A British first-timer, a horse bred in Scotland and the King defends his title: who’s who in the 2024 World Cup Final?

  • With the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final in the Saudi capital of Riyadh fast-approaching (16-20 April), the preparations are currently in full swing for 35 of the world’s leading riders from 19 nations with 42 horses between them. So who’s who among this year’s star-studded field of World Cup Final showjumping contenders bidding for a place in history?

    Remarkably, the last British rider to claim the World Cup crown was Nick Skelton in 1995 with Dollar Girl. The three contenders flying the union flag hoping to break that duck are Ben Maher, Scott Brash – both of whom qualified from the Western European League – and US-based British team rider Jessica Mendoza, who gained points from the North American League. Ben will be in action on his top mare Dallas Vegas Batilly while Scott lines up with Lady Harris and Lady Kirkham’s super Swedish-bred grey Hello Valentino.

    Meanwhile Jessica, who turns 26 just ahead of her trip to Riyadh, will be making her World Cup Final debut. She brings 12-year-old gelding I-Cap CL Z, who she has produced right up through the grades and with whom she represented Great Britain at the recent Longines League Of Nations at Ocala, Florida, alongside Ben.

    Defending champions hoping to continue the World Cup dream

    The defending champions Henrik von Eckermann and the brilliant King Edward will be back in a bid to retain their World Cup crown. After lifting the trophy in Omaha, USA, last year, the Swedish world number one said: “It was always a big, big goal and a dream for me to have my name on that trophy. This is very special.”

    Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Champions 2023 Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) riding King Edward

    Henrik von Eckermann riding King Edward on the way to claiming the 2023 Longines FEI World Cup Showjumping title.

    Henrik will be joined by team-mate Peder Fredricson with his 2021 European bronze medal-winning 18-year-old Catch Me Not S, with whom he also finished third in the 2019 World Cup Final.

    Former World Cup Final winners Martin Fuchs (Commissar Pezi) and Steve Guerdat (Is-Minka) will represent Switzerland. This will be the latter’s 15th World Cup Final and the 2012 Olympic champion will be bidding for a record fourth victory again this year.

    Among the other A-list names in action are another World Cup three-time title-holder, Marcus Ehning for Germany, with a relatively new ride, the 11-year-old Coolio 42, plus Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet on 14-year-old gelding Ace Of Hearts, Julien Epaillard who will be one of the favourites on Dubai Du Cedre, with Kent Farrington lining up for USA. Kent is one of a handful of riders bringing two horses, the 10-year-old rising stars Greya and Toulayna.

    World Cup Final showjumping debutant carries the Irish flag

    Richard Howley was the highest ranked Irish rider in the Western European League, winning the opening two qualifiers of the series, and he will be Ireland’s sole representative as he makes his debut at the World Cup Final riding 13-year-old Equine America Consulent De Prelet Z, who he co-owns with Sarah Borthwick and his and his wife Morgan Kent’s HK Horses.

    “He’s so clever and he’s so smart, so it makes my job easier because he’s so talented,” says Richard of the gelding. “I don’t think he’s even fully found himself yet – I still think he has more to give. So we’re just trying to find a bit of middle ground of consistency and trust in the partnership. I think the world of him, and my owner Sarah Borthwick and myself think this horse could give everything. But we’re just trying to get the best out of him.”

    Showjumping news: Richard Howley and Consulent Du Prelet Z land their second World Cup qualifier in as many weeks, this time in Helsinki, Finland

    Richard Howley and Consulent Du Prelet Z, owned by Sarah Borthwick and HK Horses, land their second World Cup qualifier in as many weeks, this time in Helsinki, Finland.

    The Arab League is represented by five athletes, with three riders from the host nation Saudi Arabia qualifying with strong performances in the Middle Eastern sub-league. Seasoned World Cup veteran and Olympic medallist Ramzy Al Duhami brings Addressee and Untouchable 32, while 25-year-old Khaled Almobty rides Jaguar King WD and the former Ellen Whitaker ride Spacecake.

