Milan will play host to one of the most important fixtures of the show jumping season this weekend, when three days of tough competition in the form of the FEI World Cup final come to the Forum di Assago.
The five-day show-jumping bonanza begins tomorrow, although the final stages of the FEI World Cup do not begin until Thursday, when the first of the deciding jumping tests takes place.
Thursday’s competition is a one-round technical speed event over a larger-than-usual course. Every competitor starts on a score of zero, and it tends to be a fast and furious battle against the clock as riders jostle for a good position in the later stages of the competition.
On Friday, competitors are faced with the second competition: a table A course, including a jump off against the clock. The third and final stage takes place on Sunday, when horses and riders jump two rounds over a grand prix course. If there is a tie for first place at the end of the three finals, the winners will jump off against the clock over a reduced course.
The FEI World Cup Series is in its 26th year, and historically, Western European, American and Canadian riders have dominated. This is the first time that the event will be staged in Italy.
Michael Whitaker, the only British rider to have qualified for the series this year, will be riding Handel II (pictured), Portofino 63 and First Samuel in a bid to emulate his brother’s success in 1990 and 1991 on the much-loved Milton. To take the prestigious title, Michael will have to beat the current titleholder, Marcus Ehning, as well as top show jumpers from 12 leagues around the world.
Rodrigo Pessoa recorded all three of Brazil’s World Cup victories in 1998 – 2000, on his stunning Selle Francais stallion Baloubet du Rouet. The partnership could be on course for a record fourth win this year as the 15-year-old stallion is currently in great form, producing convincing victories during the qualifying stages this spring.
Reigning titleholder Marcus Ehning will be determined to defend his position, but the competition will be fierce, with tension expected to be running high.