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Beezie and Breitling are unbeatable in Paris to become World Cup Champions

Sunday, 15 April 2018
Longines FEI World Cup Final Paris 2018

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Beezie Madden and Breitling LS celebrating in Paris. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

In a Longines FEI World Cup Final that went straight down the wire, Beezie Madden kept her cool with the 12-year-old stallion Breitling LS to be crowned champion after three days of magnificent performances. This was the second World Cup-title for the 54-year-old American rider, who also won in Gothenburg in 2013 aboard Simon.

The first of the two rounds at Sunday’s concluding part of the Longines FEI World Cup Final was as tough as could be expected. Santiago Varela had not build the longest course, but the twelve fences were job enough counting a combination at 6ab with a plank coming in over an upright and a long stride out over a wide oxer as well as a triple combination as the penultimate challenge at 11abc where most of the riders chose to come in on six strides that rode a bit long to an oxer with two strides to a vertical and then one stride out over an oxer. Again and again, the back pole on the a-element fell to the ground as did the middle upright as the riders struggled to give the horses the balance and breath they needed to clear it. The short time allowed forced the riders to continue forwards the whole way around the track, and those who took a check or added strides were usually punished in form of a time penalty.

The first two clears came from Switzerland, courtesy of Paul Estermann on Lord Pepsi (Böckmann's Lord Pezi x Santander H) and Steve Guerdat on Bianca (Balou du Rouet x Cardento) followed by Michael Whitaker (GBR) who chose seven strides into the triple combination on JB’s Hot Stuff (Locarno x Cavalier Royale) causing them to notch up a time fault. One rider later, Daniel Deusser (GER) and Cornet d’Amour (Cornet Obolensky x Damiani) bounced back after Friday’s disappointing round to jump clear as did home hero Roger-Yves Bost on Sangria du Coty (Quaprice Boimargot Quincy x Muguet du Manoir) and Eduardo Alvarez Aznar (ESP) on Rokfeller de Pleville Bois Margot (L'Arc de Triomphe x Apache d'Adriers). Like Whitaker, Alison Robitaille (USA) got punished with a time penalty on the lovely Ace (Berlin x Irco Polo) when making one check too many around the track. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Devin Ryan with Eddie Blue finished second overall. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Having moved in to the best ten of the riders, Pieter Devos (BEL) – sitting 9th ahead of Sunday – again jumped a clear round on Espoir (Surcouf de Revel x Laudanum XX) moving his way upwards to rank four as Harrie Smolders (NED) took down two poles towards the end of the course, Carlos Lopez (COL) fell victim to the upright at nine, Olivier Philippaerts (BEL) to the a-element of the triple combination and reigning champion McLain Ward (USA) had to see the back pole on the oxer at eight fall to the ground. Also Douglas Lindelow (SWE), who was sitting equal 4th on eight faults with Philippaerts and Ward ahead of today’s rounds, had to add four penalties to his overall score – slipping in behind Devos with a total of 12 penalties.

As third last to go Devin Ryan (USA) and the lovely 9-year-old Eddie Blue (VDL Zirocco Blue x Marlon) impressed again, jumping a clear round to stay on their score of six penalties and with only two riders to go the pressure was on. Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) stayed cool however, and delivered another clear performance on Toveks Mary Lou (Montendro x Portland L) who jumped her heart out for the Swede. The two could leave the ring on their previous score of four, still giving overnight leader Beezie Madden (USA) a good breath in the neck with only a rail separating them. But, the queen of jumping showed no sign of cracking under pressure and delivered yet another clear on Breitling LS (Quintero x Acord II) to stick to the top of the overall standing ahead of the second round.

With the top three unchanged ahead of round two, and only six penalties separating Madden and Ryan, followed by Devos on an overall score of eleven penalties and then Lindelow, Ward, Philippaerts, Aznar and Bost on twelve it was all set for a thrilling second round. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Just like last year, Henrik von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou ended third. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Varela did not give the riders an easy task the second time around either, asking for balance, flexibility, focus and rhythm the whole way around the thirteen-fence course. Mistakes were repeatedly made on the upright at fence eight with colourful poles and a water tray beneath placed on the short side by the in-gate, and from there some horses dragged themselves a bit deep into the next jump – the oxer coming into the combination at fence nine – which fell more than once.

Eventually it was all about the top three, after Lopez added two time faults to his score finishing on sixteen penalties overall – the same as Aznar. Philippaerts and Ward who all had a pole down in round two. Unfortunately for Devos, he could not keep his pressure on the top three either as two poles fell on his way – first in the triple combination and then on the penultimate oxer.

When Devin Ryan entered the ring, it fell silent. Could this relatively new face on the international jumping scene deliver another clear round? The American rider and his lovely grey gelding got off to a good start, before Eddie Blue suddenly gave the oxer at five a loud clack but it only seemed to sharpen the two who manage to cross the finish line on a clean sheet – keeping their overall score of six penalties, delivering a career-best as well as one of the only two double clears of the class. 

Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.
Beezie Madden and Breitling LS en route to victory. Photo (c) Jenny Abrahamsson.

Now, the heat was on – Von Eckermann had no room for error and if Madden, in all unlikeliness, would have two rails down then Ryan would claim the title. Setting off on Mary Lou, Von Eckermann had early disappointment when the vertical at no. two fell to the ground dropping him behind Ryan with most of the track remaining. But, the Swedish rider managed to leave the rest of the fences intact to slot into the third position on the podium before Madden entered the ring.

One could hear a pin drop in the AccorHotels Arena as Madden set off. Seemingly calm and collected, the American rider continued her brilliant riding but then suddenly the b-element of the triple combination fell to the ground and a gasp went to the crowds – if veteran Madden would have one more down she would drop on the standings and hand the title over to newcomer Ryan. Madden however has been in many pressurized situations before, and kept everything together for the remains parts of the course. When she cleared the final plank, the crowds exploded in appreciation for the American rider who over the four rounds of competition has illustrated that she undisputedly deserved a second World Cup-title.


Text and pictures © World of Showjumping

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