World No. 1 rider Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) said since he was young and attended several FEI Jumping World Cup™ Finals in Gothenburg, Sweden, he’s dreamed of having his name on the competition’s trophy. Last December, his team decided they wanted to try to win the 2023 edition.
And win they did.
“Even if it’s a fantastic horse, we all know it’s horses, and it’s very easy that it doesn’t go your way. So, it makes it even more special now that we had the goal, and we made it,” Eckermann said.
The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final is part of the 2023 FEI World Cup™ Finals, which has been at the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska, April 4-8. The Finals included the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final. The Burlington Capital FEI Vaulting World Cup™ Final is being held in North America.
Following von Eckermann, Harrie Smolders (NED) and Monaco N.O.P. climbed their way from their seventh-place spot going into Saturday’s Final III to finish in second place overall. And Hunter Holloway (USA) and her Pepita Con Spita moved up from fifth place going into Final III to finish in third place overall.
The three-leg jumping final is a cumulative effort. Final III consisted of two rounds. The top 30 riders from Final II on Thursday night returned to ride Final III, Round 1. Then the top 20 riders came back for Round 2. Riders carried penalty points accumulated from Final I and Final II into Round III. In both rounds, a rail down added four points to a rider’s score.
Each of course designer Bernardo Costa Cabral’s two rounds in Final III consisted of 15 jumping efforts and 12 numbered obstacles.
Cabral said he was happy with the result of his courses throughout the week. The various courses had elements of asking the horses to go forward and collect. “If I just make them go a little shorter, a little long, just that variation in rhythm creates problems to the rider, but not to the horse,” Cabral said. “They can have four faults or eight faults and still feel great and fresh afterward and positive.”
Only Denis Lynch (IRL) and Brooklyn Heights, a 14-year-old BWP gelding, jumped clean in both rounds. This allowed them to move up from 19th before Round 1 to wind up in seventh overall.
The overnight leaders, Pius Schwizer (SUI) and Andreas Schou (Den), each fell from the top of the leaderboard. Schou and Darc de Lux, a 12-year-old Holsteiner stallion, had three rails down in Round 1. They went clean in Round 2 to finish in fifth. Schwizer and Vancouver de Lanlore, a 14-year-old Selle Français stallion, had one rail down in Round 1 and two rails down in Round II. The effort put them into sixth. Yuri Mansur (BRA) and Vitki, a 15-year-old Hanoverian stallion, ended the competition in fourth place. He had two rails down in Round 1 and went clean in Round 2.
Von Eckermann and King Edward
With von Eckermann’s World Cup win, he cemented his spot as the World No. 1 rider in the Longines FEI Ranking. Throughout the three legs of the World Cup Final competition, he and King Edward, a 13-year-old BWP gelding, persevered. They won the first leg of the Final on Wednesday night. Then in Final II, they had one rail. So they entered Saturday night’s Final III in third place. In first round of Final III, they had a rail. Then in Round 2, they jumped clean to finish with an overall score of five penalty points.
“He was fresh, and he was really jumping good. I jumped very little on the warm-up because he felt amazing,” Eckermann said about how King Edward felt before Round 1. “Then in the first round, I came in probably a little bit too far off the oxer [to the triple combination], protecting him a little bit too much from the front bar. So, I got far in, and then he has 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,” Eckermann continued. “With that rail, I was of course a little bit, ‘Oh, this was maybe the chance that I had, and it’s gone.’ But then how it went on, kept on going, the chance kept on being there. And then in the second round, I jumped three jumps on the warm-up because he felt better than ever.”
Smolders and Monaco N.O.P.
Going into Round 2, von Eckermann had been tied with Harrie Smolders (NED) and Monaco N.O.P., a 14-year-old Holsteiner gelding. Smolders entered Round 1 in seventh place and rode a clear round. For Round 2, he had one rail down, which gave him a score of nine penalty points.
“I’ve had him since he was 7 years old, and he’s 14 now. He’s a truly amazing horse,” Smolders said. “Also I think if you see statistics, the consistency from him is amazing in the last few years. It feels like he’s still getting better and improving. And even at this age, I think today he was probably jumped the best ever.
“I would’ve loved to go in the jump off because Monaco was—I think also people that saw him this morning at the vet check—he felt still amazing in his energy level and focus,” Smolders continued. “And this was probably a day that I could compete against King Edward. But we don’t need to be ashamed to be second and to have such a champion in front of us.”
Holloway and Pepita Con Spita
Hunter Holloway and Pepita Con Spita also moved their way up the leaderboard throughout the week. They entered Final III, Round 1 tied for fifth. In the first round, she had two rails down, which dropped her to sixth.
It was her second World Cup Final and her first trip to the podium with the 12-year-old Westphalian mare. Her first World Cup was last year in Leipzig, Germany.
“After we got the first one under our belt, she felt super and felt like I knew she could do it, and I could do it,” Holloway said. “So, I was just really excited to come back and attack it again on home soil.”
Holloway also appreciated being a Midwest favorite. “I appreciate it and I love it. I’m from Kansas, which is only about two hours away from here, so I get a lot of that home support and a lot of that family support. And everyone here really makes you feel like family.”
U.S. Team Coach Robert Ridland said that Saturday morning, he wouldn’t have anticipated a U.S. rider on the podium. “So, it was pretty exciting. Hunter just rode lights out all week long,” he added. “This wasn’t just today, these two rounds. It was all four of the rounds. She was amazing. She was focused. I think the experience that she got last year in the World Cup Final helped her a lot. And so, it’s pretty darn exciting to be on the podium and to have somebody from the Midwest on the podium right here in Omaha.”
For complete results, click here.
The Competition Concludes
To read about the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final II, click here, the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final I, click here. And the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ warm-up, click here. For the First Horse Inspection, click here.
Thanks to ADM Animal Nutrition for our coverage of the 2023 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final, including rider interviews, competition reports, photos, videos and more!