The USA’s Beezie Madden leads after the speed leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Paris tonight (Thursday, 12 April).
There were eight clear rounds over Santiago Varela’s course and Beezie rode Abigail S Wexner’s Breitling LS to finish 0.72sec faster than her nearest rival, Daniel Deusser.
“It’s always quite tense the first day at the final — it’s a bit of a juggling act knowing how much risk to take as going fast over big fences is obviously more of a risk than going slow,” she said. “So when it goes well it’s a relief.”
Beezie stood champion at the World Cup final in 2013, when she also won on the first day.
The German runner-up Daniel Deusser — who won the final in 2014 — piloted the 15-year-old grey gelding Cornet D’Amour, who belongs to the Stephex Stables.
“When I walked the course I thought there weren’t many options for a speed class, so I had mixed feelings, but in the end it was a very good course — nobody went really fast, so I think all the horses will still have power for tomorrow,” he said.
The USA claimed third too when Devin Ryan on Eddie Blue was just 0.23sec behind Daniel.
“I haven’t spent much time in Europe, but it’s been a dream of mine to represent the States at some level so I’m very happy to be here and to have two US riders up here,” he said.
The World Cup final is a three-leg competition. Riders’ placings tonight and in tomorrow’s jump-off class are translated into penalties, which are carried forward into the last leg on Sunday.
Britain’s two riders both had good rounds today, with one fence down apiece, and remain in the hunt in the overall competition.
Michael Whitaker sits 15th with Jayne Bean’s JB’s Hot Stuff, who just touched the upright plank at fence 11 to add 4sec to his time of 65.5sec.
“It all went as planned,” he said. “That was the one fence on the course you couldn’t touch and it was a real shame she touched it. She didn’t deserve it.”
Michael’s nephew Robert lies 20th on his mother Clare and Mandy Hall’s Catwalk IV, who lowered the pole on top of the gold upright into the double at fence nine. His total time including 4sec added was 71.84sec.
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“He jumped good really. He was a little bit tense up that line and he’d normally jump a double of verticals well, but he was a bit unlucky,” said Robert, adding: “I wouldn’t have changed anything if I’d been last in, I’d have tried to jump the same round.”
Check back tomorrow for more news from the World Cup jumping final and the dressage grand prix.
For all the latest news analysis, competition reports, interviews, features and much more, don’t miss Horse & Hound magazine, on sale every Thursday. Full report from the World Cup final in next week’s magazine (dated 19 April).