With all that experience, Phil knows what it takes to be a champion and in 2019 he’s backing defending champion Beezie Madden, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs and Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann as the most likely to be victorious.
“Henrik is riding Toveks Mary Lou, which is one of most popular horses around the world,” Phil says. “I have to say that his recent ride in Amsterdam was one of the best rounds I think I’ve ever seen. It was just extraordinary. I think he’s absolutely primed for Gothenburg.”
“There has never been a Swedish winner, and that’s a shame because the crowds in Gothenburg are fantastic and so knowledgeable.
“They will support all the athletes, but of course they will cheer Henrik, Peder Fredericson and Irma Karlsson.”
Fuchs’ horse is key to his chances, Phil believes. “Fuchs is riding the great, great Clooney and they are in flying form.”
Phil - who is thrilled to be joined in the FEI TV commentary booth by Swedish Olympic medallist Malin Baryard-Johnsson - also looks at Beezie’s recent good form as an indication that she could be in the running to become just the sixth athlete to become a three-time winner of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™.
“Her win last year did not surprise me at all and she and Breitling will take some beating this time,” he says.
He says Madden’s continued competitiveness illustrates one of equestrian sports’ most special features – that riders can continue to be at the top for years and years. That longevity also accounts for such a strong field as athletes can enjoy a ‘peak’ for many years.
“If Beezie does win at 55 years old she’ll be the most senior winner in the competition’s history – after last year matching Hugo Simon’s record a year ago,” he says. “It’s very special and rather unique that we’ve had a winner who’s 19 years old and also people in their mid-50s. That’s why it’s so open.”
Phil also names previous winners Daniel Deusseur and Christian Ahlmann as potential champions. “A German win would put them level at 11-11 with the USA, so I know it means a lot to them,” Phil says. “Of course, Steve Guerdat – another two-time winner – will also head to Gothenburg looking to win.
“It’s such a strong field. There are five former world No.1s in the start list.”
While all eyes will be on the big names from Europe and North America, Phil is expecting impressive performances from Egypt’s Mohamed Sadek and Abdel Said (pictured above), Saudi Arabia’s Khaled Abdulrahman Almobty and UAE’s Abdullah Humaid Al Muhairi.
“The Middle East and North African region are improving so much,” he says. “They are banging on the door and it wouldn’t surprise me at all if Said or Almobty came close.”
Can anyone stop Isabell?
Natasha Baker is a multiple Paralympic champion who is now providing colour and her expertise as a co-commentator on FEI TV’s Dressage coverage.
Of course, Isabell Werth is a huge favourite heading to Gothenburg having won the last two FEI Dressage World Cup™ Finals.
With Dorothee Schneider not taking part due to her horse’s injury, Werth’s biggest rivals will include her other fellow Germans Helen Langehanenberg and Benjamin Werndl. However, Natasha believes the Americans could push her closest.
“I don’t think it will be a German 1-2-3 as I think both Laura Graves and Kasey Perry-Glass stand a chance of splitting the Germans,” Natasha says. “Laura was so impressive last year as she won the first day and really forced Isabell to produce something special on the final day.
“Both Laura and Kasey have had +80% in their freestyles, so it's going to be very tight at the top.
“The Germans are so strong and whichever three they had would be among the favourites. Benjamin Werndl has done really well and has a really smart horse. He’s been consistent and reached the top of the leaderboard.
“I think we all know that Isabell is the favourite but it will be interesting to see which horse she partners in Gothenburg as she looks for a fifth win. Both Weihegold and Emilio are qualified.”
Away from the Germans and Americans, Natasha says: “Ireland’s Judy Reynolds has done really well. She’s picked up loads of points throughout the season and must be full of confidence.
“It’s going to be a fantastic finals, I think it will be even more competitive than last year.”