All eyes are on Gorthenburg this week as the Swedish city hosts the annual FEI World Cup Finals in both show jumping and dressage. With Ireland not represented among the jumping finalists it leaves dressage rider Judy Reynolds and 17 year-old Vancouver K carrying Irish hopes and she faces a tough battle to be involved at the business end of affairs come Saturday’s conclusion.
Defending champion and multiple World Cup winner Isabell Werth of Germany will be there as will American Laura Graves who is her nearest rival in the world rankings.
Werth won gold at the world championships in North Carolina last September getting the better of Graves and they are undoubtedly the favourites for the top two places, but there are quite a few waiting in the wings including Germans Helen Langehanenberg with Damsey FRH and Benjamin Werndl with Daily Mirror. Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen and Blue Hors Zack won the final qualifier last month and could be in the shake-up while Patrik Kittel will have huge support as he bids to bring glory to Sweden on his home terrain with Delaunay OLD. American Kasey Perry-Glass also has the potential to be a big player with Goerklintgaards Dublet.
From an Irish viewpoint the most encouraging outing of late was when Reynolds took third place in a qualifier at Neumünster in February, ousting all but two Germans in their own back yard (German riders would have filled the top six places but for Reynolds). Her score that day was an Irish international Freestyle record of 82.75% and she hasn’t been shy about saying it is open to improvement. What’s more, two of the judges in that contest scored her higher than Langehanenberg who finished second.
Reynold’s best World Cup fiinsh came in the 2017 final when she partnered Vancouver K to fourth, having finished eighth the previous year, but she missed all of the campaign for the 2018 final while her horse was recovering from an injury sustained just before the 2017 European Championships.
She goes into action this Friday in the Grand Prix, and the top 15 from that contest will progress to the decisive Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday. “We’ve done all we can at this stage and we are ready,” Reynolds said.
Originally from Kildare but based in Germany, she has climbed three notches to 21st in the latest world rankings issued this week. Next-rated of the Irish is Heike Holstein who is up to 209th, a climb of 229 places from last month thanks to her performances with Sambuca at Dortmund, Germany and Keysoe, UK in March, which gave her the two mandatory scores to qualify for this year’s European Championships in Rotterdam in August.
At home, the dressage focus is on the National Winter Finals taking place at Cavan Equestrian Centre over Saturday and Sunday.
On the show jumping front Denis Lynch and Cian O’Connor have been named on the provisional European squad for the Riders Masters Cup in New York later this month which sees Europe taking on the USA in what is now the third season of the event.
In the absence of five-star and four-star show jumping action in Europe this past weekend, the biggest purse on offer was for the Rolex Grand Prix as the Winter Equestrian Festival in Florida came to the end of its annual twelve-week run. It carried a prize fund of $500,000 and David Blake got closest of the Irish when taking fifth.
The US-based Co. Clare rider went double-clear on Keoki but his jump-off time was bettered by four of the remaining seven riders. Two of the most formidable American combinations of recent years were to the fore, as McLain Ward and HH Azur snatched victory from Kent Farrington and Creedance. Shane Sweetnam was second-fastest of those who missed the first round cut, which netted the Cork rider a decent place-money payout in tenth with Indra van de Oude Heihoef.
Back in Europe Jenny Rankin was one of just four who made the jump-off in Saturday’s three-star Mediterranean Tour Grand Prix in Spain.
Her speedy second round on Bennys Legacy came with four faults, leaving it open for Switzerland’s Edwin Smits to overtake her with a clear on Best Of Berlin BS, but New Zealander Samantha McIntosh had the final say with a faster effort on Check In 2, leaving Rankin third at the finish.
Michael G. Duffy finished fifth on SIEC Anna Jo after a 21-horse jump-off in the three-star Grand Prix at Gorla Minore, Italy on Sunday, while Greg Broderick took both third and fifth with Charly Chaplin S and Hybernia respectively in the two-star Spanish Grand Prix at Seville. In Belgium, David Simpson finished third with Jenson 55 in Sunday’s two-star Grand Prix at Bonheiden.
Gorla Minore hosts a four-star meeting this week to conclude this year’s the Milano Jumping Challenge series.