Now in its second year, the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League is in full swing. This elite jumping series includes 14 venues in three countries—the United States, Mexico and Canada. It is among 16 other leagues taking part in the highly successful and global Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping series which has been in existence since the late ’70s. The League’s format counts the top four scores out of a possible seven results to qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Omaha, Nebraska, March 29–April 2, 2017.
With 10 events already completed in the prestigious 14-show series, there are only four competitions left for athletes to earn valuable points toward qualifying for the Final.
1. Kent Farrington - 72
2. Audrey Coulter - 45
3. Mclain Ward - 44
4. Laura Kraut - 37
5. Lauren Tisbo – 36
6. Georgina Bloomberg - 34
7. Jonathan McCrea - 33
8. Charlie Jacobs – 32
9. Jack Towell - 31
10. Keean White- 28
Kent Farrington, the world number-4 ranked rider, has a sizeable lead on the rest of the athletes in the Eastern League, with 72 points, which puts him nearly 30 points ahead. Kent kicked off his 2016 League season with a win in New York aboard Gazelle, a 10-year-old mare as fleet as her namesake. After winning the New York qualifier, Kent said, “I’d like to go [to the Final] if I feel like I have a horse who’s on form at that time. I’ve been to the Final a few times. I really only want to go if I think I’m going to be a contender."
His chestnut Dutch gelding, Creedance, has been to the lion’s share of the Longines FEI World Cup™Jumping North American League qualifiers, most recently finishing second in Toronto, after picking up points for a third-place finish in Washington and an 11th-place in Sacramento. Not to be outdone, 15-year-old Dutch gelding Voyeur, Kent’s Olympic partner (known around the barn as “Froggy”) earned victory in Lexington back in early November. The pair continues to be on fire this year after a successful Olympic trip to Rio as part of the silver-medal-winning U.S. show jumping also earned them a fifth-place individual finish.
Audrey Coulter has been rising steadily up the ranks since she was a Junior and she now sits in second place in the Eastern League standings with a sizeable 45 points. With her talented 11-year-old stallion Capital Colnardo, the pair won Sacramento, took seventh at Del Mar and finished 14th in Toronto. “He’s such a special horse,” said Audrey after her Sacramento victory. “He can jump anything. He gives me all the confidence in the world. We have been working on the speed a little bit because he wasn’t the fastest to begin with. He picks up on it quickly. This is our first major win and I am very happy.”
Not only is McLain Ward the third-placed rider on the Eastern League rankings, but he’s also the third-ranked rider in the world. This four-time Olympian has had a solid season in the League, consistently racking up points at qualifiers. McLain partnered with his Olympic mount, HH Azur, a 10-year-old mare, to win the Toronto qualifier for the second year in a row (McLain himself has won this class four years consecutively). It was a nail-biting five-rider jump-off, but McLain and the scopey mare had the only clear round, just edging out his friendly rival Kent Farrington, who took second with Creedance. “I love this venue,” said McLain after his victory. “I’ve been coming up here since I was 17,” said the New York State resident. “I love the fact that they’ve kept the first-class ambience here. It’s like you go back in time. It’s something we rarely see any more in the world.”
McLain and HH Azur have had a stellar season, representing the U.S. on the silver-medal team in Rio, as well as finishing ninth individually. “When you have a horse like Azur you just try and stay out of her way, and she’s normally giving a great performance,” said McLain. “Every once in a while, I don’t mess it up.” The pair also placed fifth in Lexington, and McLain earned even more points with another fifth-place in New York early in the season aboard HH Carlos Z.
1. Enrique Gonzalez - 42
2. Nayel Nassar - 41
3. Karl Cook - 38
4. Jenni McAllister - 36
5. Christopher Surbey - 33
6. Eduardo Menezes - 32
7. Eric Navet - 22
8. Nikolaj Hein Ruus - 17
8. Laura Jane Tidball - 17
10. Richard Fellers - 17
Recently, Mexican rider Enrique Gonzalez made a huge leap up the rankings to claim the top position in the Western Sub-League. Enrique has been quietly racking up points in that league's qualifiers, beginning with a few in Langley, British Columbia, in late August and his latest being a second-place finish in Las Vegas. He and his 9-year-old mare Chacna, looked primed to pick up another victory (after having won Del Mar last month), but they lost the jump-off by a heartbreaking 1/100th of a second. Even still, Enrique was grateful to have the precious qualifier points. “I think Chacna likes jumping indoors, and she’s definitely a contender for FEI World Cup™ Final,” he said after his win at Del Mar. The San Diego-based athlete has made it no secret that the Final is on his radar this spring.
The second-place rider, Nayel Nassar, also made a jump up the rankings after a sixth-place finish in Las Vegas with his stallion Lordan. The Egyptian athlete, based in California but who competes all across the country, has had a consistent season in the Longines FEI World Cup™Jumping North American League. He and Lordan also picked up an fourth-place finish in Del Mar, a sixth in New York and an 11th in Langley.
Nayel is a two-time veteran at the Finals (2013, 2014) and is hoping to make it to Omaha in the spring. He and Lordan are well on their way to qualifying—the 12-year-old stallion is jumping as well as ever, even after having a year off to recover from an injury. "It's amazing and it feels great to have him back," said Nayel this fall. "I think things happen for a reason. Lordan showed a lot as a 9 and 10 year old and he deserved a break. The break was longer than we may have wanted but it refreshed his mind and his body, and now he is jumping unbelievable, better than ever. We really took our time to rehab him and now it's paying off."
Karl Cook, currently third in the Western Sub-League rankings, was delighted to win Langley. The California native partnered with Tembla, a 12-year-old Zangersheide mare, to earn top honors. Seven nations were represented and 26 starters in the qualifier at Thunderbird Horse Park, but ultimately Karl’s quick, clean round topped the field in the six-horse jump-off, despite the rainy conditions.
Qualifying for the Final in the spring has been a goal for Karl this year. “When you’re trying to qualify for the FEI World Cup™ Final and you start with a win, it obviously builds your confidence a great deal.” He and Tembla also competed at Del Mar and Sacramento (finishing fifth and 13th, respectively). With only two more Western League events left for athletes to qualify for three slots, riders are gearing up for a last-minute scramble for points.
At season’s end for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League, seven U.S. athletes from the Eastern Sub-League, three U.S. athletes from the Western Sub-League and the two best-placed athletes from Canada and Mexico will qualify for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final.
For more information on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping North American League, including dates, show highlights, behind-the-scenes interviews, photo galleries and videos, check out Practical Horseman's NAL page.