A casual observer might think that Beezie Madden can take a breath after winning the second leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final, but she’s not ready to relax just yet. Though Breitling LS jumped brilliantly, there’s still plenty of jumping left to come. After a rest day on Saturday horses will return on Sunday to jump over two tracks.
“We’re only about halfway through,” Madden said. “Actually, I screwed up in the jump-off, the time that I won in 2013, so at least today, my horse feels amazing, and I have to say, he’s made my job easy. If that’s why it looks easy, it’s probably to his credit. Every time I call on him he does exactly what I want. He’s careful; he’s clever; I couldn’t ask for more.”
Tonight horses and riders tackled a grand prix-style competition with clear rounds progressing to a jump-off. Madden was the last over the course and as Breitling’s done all season, he zipped across the course to stop the timers in 33.22 seconds. He jumped so brilliantly that Madden popped the bottom button on her show coat at some point during the round.
“I thought the first round was a beautiful course, and I actually thought the time allowed was spot on,” said Madden. “You didn’t have to run around to get it; you just couldn’t take a lot of extra time in places like around the ends of the ring, so I thought the course was excellent.
“My first two fences were a little shaky with him, and then we both kind of settled in and concentrated on a beautiful round from fence 3 on, I thought,” she continued. “Then the jump-off, he was amazing. He was so clever at the verticals off the turns and helped me out there, and he’s just naturally fast, which makes it easy.”
The 12-year-old La Silla stallion has been on fire this season, so Madden felt confident asking Breitling to step up in order to give herself a rail in hand going into the final leg. But even if they hadn’t won the jump-off they’d still be leading the overall standings.
“You always think about that a little because you have to be smart in your strategy,” she said. “I thought there were places I could take a shot. I thought I could for sure do seven up the first line; I could do eight down the last line. I thought that being smooth and fast I could still be faster than him and take the shot to get a little bigger lead. If I didn’t win today, I would be less than a rail out, so that makes a big difference going into Sunday.
“I think it just depends on your horse at that point too,” she continued. “My horse is quite good at going fast, and it doesn’t get him rattled, so I thought I’d take a shot.”
Watch Madden and Breitling’s jump-off round:
Harrie Smolders’ fabulous stallion Emerald was just a hair slower than Breitling at 33.44 seconds. That helped the Dutchman move from 16th overall after he rode Zinius in the speed leg to sit equal seventh.
“Emerald jumped fantastic today,” said Smolders. “He was very feisty, but he had a lot of fighting spirit. On the other hand I must say that I don’t like to lose, but if I have to lose, and Beezie beats me, then it as well because that was in great style. It was a great class.”
Henrik Von Eckermann, who finished second in last year’s final with Toveks Mary Lou, rode the same mare to third in the class tonight to move into second overall.
“I’m really happy, first of all, with my horse,” he said. “I didn’t ride so great in the jump-off to the double of verticals, because I saw others had that down, so I was careful, but I was over careful. And also, to the second last; I could get eight to the last. But the horse was jumping both rounds absolutely fantastic.”
Devin Ryan maintained his hold on the third-ranked spot going into Sunday’s final round despite picking up a single time penalty in the first round of Friday’s class.
“It was nine thousandths of a second,” Ryan said. “I honestly think between jumps 1 and 2 I came around the turn and didn’t see one less and just hung out a little bit. I could have done one less there, and that would have made all the difference.”
All things considered, Ryan is quite happy with both his and the horse’s showing, given that it is their first World Cup Final and Eddie Blue is only 9.
“He feels fantastic; I mean he jumped great out there,” Ryan said. “We’ve done two grand prixs in two days now, and I think he hasn’t even touched a jump. His brain feels great too; he’s just matured in his attitude.”
Ryan is learning the points system for World Cup Finals as he goes along and was a bit surprised to learn that despite picking up a time penalty and not placing in the top eight in Friday’s class, he didn’t move down the rankings going into the final round.
“I didn’t know where I was going to end up after tonight, so it’s exciting that I didn’t change position,” Ryan said. “But now you can see with where the points drop off, I’ve noticed that a lot can change. So it’s exciting, and I know I have a great horse, and he belongs in the top, so I’m excited going forward.”
Defending champion McLain Ward and HH Azur jumped a clear first round, and then were the fastest 4-faulters in the jump-off. They had the time to beat Madden and Breitling had they not had the rail. They are now tied for fourth overall with Belgium’s Olivier Philappaerts and Sweden’s Douglas Lindelöw on Zacramento.
Alison Robitaille was one of six riders to jump clear with a single time fault. She and Ace lead the American contingent outside of the top five, sitting 13th in the overall standings. From the West Coast, Jamie Barge had a double-clear performance with her longtime partner Luebbo to vault 10 places to 14th. Kristen VanderVeen and Bull Run’s Faustino De Tili had one rail and are in 22nd in their first World Cup.
Things didn’t go as planned for the rest of the U.S. riders. Richard Spooner picked up 9 faults, this time aboard Chatinus, and they’re in a four-way tie for 27th with another American, Andy Kocher, who had 20 faults with Navalo De Poheton. Charlie Jacobs and Cassinja S picked up another 12 faults to sit out of the running.