Whoa; it has been wonderful yet weird not to be both taking photos and writing from the show! Used to how I roll at Spruce, it has been amazing to team-up with Amy for coverage… it is going to be hard to go back. With that said though, I figured that since she covered Friday’s dressage all alone while I explored Vegas a little, I could pull-up my socks and write the jumping recap for the day.
Whittled down to 35 starters after a few victims were claimed during the speed round on Thursday, the combinations at the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2015 Final were truly put to the test over a very technically challenging course. For someone who is used to the expanse of the International Ring at Spruce Meadows, the tiny little indoor at the Thomas and Mack is still blowing my mind. Is is actually super small? Maybe, maybe not, I’m not sure on that/how it compares to others; but regardless, when you fill it with towering fences it sure seems cramped. Everything is all of a sudden about extreme precision and turn, turn, turn, turn, still turning….. ya.
Before I get on with the top of the second leg and the overall standings, I want to take a minute and mention my fellow countryman, Chris Sorensen. Has the competition gone foot perfect? No, but honestly I think they have looked alright. This is a pair I have enjoyed watching at Spruce and have come to quite like – not only do they look great together, but they can get things done. Throughout the whole competition I have been thrilled at the cheers that the crowd has been giving them- as Canada’s lone representatives at the World Cup I’ve been clapping extra hard. Yay Chris and Bobby! (No, it’s not your eyes, the photo looks a little foggy/smoky…. They really like to put on a show here in Vegas, and that involves fireworks and such. As a photographer- a nightmare, but as a spectator- pretty cool. At least it tends to clear by the middle of the classes)
Alrighty, so what went down in Vegas on Friday night?! Well, very early in the order Geir Gulliksen made things look easy when he posted a lovely clear with Edesa S Banjan. Was this how things were going to happen- were we looking at a speed class in the jump-off? Nope. Unsurprisingly, the triple combination crushed a lot of dreams with rails falling, horses stopping, and riders nearly coming off. Therefore, it was not until much farther down the order until the other clears started to come in.
Much to the crowd’s delight, the Americans would come into the second leg strong with Lucy, Beezie, and McLain all rebounding from little mistakes during the speed class, and posting clears over the daunting track. Personally, I’m still a big fan of Bongo (Rothchild) and the way that he attacks the course. That horse has attitude- he loves the game, understands the job, and knows he is good. Then, of course, Simon looked like his stellar self, and Barron jumped around like it was a 1.40 class.
Haaaaa…. wait, I didn’t mention another important American, the one who placed second in the speed leg. Right, okay, I won’t drag it out. Rich and Flexi went CLEAR!!!!! Obviously not the least bit tired, Flexible easily jumped around the course, skipping through the triple as if it were a simple gymnastic; they were into the jump-off and the crowd lost it.
So, I jumped ahead a little in order to mention Rich, but there was one last rider on that jump-off list, and he’s an important one. Steve Guerdat, the gold medalist from the 2012 London Olympics, also made short work of the course to make post a clear. Therefore, all in all, we had six horses going forward into the jump-off; it was going to be exciting.
First back, Geir had the unfortunate job of trying to set that bar high. In his attempts at doing so he would sadly have a rail and end up in fifth. Next up, Lucy Davis would also give it a solid go, taking some risky turns and pushing Barron to gallop. Again though, much to the crowds disappointment, they would also have a rail and have to settle for third.
The first clear of the JO would be posted by the 2013 Champions, Beezie and Simon. Always so calculated and precise, Beezie made all the right turns and urged Simon, not a naturally fast horse, to pick up the pace. Was a clear from Beezie surprising? No, but what happened next was. Entering the ring with Rothchild, McLain was clearly ready to put his foot down. Where Simon is not a naturally quick horse, Rothchild is a Ferrari. I’ve seen them do seemingly impossible things, so I was excited to what them eat the course alive. Well… sometimes things just don’t work out. Making an incredibly tight turn to the white CP vertical, there was a moment of miscommunication that lead to a refusal. Then, coming back to it, they would have the rail down. Finishing on a score of 10, McLain had to settle for sixth.
Second last to go, Steve managed to post a clear and jut edge Beezie’s time, leaving it all up to Rich and Flexible to decide the winners of the second leg. Sadly, things were settled very quickly. Much to everyones dismay, Flexi took out the top rail on the first jump. The entire arena groaned. Therefore Steve had the win, and Rich would finish in fourth.
Now remember, this is the World Cup Finals- the overall champion is not all based on one class. When the dust settled, here is what was found: Going into the final on Sunday there are two riders that are tied at the top- Steve and Rich. If this does not make for enough tension, Bertram Allen is just behind them on a single penalty, and then we have some sitting at just 5, 6, and 7 penalties a piece. Simply put, things are close and it is going to be a cracking final on Sunday.
Can Rich and Flexible take it?! Will Steve redeem himself from his *almost wins over the past few years? Young Bertram/ Beezie? Honestly, it is anyones guess because, I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again- in show jumping anything can happen.