by Louise Parkes
The numbers are in as the definite entries for the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2019 were confirmed earlier this week, with 35 athletes from 18 countries set to line out when the edge-of-the-seat action gets underway at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg (SWE) on 3 April. And while American superstar, Beezie Madden, returns to defend the title she claimed for the second time in her stellar career 12 months ago, she will face a mighty battle to hold on-form contenders from all around the globe at bay as she chases down her hat-trick.
This is the 41st finale to the prestigious series that began way back in 1978. Austria’s Hugo Simon and the brilliant Gladstone were the first champions when the inaugural Final was staged in Gothenburg a year later, and in 2019 the title-decider returns to the Swedish city for 15th time.
As always it’s like something of a homecoming, and if there’s one man who would dearly love to become the very first Swedish winner it is world No. 12, Henrik von Eckermann, because he finished third with the brilliant Toveks Mary Lou in both 2017 and 2018 and right now the two of them are on fire.
The formidable partnership played a key role in Sweden’s team silver success at the FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2018 in Tryon (USA) and have maintained form ever since. However they’ll have to be at the very top of their game if they want to see off the challenge thrown down by the world individual silver and bronze medallists, Martin Fuchs and Steve Guerdat from Switzerland.
Fuchs’ performance with Clooney in Tryon was inspirational, and the grey wonder-horse showed just how tough he is when still fresh and strong on the final day.
As for Guerdat, he is a past-master of pressure riding as he has demonstrated on so many occasions. He already has two Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ titles with two different horses under his belt, and he posted the second of those two victories in the Scandinavium Arena three years ago. He’s completely at home in a pressure-cooker environment, and that’s exactly how it’s going to feel when he rides into the ring with Albfuehren’s Bianca, who finished eighth at the Omaha (USA) Final in 2017 and 10th in Paris (FRA) last time around.
There are other former champions also taking another crack at the title this year, and perhaps the most remarkable of all these is Ludger Beerbaum who provided the first-ever German victory with the legendary Ratina Z in Gothenburg in 1993. The German challenge is intimidating, with 2014 champion Daniel Deusser and 2011 winner Christian Ahlmann both armed with great horses after enjoying an impressive qualifying season. They finished first and second on the super-competitive Western European League table, with three wins boosting Deusser to pole position ahead of his compatriot who will be showing off his fabulous young stallion, Clintrexo Z.
Only five female athletes have taken the title in the 40-year history of the series that every rider wants to win, and they all have American roots. There will be eight lady riders competing this time around, but Madden has to be firm favourite, especially since the first of her two previous wins was recorded in the Scandinavium Arena.
The countries that will be represented at this year’s Final are Austria, Belgium, Brazil, Chile, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Italy, Japan, Poland, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, United Arab Emirates and USA. And each and every athlete will be hoping to realise the dream of holding the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ trophy in their hands as they take the top step of the podium on the final afternoon on 7 April.
Don’t miss a hoofbeat….
Confirmed entries list here