She’s done it before, coming out on top five years ago, and tonight America’s Beezie Madden, one of just four lady riders in the field of 37 starters, threw down the gauntlet to all the rest when galloping to victory in the opening speed competition at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 2018 in Paris, France.
The double Olympic gold medalist gave her 12-year-old stallion, Breitling LS, a spectacular ride, full of confidence, precision and determination to finish almost a second clear of runner-up Daniel Deusser from Germany who also knows what it’s like to hold this coveted World Cup trophy in his hands.
The big surprise of the evening was the third-place finish for Madden’s compatriot, the relatively unknown Devin Ryan who goes into tomorrow’s second test just three points off the lead after tonight’s results were calculated into points.
But none of those at the head of the leaderboard have any room for complacency, because stalking them is three-time title-holder Marcus Ehning from Germany who finished fourth with Cornado NRW, while one of the most talked-about partnerships ahead of these Finals, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou are close behind in fifth. It’s going to be a sizzler all the way to Sunday’s finale when the new champion will be crowned.
Madden was happy with her result having mastered the balance between speed and risk over the clever 13-fence course set by Spain’s Santiago Varela better than all the rest.
“It’s quite tense on the first day,” Madden said. “It’s a little bit of a juggling act, so when it all works out well it’s a big relief”
Fellow-American and defending champion McLain Ward fell victim to a tight turn to the penultimate double where HH Azur hit the first element, which added four seconds to their time and has left them in tenth place overall. That’s a long way behind, but as Madden pointed out, “at these Finals, it’s just one day at a time!”
The omens are looking good for her however. She recalled that when she steered Simon to victory, in a thrilling showdown against Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat in Gothenburg in 2013, she also won on the first day. And Breitling is really on top of his game right now.
“He’s only competed three weeks this year. He won the World Cup qualifier at Thermal, we did a four-Star Grand Prix and Nations Cup in Wellington, Florida and he was clear in the Nations Cup and won the Grand Prix and then did another four-Star Grand Prix in Wellington and won that as well,” she pointed out. She’s delighted with this horse which, like her previous winner Simon, she got from Dutch Olympic champion Jeroen Dubbeldam and which she has now been riding for five years.
Deusser has every reason to be pleased too, because it is the horse that carried him to glory in Lyon, France in 2014 that has put him right in frame. The 15-year-old Cornet d’Amour has had a long injury-break but was clearly back in the zone today, and although Deusser has the possibility of an alternative ride for the next two competitions he said tonight that he will probably bring the grey back out over the next two days because he’s feeling really great.
At just nine years of age, Devin Ryan’s Eddie Blue is the youngest horse at this Final. “It’s been a dream of mine to represent the States at some level and so here we are and it’s great that there are two of us up here tonight!”, he said when joining the considerably more experienced Madden on the press conference platform.
Tomorrow may bring some significant changes however, and with Belgium’s Pieter Devos (Espoir), Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Mar), Colombia’s Carlos Lopez (Admara) and Sweden’s Douglas Lindelow (Zacramento) also squeezed inside that top 10, and double-champion Steve Guerdat just a single point behind Ward in eleventh place, then the leaders have very little breathing room. And as Deusser said this evening “we had a very very good course because nobody went really really fast – I think all the horses are jumping good still and have enough power for tomorrow”.
Power is what Friday’s second competition will be all about.
All photos ©Thomas Reiner
Source: FEI/Louise Parkes