The World Cup Watcher’s Go-To Guide

Watching McLain Ward triumph in Omaha at the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final in Omaha, NE, was positively chilling, and it’s impossible not to get goosebumps at the thought of the prestigious annual indoor championship getting underway again in the coming days. This time, it’s in the unbelievable setting of Paris, France.

It’s a long road for a rider just to qualify and punch a ticket to Paris, but that’s just the beginning. From points to penalties, leagues to sub leagues, and Table C to Table A, there’s a lot to think about as the World Cup Final takes place, April 11-15, 2018.

All in a Name

It’s valuable whether you’re writing about it, talking about it, or wanting to learn about it. It’s the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final—and don’t you forget it!

Qualifying Process

The Longines FEI World Cup Jumping North American League (Don’t forget this name, either!) was established three years ago, creating a compelling and competitive qualifying league across the continent. There are 14 stops across the league, which, for the 2017-2018 season, took place from August through March.

The qualifiers are split equally across the east and west coasts with seven apiece, and riders aim to earn points from top finishes in the events. Usually, the top seven U.S. riders from the east coast sub league and the top three from the west coast earn tickets to the Final, but this year there’s an additional spot in the east due to the fact that as defending champion, Ward earns an automatic berth. As only he could, Ward led the league in points, anyway. The top two riders from Mexico and Canada also qualify. This year, qualifying came down to the very final leg of the North American League at Live Oak, and there were 13 different winners throughout the season, making for endless excitement.

Points are awarded as follows: The winner receives 20 points, 17 to the runner-up, and third-place finisher receives 15 points. Points are awarded down to the 16th-placed finisher, who receives 1 point.

Riders may receive points from a maximum of seven qualifiers, which they must designate before competing; their four best results determine their final point total for the season.

The American contingent in Paris is strong. The east coast qualifiers consist of: Ward; Beezie Madden, who took home the title with Simon in 2013; Andy Kocher, winner of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Del Mar who will be attending his first World Cup Final; Charlie Jacobs, a three-time World Cup Finals veteran; Kristen Vanderveen, the winner at Live Oak; Alison Robitaille, who returns to the World Cup Finals after a 12-year hiatus; Devin Ryan, who brings the talented 9-year-old Eddie Blue to Paris; and World Cup Finals debutant Sarah Scheiring.

Richard Spooner, winner of the World Cup qualifier in Las Vegas, led the west coast sub league standings. Jamie Barge, who returns to the Final after debuting in Omaha last year, and Jenni McAllister round out the top three in the west.

The riders may bring up to two horses to the Final.

Five Very Important Days

The Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final consists of three rounds that take place over the course of four days.

Day 1, Warm-Up — Wednesday, April 11 — Competitors will take advantage of the opportunity to have a warm-up to get acclimated with the venue and see how their horses are feeling.

Day 2, Competition 1: All About Speed — Thursday, April 12 — The first round is a speed competition, held in a Table C, faults converted format. But it’s not your average speed class. The fences can be set up to 1.60m! The first round really sets the tone for the rest of the competition, and from the beginning, proves that it takes a very special horse and rider combination to win the world’s most prestigious indoor show jumping championship.

Day 3, Competition 2: Jumping Off — Friday, April 13 — The second competition is held in a Table A, jump-off format. Those who jump cleanly over the 1.50m-1.60m track advance to the jump-off. Riders who complete the first round are eligible to compete.

Day 4, Day of Rest — Saturday, April 14 — The fourth day allows for a very important rest period for those advancing to the final day’s competition. For those who do not qualify, there is an additional (unrelated to the Final) grand prix class offered on this day.

Day 5, Competition 3: Clear Rounds Rewarded — Sunday, April 15 — The third competition is all about endurance and consistency, consisting of two rounds over a Grand Prix course, 1.50m-1.60m in height. The top 30 after the second competition contest the first round; the top 20 after round one move on to the final round, in addition to any combination that jumps the first round cleanly but may fall outside the top 20 standings. They will jump the final round in reverse order of standing. Last year, Ward and HH Azur landed off the last fence having not touched a pole throughout the entirety of the competition—an incredible feat, having led wire to wire.

The Winner Is…

The winner of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final is the rider who finishes the competition with the fewest number of penalties. It sounds simple enough, but the scoring system is actually a bit more complicated than your average grand prix class.

It starts in the first round, where it’s all about points. The winner of the first competition receives one point more than the number of starters. The runner-up receives two points less than the winner, the third-placed pair receives three points less, and so on. Points won by riders that are tied are averaged, with fractions 0.5 or greater rounded up. Fractions less than 0.5 are rounded down.

After the second competition, the points are converted into penalties. The rider with the most points gets a blank slate with a score of 0. The other riders’ scores are calculated by multiplying a half point by the difference between their number of points and the leading rider’s points.

{If you like numbers like me, it looks simpler in equation form: 0.5 x (Leading Rider’s Number of Points — Rider’s Number of Points) Don’t forget PEMDAS!} From there, faults are accumulated as they would in a typical grand prix competition.

The Venue

The 2018 Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final (and the FEI World Cup Dressage Final) will take place at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris, Franc. Fun Fact: Justin Timberlake will be performing here in June, so you can imagine the transformation that will take place in this spectacular venue. You can buy tickets at this link.

You Should Watch!

It will be hard to top Ward’s thrilling win—his first in the competition—last year in Omaha for his home nation, but there are so many thrilling story lines this year. Ward could repeat, or Steve Guerdat could reclaim glory after winning in consecutive years, from 2015-2016. Madden has been unbeatable as of late, including topping the Great American $1 Million Grand Prix in Ocala, FL. It will truly be a meeting of the very best of the very best. If you can’t be there in person, don’t miss a minute of it on!

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