The return of the Longines FEI World Cup jumping series in Europe signals that winter is drawing in, and Jack Whitaker secured a tremendous winning double in the five-star classes at the season opener in Norway. Conversely, it’s still shorts-and-T-shirt weather for those extending the outdoor season on the various jumping tours in Portugal and Spain, where Cian O’Connor and Kilkenny secured a notable grand prix victory.
Here is H&H’s weekly round-up of international action over the past week, plus showjumping results.
Kilkenny shows star quality – and there’s an exciting new ride for O’Connor
The Andalucia October Tour in Spain kicked off with an eye-catching grand prix victory for Irish showjumper Cian O’Connor riding Susan Magnier’s 10-year-old Kilkenny. The pair skipped round the 1.50m track, taking out a stride to the double and executing a superb turnback to the penultimate fence in the jump-off before soaring home clear, more than half a second quicker than nearest rivals Laura Kraut with Baloutinue for USA in an exciting 10-way jump-off.
“Kilkenny is a special horse,” said Cian. “He was clear in the 1.45m here the other day and he was fantastic in the grand prix. He’s not a horse I go terribly competitively on a lot, I keep him for the bigger days.”
Cian said he was “delighted” for Susan Magnier, owner of the Irish-bred son of Cardento 933.
“We put a lot of effort in to have him fit for Dublin, which was very special jumping double clear to help the team secure the win [in the Nations Cup],” Cian told H&H. “Over the past couple of weeks I’ve been busy travelling, selling horses, looking for horses, all sides of the business, so we decided to start him up here again for the winter campaign and he felt great. The difference between good horses and the really special ones is you don’t need to practise, and you don’t need to teach Kilkenny anything – he hasn’t gone against the clock for over a year yet he can just go in and take out a stride and do a turnback like that. It’s funny when you realise just how different he is to most other animals, he has a very special brain.”
“These classes are always competitive, there are no easy wins nowadays, but it’s a beautiful grass arena, the organisers do a very good job here and the fences were very impressive and big enough,” added Cian, pictured below. “It was a good start.”
Cian also debuted another new ride for Susan Magnier, the nine-year-old stallion Rock Of Cashel – previously known as Icoon VDL when ridden by Hessel Hoekstra until recently. Cian hopes this classy prospect could be his European Championship ride in 2023.
“He’s a lovely horse, it’s early days and we’ve only done small classes here, but we’re aiming to step him up to the grand prix next week,” said Cian, who was impressed by the son of VDL Bubalu’s recent performances with his previous rider; they finished third in the grand prix of Falsterbo and jumped clear in Rotterdam.
“He’s only nine years old and has all these good results behind him so I thought he was worth looking at. His previous rider Hessel has done a great job and his former owner is in touch, which is nice because if you don’t have all the keys with a new horse, you have to start from scratch, whereas if they help you with the horse, you get the manual with them.”
Nippy mare helps Whitaker to a five-star double
Jack Whitaker and the super mare Scenletha found the winning formula not once, but twice, at the Kingsland Oslo Horse Show in Norway, scorching to victory in Friday’s CSI5* 1.50m speed class and following up in Sunday’s jump-off contest.
“She’s in unbelievable form and it felt like the more we jumped the better she got, she feels tip-top,” said Jack, who beat strong performances from second-placed Daniel Deusser with Kiana Van Het Herdershof and third-placed Lily Attwood (Karibou Horta) in the 45-starter class.
In Sunday’s World Cup qualifier, Jack and Equine America Valmy De La Lande finished with four faults.
“We had the second-last fence down, which was just a normal vertical off a corner, so a really soft fence to have down, especially when Valmy is normally an unbelievable vertical jumper,” said Jack. “I was really happy with the way he jumped, so it was disappointing to have that one down – if he jumped it another 100 times I’m sure he wouldn’t have knocked it. But both he and Scenletha are pretty good indoors, so hopefully we’ll have another chance when we go to Helsinki this week.”
‘An adrenaline kick like I never experienced in my whole life!’
Following up on his 2019 success, 25-year-old Swiss rider Bryan Balsiger landed the opening leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Western European League in Oslo, Norway, this time riding the exciting mare Dubai Du Bois Pinchet (pictured below).
His victory came after a highly competitive 11-way jump-off, holding off the challenge of second-placed Victoria Gulliksen on Equine America Papa Roach, with jump-off pathfinder Ireland’s Eoin McMahon third riding Ludger Beerbaum’s Chakra.
“Since the beginning of the year, Dubai has been the number one horse in my stable and we’ve been having good results together,” said Bryan. “I knew we could do more and I was waiting for a big win, so I’m over the moon with her! She has a lot of temperament but I know her well and she gives me everything – and more.
“When we plan go to a World Cup qualifier, I always have my horses ready because it is a big opportunity to ride for your country at this level and I just want to do my best,” he said. “I needed luck today, but after three years you know how difficult it is to win at World Cup shows. It doesn’t happen every weekend and it’s a brilliant achievement that can only happen with the help of my great horse and all of my team, my sponsor and trainer and my groom – I am so grateful to them all for believing in me and my horses.”
This year’s demanding track in the compact Telenor Arena was set by Swedish course-designer Peter Lundstrom and asked plenty of questions as horses came indoors after a summer competing outside.
Runner-up Victoria Gulliksen, 30, said: “It was a crazy feeling, an adrenaline kick like I never experienced in my whole life! Without that horse I would never have jumped clear. I was missing totally to the last fence but he jumped it.”
The Norwegian rider added: “He does everything for me because he loves me and I love him, and he just knew he had to jump clear today and he was really working for it. I couldn’t be more happy to have a clear round for the first time in the World Cup on home soil!”
The World Cup rolls into Helsinki, Finland, next Sunday.
A winning double for Matt Sampson
The British showjumper Matt Sampson has returned to Europe and this week contested the CSI3* Andalucia October Tour, where he immediately resumed his winning ways, landing a brace of classes on consecutive days, with Fabrice TN (pictured above) and Curraghgraigue Obos Flight among a string of good placings. His win with the latter came in a competitive 1.45m two-phase where he beat Holly Smith with Poden Farms’ Don Vito into second position, with an in-form Niamh McEvoy third on Templepatrick Welcome Limmerick. Among the other British winners in Spain were Kayleigh Watts (Whisper Of Joy), Ellie Hall McAteer (Billy Penny), her sister Jodie (Kimosa Van Het Kritrahof) and Will Edwards (Magic Chanti).
Riders on form
At the CSI4* Fall Tour at Hubside Jumping Grimaud, St Tropez. France, recent Horse Of The Year Show (HOYS) puissance winner Commandant Geoff Curran landed a 1.50m two-phase riding the 10-year-old Tempo Manor, and his fellow Irishman Darragh Kenny secured a 1.45m victory against the clock on Cicomein VDL. This week’s grand prix winner was world number three Julien Epaillard of France with the nine-year-old Donatello D’Auge.
Grand prix goes to Aston
British showjumper Chloe Aston landed the CSI3* grand prix at the Villamoura Champions Tour in Portugal. She and the 11-year-old mare Flavie Van De Helle soared home quickest in a nine-way jump-off to land the €12,825 top prize. James Smith took a notable win with the Castrado seven-year-old Wicked’s Vancouver, also jumping to victory on Laura Renwick’s Arkuga in Thursday’s 1.40m two-phase while Philip Spivey landed Friday’s 1.40m speed class on the nine-year-old Billy Pearl. Laura Renwick described James’s success as a “fabulous start to our Vilamoura Champions Tour”.
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