Who will win the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar? 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 Grand Prix qualifier was exciting to watch as 58 horse and rider combinations battled it out to be included in Saturday’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Del Mar. The jump-off contained a number of great horses and riders, and the early jump-off pace set by Mandy Porter and Coral Reef Follow Me II was fast enough to beat all of the following challengers.
A number of horses jumped really well, and it was an interesting contrast to see many of the horses that competed indoors two weeks ago in Sacramento get outdoors in the big grass ring this week.
Below are my picks to win on Saturday!
Pick 1: Mark Q ridden by Kevin Babington
I have had the opportunity to watch this pair compete at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida over the past few years. Mark Q and Kevin Babington are an experienced pair with numerous top results in big classes against the best in the world. This is highlighted by two top eight finishes in Grand Prixes at Spruce Meadows this summer. Mark Q had an uncharacteristic rail yesterday (the back rail of an oxer jumping into a combination), but I don’t think this will be an issue in tomorrow’s class.
Strengths: Mark Q is a top horse. He has travelled throughout North America and jumped the biggest tracks against some of the best in the world. He has a powerful jumping technique and Babington does a great job of getting him to adapt to the lines on course. Mark Q does not look like the easiest horse to ride, but Babington is a phenomenal jockey and gets the job done. Mark Q has the ability to jump well on grass (an ability some horses lack), as highlighted by several top results at Spruce Meadows this summer. With a pair this experienced, it is a safe bet that they will put in a great result on Saturday.
Weaknesses: Although the Mark Q and Babington should be commended for travelling to the biggest shows in North America and competing against some of the best riders in the world, 2017 has not been their most successful year together. They have not had a top three placing since June, and have not shown their typical consistency to perform well in big classes. I am sure this fact is bugging Babington, and I think he will enter the ring on Saturday motivated to get a win!
Pick 2: Chatinus ridden by Richard Spooner
Two weeks ago I was kicking myself for not adding this pair to my picks, so this week I am not making that mistake again. Chatinus and Richard Spooner were clear yesterday, and had a great result in the Sacramento World Cup as well. They have not been together very long but already look like a strong combination. I have always been a fan of Spooner, and with his new partner Chatinus I expect a great performance on Saturday.
Strengths: Spooner knows exactly what ride to give Chatinus, and his experience is on full display as he rides. The horse seems to judge the jumps well, clearing them efficiently and effortlessly. The class yesterday looked easy for Chatinus, and I think he has plenty more on in the tank for Saturday’s class. This relatively new pair (Spooner only started showing the horse a few months ago) have only been together for three FEI ranking classes, and have not had a rail yet. The future for this pair looks very bright!
Weaknesses: This ten-year-old gelding has a fairly extensive show record, but he has lacked consistency with riders. In the past two years, he has competed in FEI classes with five different jockeys. With all of these changes, it can be a bit hard to forecast how a horse will perform in the future. A few times in the class yesterday it looked like there was some miscommunication between horse and rider on the course, although Spooner did a great job at solving these issues quickly. That being said, Spooner is a top rider and the pair have not had a rail yet, so there is no reason to anticipate this will change!
Pick 3: Luebbo ridden by Jamie Barge
Two weeks ago I picked Luebbo and Jamie Barge to win the class in Sacramento. Everything looked great until they had the last fence down in the first round, ending their chances for a win. Luebbo looked electric again yesterday putting in a seemingly easy clear round. In their last outing in Sacramento, the pair had four faults in both the qualifying class and the feature class—a very uncharacteristic trend for the pair. Look for the Luebbo and Barge to end their ‘four fault trend’ this week, building on yesterday’s great performance with a clear round Saturday!
Strengths: Luebbo is careful, powerful and clever. The 12-year-old gelding is electric off the ground and to me he looked even better outdoors this week than he did indoors back in Sacramento. Barge gives Luebbo a great ride, keeping him focused on the task at hand and working well in synchrony to give him the correct cues as the correct time. Luebbo can seemingly jump anything on course from any approach, and as long as Barge can keep him focused on the task at hand, it should be an exciting pair to watch in the jumpoff!
Weaknesses: Having watched Luebbo more, he has such effortful jumps that sometimes it can cause him to lose his form. So yes, one of his greatest strengths can be a weakness as well. When you watch on Saturday, pay close attention to how he jumps through the combinations: if he looks good there, I expect him to cruise easily through the first round and into the jump-off!
Wild Card: NKH Calango ridden by Christian Heineking
This pair looked great on Thursday, putting in a solid round to finish on just one time fault. I thought the horse jumped well and the pair looked very comfortable in the big grass ring at Del Mar. However, they are my wildcard pick because although they looked great, the pair has not jumped a single FEI class since March. Therefore, it is hard to know how the horse will come out for the second (and bigger) class of the week. If the horse has the fitness needed, look for this pair to be in the thick of the hunt on Saturday!
Strengths: Calango was jumping well over the rails in Thursday’s class. He is a very powerful horse with a stylish technique. The pair did a great job around the whole course, especially jumping some careful verticals. Heineking gives Calango the exact ride he needs, and the pair did look quite good yesterday.
Weaknesses: When you watch Calango, it looks like the nine-year-old gelding has the potential to accomplish a lot on this sport. However, his competition record is quite empty, having only ever competed in 12 FEI ranking classes. With seemingly little experience, it is possible that he could struggle in a more technically demanding course due to his lack of experience, ultimately leading to rails. If Calango and Heineking are able to put together a plan to answer all of the questions posed by course designer Alan Wade on Saturday, they have the athletic ability to easily make it to the jump-off.
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.