Gothenburg, Sweden—April 28
Beezie Madden has a pair of team gold medals from the Olympic Games; team and individual silver medals from from the World Equestrian Games; and countless FEI Nations Cup and grand prix wins to her credit. But she’s never won a major individual championship competition—until today.
Madden tacked up Simon to win Rolex FEI World Cup Show Jumping Final. It's the second year in a row a U.S. rider has taken the title.
“Today it was difficult jumping, and my horse went fantastic,” said Madden, who follows Rich Fellers as the World Cup champion. “Again, the cards laid right for me. Steve [Guerdat] made a great jump to the top, then left the door open.”
Other U.S. riders earned strong placings as well, with three other riders inside the top 11.
After an off day, the top 25 riders faced two final rounds of competition today. Like last year, Round 4 ended with a U.S. rider tied with Swiss rider Steve Guerdat for first place, forcing a jump-off. First to go, Guerdat went for broke on Nino des Buissonnets, and that meant two costly mistakes.
“I wanted to make sure today if I was clear I was fast enough,” said Guerdat. “We started fast and took a little too much risk. The horse was feeling good, and I should have ridden smarter to the second-to-last fence. That would have have put on more pressure. I know she’s a very fast rider—especially with that horse—so I think I had to try.”
After Guerdat's 8-fault run, Madden double checked the time-allowed for the jump-off, then rode a conservative short course, focusing on clear first and foremost.
“We’ve been playing around with different bits and found one with the best control I was able to find," said Madden, who paired up with the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Mr. Blue—Naline, Polydox) owned by Abigail Wexner before the London Olympic Games. "He can get a bit strong but in a way not so difficult. He’s so careful and knows his job so well. He wants to do his job. In that way he makes things easy for me; as long as I can get within range he usually gets it there.”
Course designer Uliano Vezzani built big today, and McLain Ward described his first round as the biggest he’d ever seen in a World Cup Final. Only Guerdat and Sergio Alvarez Moya (Carlo 273) managed a clear go. But Guerdat went out of his way to point out that the courses were fair and appropriate for a championship competition.
“The courses were tough, but we didn’t see horses struggling,” he pointed out. “If we riders would have done our job as good as he did we would have seen more clear rounds.”
He and Nino des Buissonnets started out the competition with some ground to make up. They won the second leg, then logged 4 faults and a clear today.
France’s Kevin Staut started the competition in sixth and marched up the standings to finish in third.
“This is my fourth World Cup Final, but I’ve never jumped as big as today,” said Staut, who rode Silvana HDC in all four rounds. “I didn’t know my gray mare, at 14 years old, would jump this like that. I think she’s younger than what I think. Maybe she can jump some more!”
Moya regrouped after an inconsistent second round to finish fourth for Spain. Ward rode Super Trooper de Ness to fifth, and fellow U.S. riders Reed Kessler (Cylana) and Karl Cook (Jonkheer Z) finished 10th and 11th, respectively. Harvard University (Mass.) freshman Katie Dinan (Nougat du Vallet) took 16th, and Charlie Jayne (Chill R Z) finished 17th.
“I’m very excited about [Super Trooper],” said Ward. “I've always been excited about this horse, and I've now been with him four or five months. This is our first indoor show together. Maybe if we'd had two we could have had one less rail. I would have liked to have won, but I'm thrilled for Beezie. She deserves it more than anybody in this sport."
The leader in the standings coming into today, Portugual's Luciana Diniz, fell out of contention when Lennox ticked three rails in the first round. Lennox pulled another two rails in the second round to finish an eventual ninth.
Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland looked like a huge weight had been lifted off his back after the class.
“All I can say is now I know what George went through, that’s rough!” he joked. “We’re excited. We made this a huge goal. Anybody that’s heard the probably way too many speeches I gave was that we were going to make three priorities this year. First was winning our own nations cup in Wellington. This was two—not just winning it but really doing better with a number of riders in the money. We saw that today; we saw a lot of Americans who all rode great, including the younger riders.”
Check out the Chronicle’s in-depth coverage of the Rolex FEI World Cup Final in our May 13 issue.
For full results check out the official website. Catch up on all the show jumping action from Gothenburg earlier this week, and don’t forget to read up on the rivalry in the Reem Acra World Cup Dressage Final. We’ve got loads of videos, photos and interviews from Rolex’s other premier event, the Rolex Kentucky CCI****.