In “off years” like this one, when there are no team championships to look forward to during the summer, it’s much easier to get excited about events such as the HSBC FEI World Cup Eventing Final.
This year’s competition, held in Strzegom, Poland, showcased some of the world’s best riders and horses, such as Lucinda Fredericks and Headley Britannia, her husband Clayton Fredericks and Ben Along Time, Oliver Townend and Flint Curtis, and, of course, the eventual winner, rising star Michael Jung and La Biosthetique-Sam FBW.
Ground Jury President Marilyn Payne noted that the quality of the dressage she judged in this CIC*** surpassed that of the Olympic Games last summer, and U.S. Chef d’Equipe Capt. Mark Phillips remarked in Horse & Hound that the cross-country track had a four-star feel. And the winner took home about $82,000.
So why, when I think back a few years and look ahead into the future, does the World Cup Final seem so inconsequential?
In contrast to the Rolex FEI World Cup Finals for dressage and show jumping, the eventing final has long seemed to suffer from a lack of prestige. The quality of competition varies widely, and in years past (the most recent being 2007), the eventing final has been canceled with little consequence. Then, of course, there was the lack of sponsorship.
Enter HSBC, which has swooped in to give a leg up to the World Cup Final and the sport. You’ll see their logo plastered on every available surface at the World Cup Final, the European Eventing Championships and five CCI****s across the globe, which now comprise the HSBC FEI Classics series.
A commitment of this magnitude from “The World’s Local Bank” is one of the biggest things to happen in eventing this decade. Safety standards and continued debate over the long versus short-format may get the most press coverage here, but what this sport desperately needed was some good news, and HSBC stepped up.
Still, it remains to be seen whether this sponsorship will finally make the FEI World Cup Final a success.
“HSBC is trying to do the right thing,” Phillips said in his Horse & Hound column. “Hopefully, they can get help so they are supporting a competition that really works in terms of sport, rather than something that sounds good on a marketing front, but isn’t a realistic proposition. Even after this successful World Cup Final, the competition itself still needs some help.”
Two of our U.S. riders, Buck Davidson and Kelly Prather, were able to scramble together last-minute trips to Poland after they won the North American qualifiers, but both admitted they hadn’t even considered making the trip until they received the U.S. Equestrian Team Foundation’s new Jack Le Goff Memorial Grant.
Now that the competition has serious prize money, I wonder if U.S. riders will eventually begin to see the World Cup Final as a goal. It’ll take some serious changes to get our riders, let alone fans, to care as much about this CIC*** competition as they do about four-star events and team championships.
Do we need an Eventing World Cup Final, or is it just dead weight? Only time will tell.