Sweden’s von Eckermann and the King do it all over again

Media updates
20 April 2024 Author: Louise Parkes

For the second year in a row Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and the extraordinary King Edward reigned supreme at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia tonight.

In Wednesday’s opening competition they threw down the gauntlet when taking the early lead, and then they left the rest in their wake once again with a brilliant jump-off performance in Thursday’s second competition.

Tonight however it turned into a whole different contest. A fall in the warm-up before going into the first round of the finale would have rattled any rider’s confidence, even one seated on a mighty steed that has carried them to Olympic and World Championship glory.

But the 42-year-old athlete held his nerve, reassured his brave chestnut gelding and climbed back into the saddle to clinch it with two more unforgettable performances. 

Compatriot Peder Fredricson was lying second as today’s action began, but a single mistake with Catch Me Not S allowed Frenchman Julien Epaillard and Dubai du Cedre to overtake him. Two superb final-day courses from Frank Rothenberger ensured the steps on the podium would only go to the very best of the best.

First course

Just seven of the 27 starters jumped clear over the first course, with the time-allowed proving difficult for many to get and the triple combination at fence four particularly influential. Fredricson’s mistake came at the following oxer and he jumped the rest of the course with a broken martingale. That dropped him to level-pegging along with America’s Kent Farrington and Greya, with Germany’s Hans-Dieter Dreher (Elysium), Britain’s Ben Maher (Dallas Vegas Batilly) and Belgium’s Gregory Wathelet (Ace of Hearts) stacking up behind them.

Epaillard’s clear moved him up to second, and although Fredricson returned to produce a peach of a ride on his 18-year-old grey Catch Me Not S in round two during which Farrington faulted, it just wouldn’t be enough to retrieve second position because Epaillard was fault-free once again so he would have to settle for third at the end of the night.

As von Eckermann returned to the ring for the second time it was all hanging in the balance. One fence down and he’d be facing a jump-off against the Frenchman whose reputation for speed riding is second-to-none. Any more than that and the game was up. But he withstood the pressure.

King Edward was tense over the oxer at fence two but von Eckermann supported him every inch of the way and as they crossed the line to finish on a zero scoreline after five rounds and three tough days of jumping the Swedish rider dropped the reins and raised his arms in celebration. They had done it again, and the crowd went wild.

Two times winning 

“It’s something I could never have dreamed of when I was younger that I would be here two times winning!”, said the exhausted Swede afterwards. 

He explained how he managed to pull off yet another title victory after the upset of his fall.   

“It doesn’t help to get nervous or stressed, because the horse feels everything and King Edward is anyway a very, very sensitive horse so for him when that happened I just said don’t worry, let’s stay calm and don’t let him feel that everything is a little not like it should be!”, he explained. 

“It went well and we’ve been together so long and know each other so well that I had the biggest confidence in him, and that helped to have that feeling that, even with this mistake, what happened happened and that it was still zero on the scoreboard and that’s what counts! So I just focused on that”, he added.

He reckoned his strong ride to the final fence to win Thursday’s class may have explained King Edward’s stop in the warm-up ring that dislodged him from the saddle today.

“In the end to the last fence (on Thursday) maybe I exaggerated a little bit, but I was so fed up being second at other shows, I did three 5-Stars and he was second in every one of them. I always had the feeling I was a little bit on the safe side at the last (fence at those shows) and I was second. I didn’t want to be second again, but in the end it was a little bit too much and then I paid the price of that today”, he said.

Nonetheless his bold, brave superstar horse didn’t let him down when it really mattered.

Amazing final

Runner-up Epaillard was really pleased with the performance of his 11-year-old mare but felt he could have done better. “It was totally my fault, I didn’t start good and on Thursday we had a little fault in the jump-off but today she did an amazing final!”, he said. “We came here with the idea of doing another Championship with her before the Olympics to see what we have to work on, and I think I can have a nice programme for the Olympics now”. 

He explained that managing Dubai du Cedre’s enthusiasm is his biggest challenge. “She has a lot of energy….I try to get her to use this energy with me, not to be not with me, and I think now she is more quiet now and she understands better when to use that energy. It has been a lot of work, but with horses like this it’s finally easy to find a way”, he added, knowing that he has more than proven their worth as a partnership. 

Fredricson was also delighted with Catch Me Not S whose second round today was one of the very best exhibitions of jumping, and horsemanship, throughout the entire week.

He treasures the gelding he knows so well. “To have a horse like that gives you everything, he’s very special”, he said.

He was delighted for von Eckermann doing the double. “I’m really proud of Henrik, he’s such a fighter and he’s been jumping really well the whole weekend. Wherever you go when you have Henrik and King Edward with you it’s like you have extra power! I’m really happy for his win, he really deserves it!”, he said.

The new double-champion meanwhile said he was exhausted after the drama of the day, but the joy on his face as he held the trophy aloft for the second time in a row was undeniable. He came, he saw and with the help of the wonder-horse that is King Edward he conquered once again at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2024.

Final Standings