Who will win the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Washington? We called in equestrian sport scientist, Dr. Tim Worden, to pick his top three contenders. Dr. Worden has a PhD in biomechanics from the University of Guelph, Canada and specializes in the translation of human high-performance training theory and techniques to equestrian athletes. He, like, knows stuff.
Let’s see what his stats say.
Yesterday’s welcome class in Washington was the strongest showing in the FEI World Cup series yet.
Of the 26 riders who completed, five are ranked in the top 30 in the world including world number one (Kent Farrington) and number two (Mclain Ward). With so many top riders, these classes are always a great opportunity to watch and learn from the best in the business. Many of the horses in the class jumped exceptionally, and Saturday will surely be an interesting course set by Alan Wade. Beezie Madden and Breitling LS were in fine form yesterday, winning the class with a pair of impressive clear rounds.
Here are my picks to win the World Cup in Washington this week!
Pick 1: Creedence ridden by Kent Farrington
Kent Farrington and Creedence had eight faults in Thursday’s Welcome Class, which could be interpreted as a worrying result. However, last year in Washington the pair had a four fault round and a 13 fault round, but then jumped clear to finish third in the World Cup Qualifier. The pair then went on to post three clear rounds in Toronto and to win in Geneva—all indoors. Moral of the story: they know how to peak for the important class indoors! Farrington is currently number one in the world and Creedence has had a number of wins over the past year against the best in the world. They are the ones to beat on Saturday!
Strengths: It is hard to believe Creedence is just ten-years old when you consider everything he has accomplished so far in his short career. He is powerful, quick and agile. There is nothing he can’t jump, and once he gets into the jump-off, he is in a league of his own! Couple that with the world number one rider in the saddle, and you are guaranteed to watch something special each time they walk in the ring looking to win. Farrington has been on fire all year, and just like Creedence, he really can do anything a course designer will ask of him.
Weaknesses: I am banking on Creedence and Farrington jumping well after having two rails in Thursday’s class. However, there is the potential for faults faults to indicate trouble ahead for this pair. At a number of competitions this summer, multiple rail rounds early in the week have preceded four fault performances in the Grand Prix (St. Tropez, London, Berlin). Hopefully, those summer woes are behind them, and the pair can bounce back on Saturday. Both rails yesterday were at verticals with the hind end. I am sure Farrington has a plan to correct this, and the necessary adjustments will be made to ensure a clear round on Saturday!
Pick 2: Breitling LS ridden by Beezie Madden
Beezie Madden and Breitling LS have been together for four years now, and have been putting in strong performances in big classes since the end of 2015. The 11-year-old stallion has put in ten clear rounds in FEI ranking classes since July across the world, and the partnership has the experience and talent to handle any challenge Alan Wade throws at them on Saturday. Furthermore, the pair looked very comfortable indoors on Thursday, easily going double clear and winning the class.
Strengths: For me, their biggest strength is experience. Madden and Breitling have shown throughout North America and Europe, and she has relied on him to jump some of the biggest tracks in the world over the last few years. Madden is a master rider who puts Breitling in the best positions to jump clean, and Breitling consistently executes his technique on course. I love watching Breitling go because he seems so calculated, judging each jump and adapting his body accordingly. It is like the stallion is out there solving a puzzle each time, and having fun doing it!
Weaknesses: When you watch film of Thursday’s class, it is hard to find many weaknesses with this pair. There were a few verticals where Breitling did not give a massive effort and he rubbed the back rail of one oxer, but those are hardly not worrying events. Their performance indoors last year, however, is a bit concerning. In five classes indoors in 2016 (three in Lexington and two at Harrisburg) the pair failed to produce a single clear round. This was likely a fluke, as the pair was quite strong indoors in 2015. Given that they looked great indoors Thursday, last year’s woes are likely behind them, and I think they will smoothly coast into the jump off.
Pick 3: Confu ridden by Laura Kraut
Laura Kraut put on a clinic in Thursday’s class, methodically answering all of the questions on course to jump double clear with Confu, resulting in a third place finish. I have not had the opportunity to watch this horse much, but it looks like the partnership between the ten-year-old gelding and Kraut is progressing quite nicely. I really enjoy watching her ride, and I expect Saturday will be another great performance from this pair.
Strengths: Confu seems powerful, willing and adjustable. Yesterday’s track was easy for him as he effortlessly cruised over the jumps. As I mentioned above, Kraut is an accurate rider who has developed a great bond with Confu. The pair consistently perform clear rounds and they had a very solid indoor season last year, indicating the smaller indoor rings are not an issue.
Weaknesses: Although Confu seems very clever and has good bodily awareness, his technique (especially at verticals) can be quite variable. Specifically, as his front legs leave the ground on take off to reach their “tucked” position in flight—he executes this movement in many different ways. Conversely, a horse with consistent technique will jump each jump with similar movements. Whenever there is this much variability in technique, there is always the potential for an error to occur, causing a light rail. It will be up to Kraut on Saturday to put Confu in the proper positions to account for his technique. If this isn’t an issue, we will be sure to see this pair in the jump-off!
Wild Card: Luibanta BH ridden by Amanda Derbyshire
This pair looked great on Thursday, putting in two great trips to go double clear. Given their success, you may wonder why they are my wildcard pick? I placed them here because although they were great yesterday, Amanda Derbyshire and Luibanta BH have had four faults in the last five big classes they have entered. This rare case of “four-fault-itis” has plagued them in big classes since June, which has been frustrating because they have been putting in clear rounds in many other classes.
Strengths: This nine-year-old mare has exceptional power. She was clearing some of the jumps by a huge margin, and she is a very exciting horse for the future. Luibanta seems very intelligent, reading each jump well and manipulating her body to successfully clear each jump with a lot of room. Derbyshire gave a fantastic performance looking very confident and calculated with her riding.
Weaknesses: Again, this pair has not put a clear round in a big class since June. Instead, their record is highlighted by numerous four fault scores. Look for that trend to break this weekend, and for the pair to finally get the clear round that has been so close over the last four months. Another thing to consider is Luibanta’s tendency to lose her form at times. which we saw over a few verticals in Thursday’s class. On Saturday, pay special attention to the verticals when you watch this pair. If Derbyshire can keep the mare focused and patient for the verticals, the rest of the course should be a walk in the park for this impressive duo.
Watch the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Washington LIVE—and for FREE—on HorseNetwork.com/live on Saturday at 9:00pm ET.
About the Author
With expertise in both equestrian sport and sports science, Dr. Tim Worden is uniquely positioned to move training techniques from ‘human to horse’; improving the performance of horses and reducing injury risk. Dr. Worden completed his MSc (Biomechanics and Neuroscience) and PhD (Biomechanics) at the University of Guelph, Canada and has published a number of peer-reviewed articles. During his time as a graduate student, Dr. Worden also worked as an equestrian sport scientist, with a clientele composed largely of FEI-level show jumping riders. A number of his training discoveries have influenced the practices of top riders located in North America and Europe.