Santiago Varela Ullastres set yet another daunting course for the first of two rounds of Jumping. Twenty-five riders participated in Round A, with 19 advancing to the second round to determine the champion. Penalty points from all three days were carried over, so whomever would take the title had to have as close to an immaculate performance overall as possible.
Heading into Day 3, Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar was in the lead on zero penalty points, hoping to take a first Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ title for his nation. Peder Fredricson was close on his tail just one point behind, chased by Steve Guerdat, Olivier Philippaerts of Belgium, and Martin Fuchs in the top five positions.
The course was proving tough…
It wasn’t until 10 riders in that Abdel Saïd of Egypt, who won the Arab League to qualify for Gothenburg, had the first clear round, adding nothing to his 11 existing penalty points.
The course got the better of many of the world’s best jumpers.
Although time was rarely a factor, the number 10 vertical was a common nemesis, with its gold coloured rails blending all too easily into the footing for the horses.
Max Kühner of Austria and 2014 Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion Daniel Deusser of Germany both had clear rounds, finishing on 6 points each. Defending champion Beezie Madden of the USA, who also won in 2013, saw that troublesome number 10 fence go tumbling, and finished on 7 points, tied with Niels Bruynseels of Belgium, 1 point ahead of Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski of Poland, and 2 points in front of Francois Mathy Jr. of Belgium, who lost a shoe early in the track.
With five riders left to go, each with only 3 penalty points or less, the standings going into the final round depended on who could go clear.
Martin Fuchs turned in a beautiful ride on the 13-year-old Westphalian gelding Clooney, ending Round A on only 3 points. Belgium’s Olivier Philippaerts, riding H&M Legend of Love, had two expensive fences, accruing 8 points and finishing the round on 11.
The Swiss were already on top when Steve Guerdat, who led the field on Day 1, scored yet another clear round to head into the finale on 2 points.
That devilish number 10 vertical caught out Peder Fredricson, who added 4 points to his sole point carried over from Day 2, but that didn’t stop the crowd from going wild with appreciation.
Eduardo Alvarez Aznar sadly had two costly obstacles and saw his score of zero climb to 8 penalty points.
But there was still another round to come for the top 19 riders...
Heading into the interim break, Guerdat was in the lead, with Fuchs chasing him by one point. Fredricson was in third, a position that could still reach a gold medal, followed by Kühner, Deusser, Madden, Bruynseels, Skrzyczynski, Alvarez Aznar, and Mathy Jr., in that order.
The Round B course may have been fresh, but after three days of Jumping, the huge Grand Prix track was a challenge to some of the horses, who were starting to get a bit fatigued. Fragile verticals were still a key element, along with a big opening jump, and early triple, a wide three-bar, and a double with water mats just prior to the final oxer.
Olivier Philippaerts completed the first clear round of the field, cementing his 11 points, but it took another seven riders before the audience would enjoy another clear.
Time after time, the course won, with 8 points here, 4 points there bringing down the top ranked riders. Alvarez Aznar finished on 12 points, and a dejected Beezie Madden, who ran into trouble on the 3-bar obstacle, ended on 11, again tied with Niels Bruynseels.
The B element of the double combination and the last oxer saw Kühner go from 6 to 14 points, opening the door for the final four riders.
Daniel Deusser, currently No.3 in the world and Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion in 2014, amazingly cleared all the jumps without a single penalty and sped to the lead on just 6 points.
Fredricson wows the crowd
But with 12,000 home audience members behind him, Peder Fredricson couldn’t let that top him. Giving a brilliant ride on Catch Me Not S, he brought the Gothenburg crowd to their feet, going to the top of the leaderboard on 5 points.
The pressure was on for the remaining two jumpers, with Fredricson guaranteed a podium position and holding the possibility of a win.
Martin Fuchs took his time assessing the course before commencing, but once he and Clooney were in motion, their partnership was up to the challenge. Clearing every obstacle, the pair finished with no penalties and a total of 3 points, producing yet another leader, bumping Fredricson to second.
It all came down to Steve Guerdat, who put his experience and confidence on display, as he and Alamo scored another clear to finish on 2 points for his third Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ crown, having won previously in Gothenburg in 2016 and in Las Vegas in 2015. Only five other riders are members of the elite three-time Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion club.
The Champagne corks were flying on the podium as the three medallists celebrated their victories, Guerdat teary eyed and in awe of the crowd’s enthusiasm for his victory.
“I never expected to win,” he said. “You can just try to do your best. You all know what this show means to me. Thank you so much!”