Thursday, Apr. 18, 2024

All Hail King Edward! Henrik Von Eckermann Takes Omaha World Cup Win

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Omaha, Neb.—April 8

When King Edward took down the top rail of Fence 11B in the first round of the final leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final, Henrik von Eckermann worried that his chance at the title had been dashed. The pair won the first leg, the speed class, on Wednesday evening, but then failed to make the jump-off on Day 2. But they finished in good enough standing to sit third overall, just 1 fault out of the lead.

The joint-overnight leaders Andreas Schou (Darc De Lux) and Pius Schwizer (Vancouver De Lanlore) both faulted, but Schwizer retained a 1-fault lead over von Eckermann.

Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward. Kimberly Loushin Photos

“I have to say after the second day, where I had one down, of course I was not happy when I came out, but then how the jump-off went and with only 1 point different, I saw it as quite positive,” Sweden’s von Eckermann said. “I thought OK, he jumped one round less. And also when I came out today he felt better than all the other days. He was fresh, and he was really jumping good.

“He jumped very little on the warm-up because he felt amazing and then OK in the first round, came in probably a little bit too far off the oxer protecting him a little bit too much from the front part, so I got a far jump in, and then he had so much power so then it was difficult to get back to the number B and had that one, so I should have gone a little closer to the oxer,” he continued. “But with that rail, I was of course a little bit, ‘Ugh, this was maybe the chance that I had and [now it’s] gone.’ But then how it went down and kept on going, the chance kept on being there.”

Henrik von Eckerman and King Edward on the way to their win.

When von Eckermann jumped clear in the second round, it was down to how things played out during Schwizer’s round.

“And then in the second round, I jump three jumps on the warm-up because he felt better than ever,” von Eckermann said. “And I said, ‘OK, [I] just have to trust his jump; he is in a perfect shape,’ and had a really good feeling going in, and it was a fantastic feeling [to] jump around with.”

Watch their second round, courtesy of FEI.tv:

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When Schwizer’s first rail fell, von Eckermann had earned his long-sought victory, and when the second clattered to the arena floor, it opened the door for the Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders (Monaco N.O.P.) and the United States’ Hunter Holloway (Pepita Con Spita) to finish second and third respectively.

“It’s always been there as a big, big goal and a dream for me to be able to have my name on that trophy,” he said. “So, for me, it’s very special. Even if it’s a fantastic horse, we all know it’s horses. It’s very easy to that it doesn’t go the way [you want], so it makes it even more special that we had the goal, and we made it, and thanks to my team.”

Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward.

The Swede has been third in the final twice with Toveks Mary Lou, but with King Edward, a 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Edward 28—Koningin De Lauzelle, Feo), his star has risen exponentially. They earned team gold and were fourth individually at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games, team and individual gold at the 2022 Agria FEI Jumping World Championships (Denmark), and von Eckermann has been at the top of the FEI World Rankings for the past eight months.

I think I’m top of my career,” he said. “It feels like it can only go one way, and that’s down, the wrong way. So I really try to hold on to the moments, and actually every day I’m thankful for what I have.”

The Top 3 in the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final (from left), Harrie Smolders, Henrik von Eckermann and Hunter Holloway.

Smolders sat in equal seventh overnight. He jumped clear in the first round but had one down in the second round. He rode his partner of seven years, Monaco, a 14-year-old Holsteiner (Cassini II—Ulla II, Contender) he describes as one of the best he’s had.

He’s a truly amazing horse, and also I think if you see statistics, the consistency from him is amazing in the last few years, and it feels like he’s still getting better and improving,” he said. “And even at this age, I think today was probably, he jumped the best ever. Even better than last year in Leipzig [Germany]. Again a podium place. I’m delighted.”

Harrie Smolders and Monaco N.O.P.

While she might not have ended up the winner, Holloway was definitely the hero of the evening amongst the spectators. Not only was she competing on home soil, but the 25-year-old resides just a couple hours away in Topeka, Kansas, and has been coming to compete in the Omaha International at the same venue for many years. She made her World Cup Final debut last year in Leipzig, Germany, and she’s been looking forward to Omaha ever since then.

“It’s been great,” she said. “You know after we had the first one under our belt, she felt super and felt like I knew she could do it, and I could do it, so I was really excited to come back and attack it again on home soil.”

Hunter Holloway and Pepita Con Spita.

Holloway came into the day in a tie for fifth. She had a disappointing first round, lowering two fences, but she rallied to jump clear the next go. While she had the same score as Brazil’s Yuri Mansur (Vitiki), a faster time in the second round gave her the edge to get on the podium.

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“I love Bernardo [Costa Cabral’s] courses,” she said. “I think they’re super. I thought they were well suited to many types of horses. And I think they were courses that made the rider ride every stride of the course. There was no breaks, which was good. It’s a finals. It should be hard.”

Hunter Holloway gives Pepita Con Spita a pat.

Holloway first turned heads as a junior, taking prestigious championships in the hunters and winning the ASPCA Maclay Final (Kentucky) and the Washington International Equitation Classic (District Of Columbia). Since stepping into the senior ranks, she’s won a World Cup qualifier and made her Nations Cup debut last year.

“I think I’ve always had pretty big goals, and this has always been a very big goal of mine, and to be sitting with riders such as this is obviously a great honor,” she said. “Very excited to be here and thrilled, and I think my horse performed great all week. The relationship with her has always been great. It’s only getting stronger and building, and I kind of feel like we’re just getting started, so I’m very excited for the future with her.”

Four other U.S. riders advanced to today’s class. Devin Ryan (Eddie Blue) was 13th, Nick Dello Joio (Cornet’s Cambridge) was 20th, McLain Ward (Callas) was tied for 23rd, and Aaron Vale (Prescott) was 28th.

Yuri Mansur and Vitiki were fourth.
Devin Ryan was 13th with Eddie Blue.
The unflappable Monaco.
Henrik von Eckermann hoists his trophy.
Hunter Holloway’s groom Katie Williams enjoys the moment with Pepita Con Spita.
Groom Louise Baaroud gives King Edward a kiss.
King Edward and Henrik von Eckermann.

Full results.

The Chronicle has a reporter on the ground in Omaha, bringing you photo galleries and stories about each day’s competition at the FEI World Cup Finals on www.coth.com. Also make sure to follow along on the Chronicle’s social media outlets: FacebookTwitter and Instagram.

For useful links and more information on how to follow the competition, click here.


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