    Olympic bronze medallist Abdullah AlSharbatly rides 16-year-old Alamo, with whom Steve Guerdat won the 2019 World Cup Final and who later went to Spanish rider Sergio Alvarez Moya before Abdullah took the reins at the end of 2022. The pair have gone on to achieve five-star success, but he also brings 13-year-old Fiumicino Van De Kalevallei, who came from Dutch rider Jur Vrieling last year.

    World Cup Final attracts talented crop of young showjumpers

    Among the crop of young talents stepping out on the global stage for this year’s World Cup Final showjumping contest are 22-year-old French rider Jeanne Sadran (Dexter De Kerglenn), who enjoyed a successful career on ponies.

    Canada’s Mario Deslauriers holds the record as the youngest World Cup winner at the age of 19 in 1984, and the youngest riders in Riyadh later this month will be US teenager Skylar Wireman on Tornado and Egyptian showjumper Zain Shady Samir with London Eye. Both riders are just 19 years old.

    Skylar has been riding since a young child, hitting the headlines in 2020 when she won the USEF Showjumping Talent Search Final. Swedish-bred Tornado was sent to her as a sales horse but she bought him with the help of some family friends. Skylar is trained by her mother and 2004 Olympic team gold medallist Peter Wylde, and although she doesn’t normally have a groom – preferring to do everything for her horses herself – she will be supported in Riyadh by groom Alicia Thompson.

    Another youngster is Egypt’s 22-year-old Abdelrahman Shousha who brings the 14-year-old Quincy 230.

    From Balcormo Stud in Scotland to the World Cup Final

    British showjumping fans will recognise the lovely gelding How Easy (by Talan, out of the Quite Easy mare Come Easy), who was bred and produced at Balcormo in Scotland by Sandra Low Mitchell. He went on to compete with Julie Andrews and Robert Murphy, but now competes under the Czechia flag with Sara Vingralkova, 21, a consistent performer at junior and young rider European Championships. The young rider also takes the 14-year-old Belgian-bred gelding Kas-Sini DC.

    Sandra’s 91-year-old mother Jacky had originally picked out How Easy’s sire Talan in a catalogue as a three-year-old and has hit the jackpot using him with broodmare Come Easy. Both Sandra and Jacky will be glued to the livestream as they continue to follow How Easy’s progress in Riyadh.

    “Mum’s had the thrill of following him the whole way through, we’re so proud,” says Sandra. “They’ll be the babies of the class, but I love the way Sara rides him –How Easy has landed on his feet with her.”

    Sandra’s late father Dugald bought How Easy’s grandam in-foal along with another mare at a local auction and her offspring, Come Easy, has produced a string of quality youngsters, including How Easy’s full-sister Mytee Easy LM, currently jumping with Molly Andrews and Julie Andrews.

    “How Easy did two shows as a four-year-old and won the four-year-old sport horse at the Highland Show, then we just hacked him about when he was five and let him grow,” explains Sandra. “I registered him when he was six and he immediately won a British novice, but this was just before my hip operation and this horse was too beautiful and sensitive for me to ride at the time – it broke my heart as he was so lovely, but I knew I wasn’t the right person to ride him.

    “I kept a share in him but Julie Andrews did the next steps, then Rob Murphy took him to the next level before Sara bought him. He was always beautiful and they all live up to their Easy names.”

    History in the making at the World Cup Final?

    For Japan, the sole representative Shinichiro Sugiyama rides the aptly named Rising Sun, while from the Eurasian League, Nurjan Tuyakbaev hopes to become the first rider from Uzbekistan to win the World Cup crown. Angelos Touloupis of Greece (Lord Mexx) is among the entries from the Central European League.

    This is the first time the World Cup Final showjumping has been held in Saudi Arabia, with a record-breaking 2.6million euros in prize money on offer at the Riyadh International Convention & Exhibition Center.

    The first jumping competition begins on 17 April, continuing with round two the following day, with the winner decided on Saturday 20 April. You can keep up to date with all the action with H&H.

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