Preview

Riders Masters Cup at the Longines Masters: A Clash of Two Equestrian Superpowers

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After Belgium’s victory in the final of the Nations Cup circuit in Barcelona, the winter indoor circuit, the programme of which is mainly composed of individual events–FEI Longines and the Longines Masters World Cup–is now offering a major team event: the Riders Masters Cup, the ultimate challenge between the two world show jumping superpowers, Europe and the United States. The third round will be played out in Paris on 1 December, the fourth in New York on 27 April 2019. Europe leads by two victories to zero…

Both throughout the history of this sport and during the past season, Europe and the United States have always shared most of the major team titles: Olympic Games, World Championships and Nations Cup finals. This year, while the United States triumphed at the Tryon World Championship (USA), the Old World immediately took its revenge in Barcelona with a 100% European podium (Belgium, France and Ireland).

The Spirit of the Great Sporting Challenges

The Riders Masters Cup, created in 2016 by EEM and EEF (the European Equestrian Federation), sublimates this incessant battle between the two equestrian superpowers. Launched in Paris in December 2017, it has taken on the dimensions of a major intercontinental sporting challenge from the outset. Ultimately, the Riders Masters Cup is destined to join in the public conscious the great team battles between the continents such as the America’s Cup in sailing, the Ryder Cup in golf, or the Davis Cup in tennis. Of course, for the time being, the Riders Masters Cup is writing only the first lines of its history, but in its first two editions, the event has fascinated audiences in Paris and New York.

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World number 1, Holland’s Harrie Smolders contributed to the triumph of Riders Europe, last April in New York

An Old Rivalry

Why all the excitement?
First of all, these challenges between Europe and the United States have always thrilled fans of this sport, especially during the World Cup finals, even if this is an individual competition. The two continents have taken turns to snatch this trophy, currently held for two years by a rider from the United States: McLain Ward and Beezie Madden, also protagonists of the last Riders Masters Cup.. EEM and the EEF have formalized this rivalry into an indoor team competition, filling a vacuum.
Moreover, the format of the Riders Masters Cup is immediately appealing: it offers clear and immediately understandable duels with a score that is displayed in real time on an illuminated board, as in a basketball game or football match. So it’s easy for the spectators to get caught up in the action: they become supporters of their camp, and encourage their riders by waving their flags…#WaveYourFlag !

The Match is already Underway

The match begins behind the scenes–and even a few weeks before the big day–when the coaches, Robert Ridland for Riders USA riders and Philippe Guerdat for Riders Europe, announce their short lists. The suspense will remain until the eve of the event, when the final selections are revealed: five names on each side, including one U25, a young rider under 25 years of age, because one of the aims of this event is also to highlight the champions of tomorrow.

Europe USA

First Blood or to the Death: Duelling Strategy

Once the riders are known, a draw determines the composition of the first five duels because these ten riders will face off two by two. In the first round (timed scale A), the winning competitor will score 10 points for his team, while the loser, if they complete the course, will score 5 points. At half-time, the end of the first round, the team leaders reorder their riders, with the team temporarily in the lead benefiting from the first choice. Strategy plays a major role here because, depending on the result of the first round, there could well be an advantage in matching one rider against another, perhaps taking the risk of sacrificing one victory to ensure two others, and the riders can change horses, too. This time, in the second round (scale C at 3 seconds per bar), the winners score 20 points, and the losers 10.

Paris: The Revenge of Riders USA?

In the previous two editions, the chefs d’équipeshad lined up the most prominent riders on each of their continents: World No. 1 Harrie Smolders, reigning European Champion Peder Fredricson, Olympic Champions Laura Kraut and Kevin Staut etc. While in Paris, Riders Europe quickly took the lead, in New York the competition hung in the balance until the final duel. Nevertheless, Riders Europe are leading by two wins to zero and Riders USA will certainly want to restore at least some balance in Paris on 1 December, with a result worthy of their status as World Champions.

Source: Press Release by Agence R&B Presse for EEM / Longines Masters

Photos: © Sportfot /  World Red Eye / Jump Media / Christophe Taniere