The Fédération Equestre Internationale has validated the definitive entries of the 39 finalists of the FEI Longines Jumping World Cup and the 17 finalists of the FEI Dressage World Cup, including the title holders in each of the two Olympic disciplines: McLain Ward for jumping and Isabell Werth for dressage. The latter will try to clinch her fourth world title on this eventat the AccorHotels Arena in Paris.
Sixteen nations for jumping and nine for dressage: all continents except Africa will be in contention for two titles that are usually shared by Europe and the United States.
In dressage, German Isabell Werth starts as big favourite, especially if she chooses to saddle her “parade” mare Weihegold, which is not yet certain: “For the moment it is 50-50. Emilio made a great trip to Amsterdam and I prepare my two horses the same way. I have until April 9 to decide which horse I will enter.” With Emilio, the competition would be more open with opponents like Swedish Patrick Kittel, winner in London or Dutchman Edward Gal, winner of this World Cup in 2010… but it was with a certain Totilas! With Weihegold, Isabell Werth should be practically impossible to beat, even if she speaks modestly: “One can never know with this sport, in which the horses decide in the end; we know that everything is always possible. I’m aware that I’m a favourite… well, I’m the big favourite, but I’m staying vigilant because I know anything can happen. I will not go to the AccorHotels Arena thinking it’s a done deal.”
Jumping: Marcus Ehning for a fourth win too?
In showjumping, McLain Ward is even more cautious: “Any of the twenty-five best riders in this final is able to win the title. Henrik von Eckermann was close to me last year and he had a great season this year. But there are other candidates. The bottom line for me will be focusing on my job and our performance. But with HH Azur, my mare, my main concern will be to ride her as best as possible and if I succeed, I will have a good chance of winning.”
The name of Swede Henrik von Eckermann is indeed the most quoted by the riders of this final like Daniel Deusser or Roger-Yves Bost. Second in Omaha in 2017, Henrik von Eckermann finished the Western European League circuit as leader with a victory in Gothenburg, thus taking the pole position from Frenchman Kevin Staut who is still looking for this world title: « I usually am quite successful on the qualifying circuit in which I put a lot of energy (Staut is still second in the final ranking- ed.), but I have not yet been able to achieve a significant result in the final even though I was once on the third step of the podium in Gothenburg in 2013. I was 7th in my first final, then 6th, then 5th, then 3rd but the progression stopped there. However, every time I qualify for the final, I return with the same motivation. I do not despair. I know that one day, I will succeed and win this title.
At the AccorHotels Arena, in front of its public, it would be the perfect time to do so. The Norman rider is considering a two-horse strategy with Rêveur de Hurtebise*HDC supported by Silver Two of Virton*HDC in the speed class. A strategy also envisioned by the man of the moment, Dutch Harrie Smolders riding Zinius and the beautiful chestnut stallion Emerald. The Dutch rider counts among the three great favourites of the winner of the last French final of the World Cup in Lyon in 2014, German Daniel Deusser: “With Henrik von Eckermann and Marcus Ehning”. Ehning is one of the few riders – they have been only four – to have won the World Cup three times. A fourth victory would further strengthen the legend of this artist, who in any case has already marked the history of the sport, not only by his results, but by his riding style that has become the model of the twenty-first century.
Whatever the results, a beautiful chapter is about to be written at the AccorHotels Arena from April 10 to 15 for these two Olympic disciplines. Two outstanding riders will be crowned at the end of these thrilling finals. This is a huge come back for historical Bercy, an event to experience fully in this new and mythical arena.
Source: Press Release by Pascal Renauldon for Agence R&B Presse
Photo: © R&B Presse / Pascal Renauldon