King Edward writes his name among showjumping legends with World Cup Final double

  • King Edward added yet another jewel to his gleaming crown by successfully defending his showjumping World Cup Final title with Henrik von Eckermann. At the end of three days of jumping in the Saudi Arabian capital of Riyadh, King Edward was the only horse to go through the three classes without lowering a single pole. He won the speed class, he won the jump-off class and on the final night (20 April), he won the two-round decider.

    As the only pair to finish on a clean sheet, this valiant chestnut was spared of a jump-off as the outright winner. He is the first horse to win back-to-back World Cups since Shutterfly triumphed in 1998/1999, and joins an illustrious list that also includes Milton and ET.

    But it was not plain sailing, as Henrik fell off in the warm-up.

    “I’ve been second a few times lately and I am sick of that, and so I thought yesterday in the jump-off I will not be second again, so maybe I exaggerated that and paid the price today because it was not as smooth,” said the world number one. “Once again, King Edward has done a championship jumping clear every day, he is amazing, and felt even better than he did in Omaha last year.

    “It was a long week, and I feel empty now, like someone has pulled the plug out! It is pressure but I like to be in pole position so I can focus on myself, and not hope the others have faults.”

    France’s Julien Epaillard had a fantastic “dress rehearsal” for his home Olympics, with his chestnut mare Dubai Du Cedre, a daughter of former three-time World Cup winner Baloubet Du Rouet.

    “My mare has already done the European Championships, and been great in Prague and Geneva, so I came here with the plan to be on the podium but also to get to know her better before the Olympics,” said Julien, who had four faults in both previous classes. “Today the two rounds were superb, really relaxed. She has a lot of energy, which is good when she is with me, and today she gave me her all.”

    Peder Fredricson was a trifle unlucky to be third with Catch Me Not S, the 18-year-old stallion whose appetite for these colossal courses has never wavered. Having been runner-up to Henrik in both the previous classes, they knocked a rail in the first round here which dropped them a place.

    “I am really proud of him,” said Peder. “He was in good shape coming here and kept his form really well. I double lunged him this morning and could see he was moving great. The first course tonight didn’t suit him as it started with uprights, but the second course you could pick up a good canter straight away and I knew it would suit him.”

    How the showjumping World Cup Final played out

    Henrik was in pole position for the decider after winning the first two legs. This meant he’d earned the right to jump last of the 27 forward in the first round, and had a two-fault advantage over his compatriot Peder. Julien was lying third, another four faults behind.

    The first two riders into the ring, 19-year-old Zain Shady Samir and 22-year-old Stanford student Sophia Siegel elected to retire after a scattering of poles. Designer Frank Rothenberger had evidently set a test. But Saudi rider Abdullah Alsharbatly brought the partisan crowed to their feet as as he jumped the first clear round of the contest. He did notch a time-fault, and it wasn’t until the 12th rider into the ring – Max Kühner and EIC Up To Jacco Blue – that anyone posted a clean zero. This moved Max up from 16th to ninth for round two.

    The three British riders were all sitting in the prize money at this stage, with Scott Brash 11th, Jessica Mendoza 10th and Ben Maher sixth. Scott jumped a super-calm clear on a very keen Hello Valentino, clocking a time-fault but moving up to eighth ahead of the final round. Jessica had two down with I-Cap CL Z to drop three places to 13th, while Ben’s delightfully clean round on Dallas Vegas Batilly kept him in sixth.

    “She jumped incredible today, and she’s felt great all week, but I’d been hoping for more,” said Ben. “I took a bit of a risk the first day to try to win, and it didn’t quite pay off. Then in the middle day she had an uncharacteristic fault and I was frustrated with myself. This week has been a bit of a fact-finding mission ahead of the Olympics, and we need to work on a few things.”

    Once the in-form riders at the top of the order took to the course, the clears quickly racked up, with only one from the top seven faulting, making 10 in total. This was Catch Me Not S, who lowered his first pole of the week, and slipped from second to joint third with Kent Farrington (Greya).

    Catch Me Not S and Peder Fredricson at the showjumping World Cup Finals

    The 18-year-old Catch Me Not S shows spring-heels en route to third place

    There was a brief moment of jeopardy shortly before Henrik’s first round when King Edward refused in the warm-up, dumping his rider on the sand. But after some thorough checks, fiddling with his boots and repositioning the saddle, normality resumed. He jumped his usual clear, although a couple of rubs on the uprights hinted that even this extra-terrestrial may be wearying after a long week.

    “Horses feel everything and King Edward is very sensitive, so when that mistake happened, I just had to say, ‘don’t worry, we have to stay calm and not let him feel that everything is not as it should be’,” he said. “We have been together so long, and I have the biggest confidence in him. What happened happened, but it’s the zero on the scoreboard that counts.”

    The final round

    Frank Rothenburger’s second-round track proved even more taxing than the first, with just six clear, including Saudi Arabian rider Ramzy Al Duhami on Untouchable, who sent the 3,000-strong crowd wild.

    “I wanted to do this round for the crowd and my country, but I’m so proud of my mare, as indoor arenas are not her thing,” said the 2012 Olympic team bronze medallist. “This is a good boost for us before the Olympics which was the goal. This is the first time since 2012 that I feel really well mounted. She trusts me and gives me everything.”

    Neither Ben nor Scott could capitalise on their first-round clears, knocking down two apiece. However, Ben retained sixth, and Scott dropped from eighth to 11th in the final standings. Jessica Mendoza had just the four faults to seal her first World Cup Final with 12th place.

    “I didn’t expect it to go this great, it’s been and up-and-down week for everyone,” said Jessica. “I’ve had this horse since he was five and he’s my pride and joy. I’ve always known he’s had a lot of ability, but to go out and prove it is an incredible feeling.”

    Scott said he’ll “take a lot of positives” home after Hello Valentino’s efforts.

    “He has all the quality, the jumps are no problem but the rideablity has been a problem since day one, it’s a work in progress,” he said. “He just felt a little bit empty towards the end of the course but he’s never jumped this many big jumps in four days.”

    Kent Farrington was lying equal third with Peder, but when Kent hit one and Peder went clear, it was left to Julien to keep the pressure on Henrik. Julien duly went clear, leaving Henrik with nothing in hand. King Edward certainly looked a little tired and again rubbed a couple, but he had his game face on, knuckled down and secured a momentous victory in this the 44th edition of the FEI Longines World Cup Finals.

    After Patrik Kittel’s dressage win yesterday (19 April), this is the first time that two Swedes have topped the podiums at the World Cup Finals.

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