Sunday, Apr. 21, 2024

King Edward Rules Day 1 Of Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final

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Omaha, Neb.—April 5

After Scott Brash turned in the fastest round of the first half of Wednesday’s opening leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final, he was quick to say he didn’t believe his time would hold up. For the next 26 rounds, he was proven wrong.

But then a pony-like chestnut came into the ring and that all changed. King Edward may be unassuming as he walks into the show ring, but the little firecracker has all the jump in the world. Partnered with the FEI’s No. 1-ranked rider, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, he’s very hard to beat.

The pair won the individual title at the Agria FEI Jumping World Championships (Denmark) last August, and they’re looking to add another accolade to their resume this week in Omaha. They blazed around the course set by Bernardo Costa Cabral in 59.09 seconds, just a smidge faster than Great Britain’s Brash and Hello Jefferson, who finished in 59.23.

Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward. Shannon Brinkman Photo

[He’s an] unbelievable, fantastic horse and has done so many great things. And thanks to the owner, Mr. Georg Kähny, I can ride it,” von Eckermann said. “Of course in the course like this it’s good to see if you can go. Of course I saw Scott before I went in, and he was of course in the lead, and I saw his round and I knew I could be close. I had to cut to the triple bar with one less and to the last with nine strides so I could take some time, and I did it really, really good. Even though I have to say it was heavy there in the end. The ground was not great, deep in the corners so he really had to try, but the exceptional horse he is he could do it.”  

Watch their winning round, courtesy of FEI.tv:

The 13-year-old Belgian Warmblood (Edward 28—Koningin De Lauzelle, Feo) gelding initially was purchased for von Eckermann’s wife Janika Sprunger, but he took over the ride when she was pregnant and has retained it. The pair helped Sweden win team gold at the 2021 Tokyo Olympic Games.

“At home and to take care of, he’s like a dog,” he said. “He’s very, very easygoing, and yeah, feels like you can take him in your home. But then when the show comes, he gets a lot of nerve and has incredible power.

“It’s a small horse, but somehow he has an engine behind that’s unbelievable,” he added, “and that’s why he can jump big jumps and is always very, very careful.”

Henrik von Eckermann was full of appreciation for King Edward. Kimberly Loushin Photo

While Brash may not have retained the top spot, the British rider still remains firmly in the hunt.

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“I thought my round was very good up to the … oxer-plank double,” he said. “It’s a forward four in, and he jumped in and twisted a bit on the plank, and I didn’t really get a smooth turn after … so I knew that a few were going to do nine strides, but yeah, delighted with how my horse jumped.”

Brash first spotted the gelding, now 14, five years ago at a show with Belgian rider Charlotte Philippe.

“She was very attached to him, so it took us a few months until she agreed to [sell],” he said. “He’s a fantastic horse. He’s strong-minded, so it’s taken a bit of time to just really grow the partnership, but he’s feels there now.”

Scott Brash and Hello Jefferson. Shannon Brinkman Photo

Former World Cup Final winner Daniel Deusser is in third with Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z with a time of 59.45 seconds.

“I was very, very happy with him today,” he said. “Finishing in third place is always a good position on the first day. I think it was a class where everybody was very, very close together. One foot, or maybe one stride, here too many makes a difference of five or six or maybe seven places. So in that way my horse is not the fastest horse in his nature, so he did a very good round. He did today whatever was possible for him.”

Holloway Leads U.S. Contingent

Coming from two hours away in Topeka, Kansas, Hunter Holloway may have been most at ease in the CHI Heath Center Arena. The young rider has come to Omaha many times over the years to compete, and her confidence showed with the best U.S. finish on the opening day.

With her longtime partner Pepita Con Spita, she took eighth by finishing in 61.35 seconds.

Hunter Holloway and Pepita Con Spita. Kimberly Loushin Photo

“My horse was super,” she said. “She really handles this environment great, loves a big crowd, and really tries her heart out every time we walk into a ring. She definitely performed today. There were a couple places where maybe I could’ve been a little quicker, but she certainly gave her all and put in a great effort.”

When Holloway got the mare, now 12, she thought she’d be a good grand prix mount, but she said she never expected her to become the 1.60-meter horse she is today.

“She’s great. I love that mare so much,” she said. “We have quite the bond now. I’ve had her for quite a few years, and she’s a lot of horse to ride—definitely has her opinions, typical mare—but I wouldn’t trade her for anything. She tries her heart out every time.”

Hunter Holloway gave Pepita Con Spita some love. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Sitting in 10th is Aaron Vale, who is competing in his second World Cup Final. He had a rail with Prescott, but thanks to a quick time, finished the class with a score of 61.68. (In a Table C class, each fault is converted to 3 seconds on the clock.)

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“My horse is a little inexperienced at this level,” he said. “He’s probably jumped maybe 10 classes in his lifetime at 1.60. So, we put in a really fast round, unfortunate to have one down, but the time was still quick enough to keep us in the higher part of the standings for the time being, so hopefully we won’t be out of touch with the field at the end of the day.”

Aaron Vale and Prescott. Shannon Brinkman Photo

Vale has had the 11-year-old gelding since he was 4, so when Vale was accepted to LGCT Miami next week and decided to aim his other mount Elusive there, he felt comfortable putting Prescott in this environment.

“With all these top level horse shows, you have to pick one horse for one show and one for the other,” he said. “So he jumped well last fall in the qualifiers the first couple times he’d been indoors—won a welcome class at Fort Worth [Texas]—so I thought it was worth giving him a shot, and so far it’s a decent decision.”

With 20 World Cup Finals under his belt, McLain Ward is by far the most experienced U.S. rider—of the nine competing, five are first-timers. While he isn’t in the lead as he was the last time the final came to Omaha back in 2017, when he won with HH Azur, he’s sitting in 11th place (61.69 seconds). This year he brought another mare, Callas, who won the $450,660 Fidelity Investments Grand Prix CSI5* at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida.

“She felt great. I thought she jumped beautiful,” he said. “I thought the round was exactly what we planned. In hindsight, I would’ve liked to do one less from 1 to 2 in six. The seven was really slow for me. So I would’ve liked to change that, but there’s not a lot of separation in this, unfortunately. They’re all very tight, and she’s not the speediest horse in the world. I hope the jumps get a lot bigger, and we’ll continue to climb.”

McLain Ward and Callas. Kimberly Loushin Photo

Devin Ryan had a clean round with Eddie Blue for 21st (64.62 seconds). World Cup rookie Nick Dello Joio had two down with Cornet’s Cambridge for 28th (68.67 seconds), while Ailish Cunniffe and Vivaldi Du Theil are 31st (70.68 seconds, two fences down converted). Natalie Dean and Acota M are 34th (four fences down converted), Eliza Broz and Kardenta Van’t Meerhof are 35th (75.76 seconds, four fences down converted) and Simonne Berg and Cooper are 39th (83.99 seconds, five fences down converted).

All riders will move forward to the second leg on Thursday, which will run as a grand prix. Competition begins at 7:15 p.m. Central Time.

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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