With the kick-off of the Western European league World Cup season for 2012/2013 right around the corner, WoSJ takes a look at some historic winners, last year's season and what it will take to win the prestigious final in Gothenburg next year.
Historic World Cup-winners
The first winner of the World Cup Jumping title was Austria's Hugo Simon on the legendary Gladstone (by Goetz), who in 1979 won the trophy in Gothenburg. Seventeen years later in Geneva Simon would yet again take the title home – this time on another legend of a horse; the special chestnut gelding E.T. FRH (by Espri). The following year – 1997 – Hugo Simon was back in Gothenburg to claim the title again. These three wins have made Hugo Simon historical; he is one of four riders who have recorded a hat-trick of victories.
One of the other hat-trick riders is Rodrigo Pessoa, who at only 25 years old won his first World Cup Jumping title in Helsinki in 1998 on one of the greatest horses of our time; Baloubet du Rouet (by Galoubet). As the only pair in history, Pessoa and his chestnut stallion came back the two following years to take the title home to Brazil three years in a row; in 1999 they won in Gothenburg and in 2000 they were victorious in Las Vegas. Before Rodrigo reached thirty he had achieved things other riders could only dream about.
In 2003 Marcus Ehning started his climb into the history books. Aboard the Oldenburger mare Anka (by Argentinus) the German rider took his first World Cup Jumping title in Las Vegas. In 2006 Marcus was back; this time he won the prestigious title on the wonderful stallion Sandro Boy (by Sandro) – who was officially retired during the final in Leipzig last year – in exotic Kuala Lumpur. In 2010 it was Noltes Küchengirl (by Lord Z) and Plot Blue (by Mr. Blue) that brought the honors home for Marcus; during an exciting final in Geneva Ehning bounced back on the last day to take his third title – each title came on different horses unlike the other four hat-trick riders.
Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum – the only woman in this historical foursome – took her first World Cup Jumping title in Las Vegas in 2005 on the legend Shutterfly (by Silvio I). In 2008 and 2009 Meredith was yet again unbeatable; Shutterfly was her partner on both occasions in Gothenburg and Las Vegas – at the latter event the gelding was the only horse left with a clean sheet after all rounds were ridden. No wonder this horse was thanked off with a wheelbarrow of carrots, tears and standing ovation in Aachen this summer – he has truly been the horse of a lifetime for Meredith, helping her to become one of the four famous hat-trick winners.
Two double winners of the World Cup Jumping title cannot be forgot in this context. The lovely white gelding Milton (by Marius) will forever be burned into many minds and hearts after jumping to victory with John Whitaker in 1990 and 1991 – in Dortmund and Gothenburg respectively. Milton became one of those true legends – posted on the wall in every little showjumping fan's bedroom – and still is twelve years after he took his last breath. Big Ben (by Etretat), the chestnut gelding ridden by Canada's legendary Ian Millar, was also one of the biggest stars of his time and won the title twice; in 1988 in Gothenburg and in 1989 in Tampa. Big Ben stepped out of time the same year as Milton, but no doubt is very alive in many hearts after his great achievements.
League winners with an impressive record
Three riders have managed to take home the overall win in the Western European league three times; John Whitaker was league winner in 1982/83, 1988/89 and 1989/90. Nick Skelton did the same in 1983/84, 1985/86 and later in 2004/05. Ludger Beerbaum has also claimed the top spot as league winner three times; in 1991/92, 1994/95 and 1997/98. Kevin Staut won the 2010/2011 and the 2011/2012 league; will he join Whitaker, Skelton and Beerbaum by another league win this season?
The title sponsor Rolex
In 2007 Rolex became the title sponsor of the Western European league as well as the final, and the leading Swiss watchmaker still is. Two of the hat-trick winners have also become Rolex Testimonees; Rodrigo Pessoa and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum.
Last year's season
Last year's Rolex FEI World Cup season was no exception to the previous ones; exciting to the last jump in the last qualifier in Gothenburg! For a second year in a row Kevin Staut was the overall winner of the Western European league with his 88 points collected on Zeta de Hus, Silvana HDC and Le Prestige St Lois* De Hus – whereas 20 of these came from his home-win on Silvana in Bordeaux.
With a copy-paste opening of the World Cup season the three last years, there must be such a thing as the Oslo-Helsinki-spell! In 2009 Daniel Etter and Peu a Peu (by Polydor) won the two first qualifiers in Oslo and Helsinki for Switzerland, then Christian Ahlmann repeated this feat on the fabulous stallion Taloubet Z (by Galoubet) in 2010 – before Pius Schwizer managed to do exactly the same last year on Carlina (by Carvallo). Will the winner in Oslo take a double this year as well, or will the spell be broken?
In 2011 Oslo/Helsinki-winner Ahlmann ended on top of the podium in the final, while Schwizer ended third in the 2012 final – so the question is if the first two legs can give some predicament for those who end in the top three in Gothenburg this year?
There were some great wins last year; with Marco Kutscher joining Pius on taking two qualifiers. The first came in Zürich on Cornet Obolensky (by Clinton), and the second on Gothenburg a month later on Satisfaction FRH (by Stakkato). Like Staut, Ludger Beerbaum, Ben Maher and Christian Ahlmann all managed to pull off wins on home soil. Beerbaum won the Stuttgart-qualifier, Maher the London-qualifier while Ahlmann won the Leipzig-qualifier. The latter was joined by no less than two other Germans on the podium; the only one nation-top three of the season.
The 2012 final in Den Bosch was amazing; ending in a head-to-head jump-off between the experienced couple of Rich – aka Silverfox – Fellers on his 16 year old partner Flexible (by Cruising), who Feller's considers a pet, and the younger Steve Guerdat on Nino des Buissonetts (by Kannan). With the tiny margin of 0.64 seconds it was an emotional win for Fellers and Flexible – and it felt as it was one of the most deserved wins in a final for a long time for this long-time sympathetic couple.
Who will be crowned World Cup champion next year? Twelve spectacular qualifiers wait over the next six months before the best of the best will compete at the final in Gothenburg in the end of April. There they will fight it out for a place in the history books and World Cup glory.
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