promoted the Swede to second in the overall rankings ahead of Sunday’s two-round finale in which Madden will kick off with a one-fence advantage.
The American star, and series champion in 2013, was thrilled with Breitling. “He has a super temperament – actually he’s so nice that a lot of people don’t seem to realise he’s a stallion! He’s careful and clever, and every time I call on him he does everything I want – I couldn’t ask for any more!”
Her compatriot, Devin Ryan, held onto the third spot he established with Eddie Blue in yesterday’s speed competition despite being one of six to collect a single time penalty over today’s 14-fence first-round track. Course designer, Spain’s Santiago Varela, set a fast enough time limit of 75 seconds, but it was the first two elements of the triple combination at fence nine that put paid to Marcus Ehning’s chances of becoming the first-ever four-time FEI World Cup™ champion.
And it wasn’t Germany’s day as his compatriot Daniel Deusser, lying second overnight, saw his hopes of a second title crushed when his 2014 winning ride, Cornet d’Amour, appeared to mis-read the first element of the double at fence five.
Frenchman, Kevin Staut, led the way against the clock with Silver Deux de Virton HDC, and his clear set the early target at 36.87 seconds. He stayed out in front when America’s Jamie Barge and Luebbo were also foot-perfect but fractionally slower, but Smolders reset the parameters with a blistering round from the feisty stallion Emerald who broke the beam in 33.44 seconds.
Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts didn’t threaten that with Legend of Love who crossed the line clear in 35.19, but von Eckermann came close when stopping the clock on 33.92 and then only Madden was left to challenge Smolders for the win.
A tight turn to the fourth fence on the jump-off track, a double of verticals, was essential, and although defending champions America’s McLain Ward and HH Azur posted the quickest time of 32.74 seconds they hit the first element here. Madden’s Breitling however was flawless once again, putting on another jumping exhibition to clinch pole position as they breezed through the timers in 33.22. “Left turns to a vertical used to be our nemesis, but he’s figured out his front end now”, the double Olympic gold medallist pointed out.
Asked if she was feeling confident with a one-fence lead going into Sunday’s title-decider she said “it’s nice to have a rail in hand, but we are really only halfway through the competition. We have two more rounds and maybe a jump-off on Sunday….it can all change a lot yet.”
Smolders admitted he might have made an error of judgement in competing his other ride, Zinius, in yesterday’s opening speed leg. “It’s always easy to say that afterwards, but Zinius had a very good indoor season and he’s naturally fast in speed classes so I made that decision but it didn’t work out. I don’t like to lose, but I don’t mind being beaten by Beezie who won in style – and this was a great class tonight”, he said.
Madden’s closest rival on Sunday however will be von Eckermann. “I didn’t ride so great to the double of verticals (in the jump-off), I was a bit over-careful but my horse jumped both rounds fantastic” he said, and you can tell he’s pretty confident that there’s plenty more left in Mary Lou’s tank for Sunday’s challenge.
But mistakes will be very costly indeed on the final afternoon, as Philippaerts, Ward and Sweden’s Douglas Lindelow are in joint-fourth place carrying just six faults apiece, and Smolders and Colombia’s Carlos Lopez are only a single fault further behind.
Result of Final Competition 2 – 1, Breitling LS (Beezie Madden) USA 0/0 33.22; 2, Emerald (Harrie Smolders) NED 0/0 33.44; 3, Toveks Mary Lou (Henrik von Eckermann) SWE 0/0 33.92.
Full results here
Standings after 2 legs of Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 2018:
1. Beezie Madden USA – 0
2. Henrik von Eckermann SWE – 4
3. Devin Ryan USA – 6
4. Olivier Philippaerts BEL – 8
4. McLain Ward USA – 8
4. Douglas Lindelow SWE – 8
7. Harrie Smolders NED – 9
7. Carlos Lopez COL – 9
9. Pieter Devos BEL – 11
10. Roger Yves Bost FRA – 12
10. Eduardo Alvarez Aznar ESP – 12
Full Standings here