Denis Lynch’s head was hanging low after the first day of the Rolex FEI Show Jumping World Cup Final. He’d taken a dramatic fall off All Inclusive NRW in the speed round, ending his bid for the title.
“Thursday for me was really black. I was really down after that,” Lynch said. “But I have a great teammate in Billy Twomey, and he told me, ‘Carry on.’ So, I did.”
In fact, he carried on to take the top honors in the $148,080 Sparkassen Cup Grand Prix of Leipzig. To continue to prove his support, Twomey took second behind him with Romanov, while U.S. rider McLain Ward rounded out the top three aboard Rothchild.
German riders have been on the attack all week, and two of them are tied for the lead in the World Cup Final. But there wasn’t a German to be found in the jump-off for the grand prix. The Irish and U.S. riders were joined by Kevin Staut and Philippe Rozier of France, who were fourth and fifth, respectively, Luciana Dinaz of Portugal, who was sixth, and Pablo Barrios of Venezuela, who was seventh.
The starting field of 50 was whittled down considerably by Frank Rothenburger’s stiff course. “It was very technical and built with light materials,” Lynch said.
A line down the long side of an oxer followed by either four long or five very tight strides to a double of airy verticals with a very tight two-stride distance was a particular trouble spot. “It was billed as a three-star grand prix in the prize list, but it was a lot harder than that,” Lynch continued.
Ward was the first to conquer Rothenburger’s test; in fact, out of the first 25 to go, only he and Dinaz were clean. That meant he was also the pathfinder for the jump-off. With such accomplished riders following him, Ward had to lay it down.
He revved Rothchild up into a gallop, and the chestnut pinned his ears and flew. Rothchild is not known for an elegant style—he flattens his ears and usually jumps with his knees tucked under his elbows.
“He’s a peculiar horse,” Ward said. “His style is a little different, and his character is challenging at times. But he jumps a lot of clean rounds, and he’s a real trier.”
Ward blazed around the course, shaving a daring inside turn to plank vertical that made the crowd gasp. He stopped the timers in 38.37 seconds with all the rails up, and Rothchild shook his head in celebration as Ward pulled up. Ward then took a post at the ingate to watch the action as they all chased him.
“I was maybe a little bit conservative in the first line, but I was trying to set a mark for everyone to beat,” said Ward. “I might have played it a bit safe after what happened yesterday [when he had a rail at the last vertical in the second leg of the World Cup Final class].”
Dinaz and Barrios were both clear but slow. Then Lynch cantered in on All Inclusive NRW. He bought the bay gelding from Ludger Beerbaum two years ago. The horse’s loping stride ate up the ground, and Lynch calmly cut all the turns tight as could be to nip a quarter of a second off Ward’s time.
“He’s a fantastic horse, but this is actually the first grand prix I’ve won with him,” Lynch said. “He’s been an unlucky second quite a few times.”
Twomey was the only of the remaining riders to challenge Lynch’s time, cruising around on the power rubber ball of a stallion Romanov. A daring, huge gallop to the last oxer paid off with a time that slotted in right between Lynch and Ward by fractions of a second.
“It was a really competitive jump-off, with the top four riders in the same second,” Twomey said. He’s only had the ride on Romanov since the end of December, and, “Quite honestly, it didn’t go well in the start. It’s only been the last four to six weeks that our results have improved and we’ve gotten along,” Twomey said. “I’m really happy with how it went today, and I pray it continues!”
American Richard Spooner finished eighth in the grand prix with the fastest four-fault round on Billy Bianca.