Talk about good timing! The new Longines world show jumping rankings just came out this week, and guess who's number one? Longines FEI World Cup Show Jumping defending champion Daniel Deussser of Germany.
That sets up a compelling scenario: World's leading show jumper seeks to keep his Cup crown.
In the interests of full disclosure, I have to reveal that the monthly rankings are calculated through April 1. Which means that the former world number one, Olympic team gold medalist Scott Brash of Great Britain, didn't get credit on this go-round for winning both the American Invitational and the featured grand prix last weekend at the Global Champions Tour's new stop in Miami Beach.
The next ranking won't be revealed for nearly a month and who knows? Maybe by then, Daniel will be Cup champ for a second time on the appealing gray, Cornet d'Amour, and it won't be a slam dunk for Scott -- who is not riding in the finals -- to earn back his number one ranking .
At any rate, Daniel is far from the only one with a big shot at taking the top prize in the Thomas & Mack Center. Let's consider some of the possibilities who would make an interesting story if they wind up on top.
Todd Minikus won the North American East Coast League on Babalou. As you probably know, Todd is a take-no-prisoners type of rider and with the first phase being all about speed, determination is well-served. Riders realize that a good placing in the speed phase is key if they're going to have their photo taken four days later holding the Cup aloft.
The sentimental favorite has to be the oldest horse in the field, Flexible, the mount Rich Fellers rode to the title in 2012. Rich was the first American to win the prize since 1987, which made him a hero. Now he's back for a second shot on his 19-year-old partner. Can Flexible, at his advanced age, handle the rigors of the Cup challenge? He's been counted out before for one ailment or another, but he's always come back. Flexible is one game stallion.
Another 19-year-old also is in contention, but this one is a human. He's Bertram Allen of Ireland, who would share the honor of being the youngest ever to take the title if he won. Mario Deslauriers (then of Canada, now a U.S. citizen) was 19 when he won in 1984. Speaking of speed, he won the first leg at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games last year with Molly Malone--can you think of a better name for an Irish mare?
We should mention that Jos Verlooy of Belgium also is 19, but he doesn't yet have the starpower of the Irishman.
McLain Ward, second in the 2009 finals with a wonderful ride on Sapphire (Germany's Meredith Michaels Beerbaum was just a little more wonderful on Shutterfly to win that year) is looking for his first victory after 15 tries. He and Rothchild, who share a guts-and-glory approach, will be strong contenders.
Then there's Germany's Marcus Ehning. He has won three times (including 2003 in Las Vegas) and is in line to be the first ever competitor to four-peat (I'm coining a new expression here.)
Okay, time to consider some favorites. The USA's Beezie Madden will be looking to duplicate her 2013 victory with Simon and Olympic individual gold medalist Steve Guerdat of Switzerland knows how to win.
If you're figuring the odds, don't overlook the well-mounted Qataris. Bassem Hassan Mohammed and Sheikh Ali Bin Khalid Al Thani each finished second this month in the two major competitions at the Longines Global Champions Tour stop in Miami Beach.
If past Cups are any predictors, the tests designed by Anthony D'Ambrosio to determine the winner will prove to be a challenge as exciting for the fans as it is for the riders.