Andy Kocher & Navalo de Poheton. ph. FEI/Nick Souza
On Saturday, October 22, 2017, USA’s Andy Kocher secured his first ever victory in a World Cup qualifying event. The day was filled with many firsts for the American rider and the 16-year-old Selle Francais gelding Navalo de Poheton (Cumano x Double Espoir), contestants in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar CSI5*-W at the Del Mar International Horse Show in California, USA.
Last to go in an eight-horse jump-off, Kocher and Navalo de Poheton put up an unbeatable time of 37.45s, ending the day atop the podium with qualifying points towards the 2018 World Cup Final in Paris and the lump sum of the six-figured purse.
“I looked up at the board and thought I was going to be 2nd, and I would have been very happy to be 2nd,” Kocher said. “Believe me, I would have been thrilled! But it was me this time! I was 1st! So, it was fun today.”
In a class where a tight time allowed proved problematic for riders in the first round, Kocher got inventive with his often-strong mount. He took three inside turns, two that no other rider attempted, in order to add strides down some of the lines and still make the time.
“I’ve lost, I don’t know how many classes going too fast, so I thought, ‘I’m going to take it easy [over fences] one, two, three, and four [in the jump-off]. I mean, I didn’t go slow, but I didn’t let him out. The brakes were really hot coming back on the double [down the last line], and he starting going left, right, and adding strides. I just wanted to get over [the first element], and once I made it, out I thought I’d be home.”
“We had a really good time here [at Del Mar]. The jumps were nice, the footing was nice, and it was a really good course. Thanks to Longines and West Palms Events for having the show. I’m happy now, because I had a good day, but the whole show was nice.”
For the first time, Kocher has now pushed into lead position of the standings in the east coast sub league of the North American League.
“There was a really good rider named Terry Rudd, and she had a horse named PS Gazpacho, and my dad always talks about it,” commented Kocher. “Last week, he said, ‘I think you should ride Navalo de Poheton like she used to ride that horse. Go any possible inside turn around the course that you can, so you can keep the horse on a slow, short stride and kind of keep him in check.’
“Today, I made two kind of ridiculous inside turns and kind of shocked him, and it worked. So, I took that theory from my dad and a little history from Terry Rudd.”
France’s Eric Navet and the ten-year-old Hanoverian gelding Catypso (Catoki x Calypso II) secured the runner up position with a trailing time of 37.56s.
“When we have Andy behind, we’re never sure we can win. He’s such a fast rider, and he’s very confident,” said Navet. “I knew I had a big chance to be beaten, and that’s what happened. He beat me by just a little bit. That was so close. That means that my horse is getting faster and improving in that area. He’s not very fast by nature. I’m very proud to have a time that close to Andy.”
Closing out the podium in 3rd place, Canada’s Chris Pratt and the ten-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Concorde (Vaillant x Concorde) finished in 3rd on a time of 37.75s.
“I was really happy. My horse jumped great today, and it was a good course. I spent a lot of time in Europe with the horse over the summer and got some good experience,” said Pratt. “He’s getting quite comfortable jumping at this height and at this level now. In a class like today, sometimes you win, and sometimes you’re 3rd. It was so close in the jump-off, and I was happy with how the result came out.”
Kocher, an east coast rider, has competed on both coasts through the first five North American League events and plans to make several other cross-country journeys in the coming weeks.
“We’re going to Calgary (CAN), Lexington (USA), Toronto (USA), Las Vegas (USA), and then I think we’ll come back for one of the weeks of Thermal (USA). I might hit that show in Mexico [at Guadalajara]. We’re going to do a little more out here [on the west coast].”
The North American League continues with two events on Saturday 28 October 2017 in Calgary on the west coast and Washington, D.C. on the east coast.
The full results can be viewed here.