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Meredith and Shutterfly, Rodrigo and Baloubet, John and Milton — who was your favourite World Cup winning legend?

This week (15-19 April), we were due to be dazzled by the world’s best showjumpers contesting the 2020 World Cup Final in Las Vegas, USA. Sadly, the worldwide pandemic has brought the sport to a standstill, so instead we decided to dip into the archives to remember some of the legendary partnerships to have won multiple World Cup crowns in the competition’s 41-year history.

1. Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet Du Rouet: winners in 1998, 1999 and 2000, placed in 2001, 2002 and 2003

Brazilian rider Rodrigo Pessoa remains the only rider to secure a consecutive winning hat-trick of World Cups on the same horse, achieving the feat with the great chestnut stallion Baloubet Du Rouet in Helsinki, Gothenburg and then Las Vegas in 2000. They came within a whisker of making it four-in-a-row in 2001 when finishing second, going on to claim two more podium spots together.

“He was a horse of a lifetime and a freak of nature,” Rodrigo told H&H. “He had everything – the power, the health, he was careful and intelligent. We as riders are just fortunate to be able to cross paths with horses like that.”

2. Hugo Simon: winner in 1979 on Gladstone, then in 1996 and 1997 on E.T

Representing Austria, Hugo Simon won the inaugural World Cup in Gothenburg in 1979 and then, after a 17-year hiatus, returned for back-to-back victories in 1996 and 1997 with the renowned E.T. His third win came about on a return to the Scandinavium arena in Gothenburg when Hugo was 55.

3. Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Shutterfly: winners in 2005, 2008 and 2009, runner-up in 2004 (pictured)

American-born Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum represents Germany and she is the only female rider to win three World Cups. After narrowly missing out on the crown in 2004, Meredith made amends with her first victory in Las Vegas the following year with her phenomenal partner Shutterfly. The pair’s hat-trick came in the same city four years later, where the then world number one rider led throughout all three legs — Shutterfly didn’t touch a pole throughout — en route to claiming the title. “That was my most perfect victory,” said Meredith at the time. She describes her beloved “Petey” as “the most perfect horse in the world. He only became great when he entered the ring. There he knew he had ability and he became confident,” she says.

4. Marcus Ehning: winner in 2003 with Anka, 2006 on Sandro Boy and again in 2010 riding Noltes Kuchengirl and Plot Blue

Esteemed German horseman Marcus Ehning’s first World Cup success came in the 25th running of the World Cup, held in Las Vegas, the day before his 29th birthday.

“I never thought I would win,” he said. “If you think about it too much, it can hurt, so I tried not to overthink it but it really couldn’t have turned out any better.”

Less than a fence separated the top three riders going in to the final round but another faultless performance with the 12-year-old mare Anka claimed the top spot. In 2010 in Geneva he became one of the elite group of riders, now standing at five, who have won three World Cups.

5. Steve Guerdat: winner in 2015 riding Albfuehren’s Paille, 2016 on Corbinian and again in 2019 with Alamo; he finished second in 2013 on the great Nino Des Buissonnets

The reigning World Cup title-holder Steve Guerdat of Switzerland misses the chance to claim a historic fourth win in Vegas this year but still rules as one of the most successful riders in the competition’s history.

“The first one was amazing, the second one was amazing, the third one… I don’t know what to say,” said an emotional Steve after claiming his hat-trick in Gothenburg last year. “I just love being a part of this championship.”

6. John Whitaker and Milton: champions in 1990 and 1991, runners-up in 1989 and again alongside Grannusch in 1993. John went on to finish second again in 1997.

The legendary pairing of John Whitaker and the great Milton, one of the sport’s most popular combinations, couldn’t have come closer to claiming a World Cup hat-trick, but the achievement just eluded them. The duo’s victories came in Dortmund and Gothenburg, with the latter being one of the mighty grey gelding’s final major successes.

“He was a brilliant jumper and he just felt special from the very first fence I jumped on him,” John told H&H. “I’ve been very spoilt with some of my horses but he was so careful — when you went up in the air on Milton you felt as though you were never going to come down.”

7. Ian Millar and Big Ben: title-holders in 1988 and 1989, runners-up in 1986

In this Who’s Who of showjumping legends, the Canadian Ian Millar and his great partner Big Ben join John Whitaker as a rider to have come agonisingly close to a World Cup hat-trick. The pair gained three top 10 finishes between 1985 and 1987 before taking top spot in Gothenburg in 1988 and again in Tampa, Florida, the following year. The Belgian-bred Big Ben, who captured the hearts of showjumping fans around the world, goes down in World Cup history as the first horse to win the title back-to-back.

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8. Ludger Beerbaum: winner in 1993, with 12 top six finishes between 1992 and 2014

Despite only having one World Cup Final victory to his name, German legend Ludger Beerbaum is one of the most consistent performers in the competition, qualifying regularly over an astounding 30 years. His crowning moment came in Gothenburg in 1993 when he and the phenomenal mare Ratina Z triumphed.

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