Thirty three riders came back to contest the second round of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final, jumping in reverse order from the standings of Round One. Day 2’s course was biiiiigggg, because, well, it’s a World Championship. The lightly built fences meant poles were going to drop at the slightest touch. Santiago Varela’s course tested the horse and rider combinations’ ability to gallop and stretch, and then immediately come back. Basically, it was a test of strength, rideabilty and carefulness, as well as the riders’ knowledge of their horse’s strengths and weaknesses.
The riders began over an oxer set on the long side of the ring, then crossed the middle in 7 or 8 strides to an oxer. They turned right to come down the Longines combination and then down a going 5 strides to a vertical.After the vertical they had a long gallop around the end and then crossed the ring over a vertical with a short 6 or a long 5 strides to the Ariat oxer. Following the oxer they turned right around the other end of the ring to a maximum height plank set facing into the crowd, which preceded a bending 6 or 7 strides to the triple combination. Then they went on the left rein to a vertical and then 7 strides to a big oxer. Another trip around the end of the ring, this time to the left led to a large silver oxer that served to set up the last line, a short 5 strides to the gold vertical and then a short 3 to the gold oxer. Another 5-5 1/2 strides took them to the final fence. And they had to do all of that in a tidy 81 seconds.
Day 2 was a head scratcher. Horse and rider pairs expected to go well didn’t, and those that were a bit off the radar did. For example, only 3 of the top 10 combinations from Day 1 made it into the top 10 on Day 2. Two of Day 2’s top 10 riders, Americans Peter Lutz and Callan Solem, might have been completely unfamiliar to most worldwide fans of the sport, although Solem’s performances over the course of the two days certainly put her on their radar.
The pole trolls were in their glory, pulling down poles left, right, and center. Penelope Leprevost, so stellar and smooth the night before, was having another brilliant round before she made a catastrophic decision to add a stride to the final fence, throwing Vagabond de la Pomme off his balance and causing the rail. Her partner, Kevin Staut, fared no better as he and For Joy van’t Zorgvliet HDC lowered the height of two fences, one of the rails coming at the B element of the double when the bay gelding “blocked,” keeping his hind legs straight instead of curling them up and out of the way.
Other riders who suffered surprising faults after going clear on opening night were Nicola Philippaerts, Simon Delestre, Patrice Delaveau and Daniel Deusser, all of whom had 4 faults. It was apparent quite quickly that the bogey fences were the gold vertical and oxer combination, which had caused may horses and riders trouble the day before. It’s doubtful that course designer Santiago Varela was unaware he’d placed the fences in exactly the same order on the opposite side of the ring the day before.
At the end of the round 7 riders found themselves jumping off: Christian Ahlmann, Denis Lynch, Peter Lutz, Marco Kutscher, Harrie Smolders, Marcus Ehning and 2015 champion Steve Guerdat. Ahlmann and Taloubet Z were first to go, throwing down the gauntlet by executing a ridiculously tight handbrake turn by taking the inside option to fence. Lynch and All Star came next and put down a conservative clear. Lutz and Kutscher both had 8 faults, followed by Harrie Smolders and the stunning Emerald N.O.P with 4. Marcus Ehning and Cornado NRW shocked onlookers by dropping the height of two fences, and Steve Guerdat and Corbinian came in and left the audience slack-jawed when they took out the first obstacle.
The final results saw Ahlmann on top, with Lynch and Smolders sitting second and third, respectively. Guerdat, the reigning title holder, was just outside the top three in fourth place. Day 2’s drama changed the look of the leaderboard a bit, with Guerdat in first, followed by Ehning. Sitting in third position was Harrie Smolders, with Daniel Deusser closely in fourth. Phillippaerts held fifth, while Solem, Delestre and Leprevost shared the sixth spot. Rounding out the top 10 overall were Marco Kutscher and Christian Ahlmann, who’d jumped 15 spots with his win.
The stage was set for a nail-biter on Day 3, with no less than 4 former champions in the field.