As the World Cup season for 2011/2012 in the Western European league kicks off next week, WoSJ takes a look at previous winners, last year’s season and what it will take to win the final. 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 the Scandinavium Arena 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 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.
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.
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.
2010 and 2011 saw a very exciting Rolex FEI World Cup season, not to forget the thrilling final in Leipzig. Kevin Staut was the overall winner of the league with his 96 points. Kevin took points in eight of the twelve qualifiers he rode, and aboard Silvana de Hus (by Corland) Kevin won the qualifier in Geneva in December, as well as being second in Vigo in February. After winning the two first legs in Oslo and Helsinki – just like Daniel Etter did for Switzerland in 2009 – Ahlmann and his fabulous stallion Taloubet Z (by Galoubet) also looked like strong cards for the final. As did Jeroen Dubbeldam and BMC Van Grunsven Simon (by Mr. Blue) who won in Verona and almost repeated their winning formula in Den Bosch – they were just 0.30 seconds away from a second Rolex when Denis Lynch took home his first ever Rolex FEI World Cup qualifier. It was maybe one of the most exciting qualifiers last season; a race to the bitter end with Jeroen going in as last to go.
The final in Leipzig was just as spellbinding as it should be. On the last day it was home crowd favorite – and one of the most consistent horse/rider combinations throughout the season – that took home the Rolex FEI World Cup Jumping title; Taloubet Z with Christian Ahlmann proved to be the best of the best. Superstar Hickstead (by Hamlet) and Canada’s Eric Lamaze were runner-ups in the final that yet again proved that nothing is certain in showjumping until the last fence is jumped – leading rider before the last of Sunday’s two final rounds Marco Kutscher had three poles down on Cash (by Carthago) and had to wave farewell to a place on the podium. Instead Jeroen Dubbeldam and BMC Van Grunsven Simon stepped it up and rode two impeccable clear rounds to become third.
Who will it be this year? Thirteen qualifiers wait over the next five months. The eighteen best riders from the league will according to the rules proceed to the final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in April where they will fight it out for a place in the history books.
Click here for the FEI World Cup Jumping rules.
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