Gothenburg, Sweden, April 25
“Somebody can beat my time, I’m sure,” she said. “I’m happy with where I am. My plan was to do what I can with the horse and let the cards lay where they will.”
The cards fell in Madden’s favor today, and that speedy trip held up. She edged out Swiss rider Pius Schwizer and Verdi III, and hometown hero Rolf-Göran Bengtsson took third for Sweden.
Course designer Uliano Vezzani laid the track for today’s 1.50-m Table C class. Several in-and-outs came down regularly and the final combination on the course took out both the last two FEI World Cup Finals winners. Last year's winners,  Flexible and Rich Fellers, chipped at the first element of the final in-and-out, taking down the rails, then stopped coming out of the combination. And the 2011 winners , Taloubet Z and Christian Ahlmann, stopped coming in there as well.
And the last fence added 4 seconds to the score of U.S. riders Reed Kessler  (Cylana) and Charlie Jayne (Chill R Z), as well as Dutch rider Marc Houtzager (Sterrehof’s Uppity).
“For me it was a good course, and it worked out in my favor,” said Madden, Cazenovia, N.Y. “He’s a naturally fast horse, so that’s what I relied on. As long as I did tight turns and stuck to my plan I was hoping for the top five.”
Other U.S. riders remain in the hunt. McLain Ward’s mount Super Trooper de Ness ticked a rail coming out of an in-and-out, but a speedy time put him just behind his ninth-placed student Katie Dinan (Nougat du Vallet). Jayne’s next in the standings in 11th, and Kessler lays 13th.
Today’s speed round is the first of three legs for the Final. Some riders, like Schwizer and Bengsston , will swap mounts for tomorrow’s Table A class, but Madden will keep the ride on Simon for the duration of the competition. She’d considered riding Cortes ‘C’ as well in the competition, but decided to stick with Abigail Wexner’s Dutch Warmblood (Mr. Blue—Naline, Polydor), who was third in the 2011 Final with Jeroen Dubbeldam.
“I wanted to go with Verdi today and make a good placing,” said Schwizer, who laid down a clear round, .5 seconds slower than Madden. “Now I will take the remaining classes with a second horse [Picsou du Chene]. I am happy with this horse today.”
Bengtsson admitted that despite his experience, riding in front of a crowd filled with his countrymen added a little stress.
“You have to try and handle that pressure and not put too much on yourself,” he said. “You always want to do your best at every show, and especially when you’re in front of your home crowd you want to do really well. We all know how easy it is [for things to go wrong] with horses. We see Rich Fellers and Christian Ahlmann today, they were doing fantastic rounds and a little mistake cost them a lot of placings. They are still very, very good.”
After tomorrow, the show jumping horses will enjoy a day off and come back for two last rounds on Sunday.
-The closest Madden’s come to winning a Final has been fourth (in 2011 with Coral Reef Via Volo), and she’s placed fifth here as well.
-U.S. pathfinders Christine McCrea and her Pan American Games double gold medal partner  Romantovich Take One put in a conservative clear to lay 19th. “He jumped super,” said McCrea. “I missed the inside after the double verticals. But I’m very, very happy with how he jumped so hoping to continue to jump that way, and it’ll pay off in the long run.”
-Kent Farrington wasn’t thrilled with logging two rails with Uceko, even though his quick time leaves him ahead of several clear rounds, sitting 16th. “It was going really well until the last line,” said Farrington, Wellington. “He drifted a little left at the oxer, and that was cheap. He lost his focus a little bit.”
-Like Farrington, Cook also finished ahead of several clear rounds, despite a rail. That rider and Jonkheer Z lay 18th.
-Kentucky-based Irishman Shane Sweetnam survived a hairy moment when he had a miscommunication with Amaretto d’Arco, running into the third fence after clearing fences 7A and B. He sits 28th heading into tomorrow.
- Ashlee Bond didn’t have the day she was hoping for. Wistful ticked three rails, leaving the Hidden Hills, Calif., rider in 35th out of 39.
-It’s the first World Cup Final for four of the youngest U.S. riders: Kessler (18), Lucy Davis (20), Katie Dinan (19) and Karl Cook (22).
Find full results at the official website,  and check in with Reed Kessler's blog  about her first World Cup Final. Read all the Chronicle's coverage here .
Check in with story and photos from the first round of the Reem Acra FEI Dressage World Cup Final.