World number one-ranked Henrik von Eckermann looked the odds-on favorite to win the 2023 Longines FEI World Cup Showjumping finals in Omaha, Nebraska, but realising his destiny turned out to be no sure thing.
The 2022 world champion won the initial speed leg of the cup on Wednesday 5 April with the marvellous King Edward, but Great Britain’s Scott Brash was right behind him. He and Hello Jefferson finished their round in 59.23 seconds, just missing the leader’s mark of 59.09 seconds.
The victory gave Henrik 41 points, one more than the number of riders in the competition, while Scott had 39. The other British rider, Harry Charles, was 17th overall on Balou du Reventon, after adding three seconds for a downed rail to their original time of 60.21 seconds.
But things changed dramatically on the second day, when King Edward had an uncharacteristic rail and didn’t make the jump-off. In retrospect, Henrik thought jumping one less round turned out to be a blessing, leaving the horse fresher for the final two-round competition two days later.
Germany’s Richard Vogel won the second leg with United Touch S, while Harry made a marvellous comeback with Balou, a stallion he began riding only at the end of last year. Finishing second put him in a tie for seventh overall, within sighting distance of a possible podium finish. It didn’t go as well for Scott, who missed the jump-off with three rails down.
Meanwhile, Henrik had dropped to third place, as Andreas Schou of Denmark (Darc de Lux) and Switzerland’s Pius Schweizer (Vancouver de Lanlore) ended up tied for first in the overall standings.
The top 30 came back on Saturday night (8 April) to determine the placings. The field was cut to 20 after the first round over a clever route designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral and his team, who put together a completely different challenge for the second round. Harry had 12 penalties for the evening, putting him ninth overall, while Scott ended up 11th with a total of eight added to his penalties from the two previous days. Andreas and Pius each had a total of 12 penalties for the evening to take them out of contention for the podium.
It appeared after the first round that Henrik might have to wait another year for his destiny, after dropping a rail, but he went clear in the second round to take the top spot on the podium. The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders took the second spot after earning only four faults for the evening with Monaco. The USA’s Hunter Holloway had eight faults in the first round of the night with the spicy Pepita con Spita, but went clear over the second course to finish third.
During the presentation, Henrik kissed the trophy as he realised a dream he had had since childhood.
“When I was very young I always went to the Gothenburg Horse Show (in Sweden), and watched the World Cup,” Henrik said. “It was always a big, big goal and a dream for me to have my name on that trophy. So for me, it’s very special.”
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