I’m a Longines World Cup Show Jumping geek.  I have a subscription to FEItv and the dates and times of every World Cup qualifier in my calendar.  If I can’t watch the events live (damn work and family commitments!) I watch the replay.  And then I’ll watch the highlights videos, which usually come in a series of four fifteen minute segments. I’ll plug the computer into the TV and get on the treadmill, and work out while watching my favorite sport.  Only hazard is that sometimes I’ve gotten so caught up in the action that I forget to move my feet and have gone bassackwards off the back of the treadmill.

This weekend is the Finals, held at the Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, Sweden. The field saw 36 riders from 17 countries slated to compete before the UK’s Laura Renwick had to withdraw Bintang just prior to the first round.  The 480m course included 13 obstacles with 16 total jumping efforts course and was designed by Santiago Varela. FEI commentator and former international rider Jessica Kürten described the course as “a fair track for the first day of a World Cup Finals.”

The first round is a speed class, where faults are converted to seconds.  Australia’s Edwina Tops Alexander drew the pole position, while last year’s winner, Steve Guerdat, was the final rider.  In the field were 6 current or former World #1 riders and three World Cup winning horses: Taloubet Z, Flexible, and Cornet D’Amour.

The course:

Speed round course from Day 1 of the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup Finals

Speed round course from Day 1 of the 2016 Longines FEI World Cup Finals

Early clear rounds were turned in by Patrice Delaveau,  young German newcomer Niklas Krieg, Romain Duguet, and Hungary’s Mariann Hugyecz, who is competing in her first Finals. Following Mariann with a clear was former winner Daniel Deusser on Cornet D’Amour. After Deusser was a triumvirate of US riders: Audrey Coulter, Katherine Dinan and Callan Solem, with Solem on VDL Wizard going clear.

Other clears came from Irelands’s Denis Lynch, Germany’s maestro Marcus Ehning, who turned in his usual foot-perfect equitation round, hometown favorite Henrik von Eckermann (Sweden’s only competitor), and Belgian heartthrob Nicola Philippaerts. Germany’s Marco Kutscher posted a clear on his lovely Chaccorina, as did the Netherland’s Harrie Smolders, France’s Simon Delestre, and Australia’s Chris Chugg, riding his girlfriend’s Christalline.  You have to love the ebullient Aussie, known for his post-round and prize giving celebrations, which in the past included pirouettes and tempi changes on his previous partner, the gorgeous stallion Vivant.

France’s Simon Delestre came 24th in the order and had the lead with a 66.04 until the penultimate rider, Penelope Leprevost, entered the ring on Vagabond de la Pomme, her mount from her second place finish at the 2015 Finals in Vegas.  Leprevost, the leading female rider in the world, and the big bay stallion clearly meant business as they set off at a fast pace.  She kept the long-striding Vagabond in the same rhythm around the course, stopping the clocks in a blistering 63.78,  beating her compatriot by 2.26 seconds.  2015’s champion, Steve Guerdat, followed Leprevost, and although he put in a super round his 66.93 with Corbinian was not enough to challenge the Frenchwoman.

Leprevost credits her stallion’s increased rideability to a great deal of dressage work, and said “I had a plan in my head but then I went faster than I thought!” Runner-up Delestre, current #1 on the Longines world rankings, joked “to be honest I was quite fast, but not stupid-fast like Penelope!”

For complete results, click here.