Who will win the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Sacramento? 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. Here’s his breakdown:
In my opinion, the field for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping in Sacramento is relatively even.
There are no obvious choices to finish on top this week (such as HH Azur and Mclain Ward or Gazelle and Kent Farrington). Instead, there are a number of horse-rider combinations that have the potential to win on Saturday, which should make for an exciting competition. Below are my top three picks as well as a wildcard for this weekend’s class. These four combinations will be in the hunt, and I am looking forward to watching them battle it out!
Pick 1: Luebbo ridden by Jamie Barge
For me, Luebbo and Jamie Barge are the ones to beat on Saturday. I really like this combination. When you look at their competition history, all they do is put in quality rounds, as evidenced by the fact that the pair has not had a rail since June 1st. Of course, that all changed last night in the $36,500 qualifying class (more on that below). The pair is coming off a 3rd place finish at the Thunderbird World Cup at the end of August, and I think that trend will continue.
Strengths: Luebbo is careful, powerful and clever. The 12-year-old gelding is electric off the ground and has the qualities needed to compete well indoors. Jamie 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 and Jamie went to the World Cup Finals in Omaha at the start of the year so it is clear the duo have what it takes to make it there. At 12, Luebbo has compiled an impressive competition record and has the experience needed to answer any question a course designer throws at him.
Weaknesses: Luebbo can lose his form over jumps in combinations, and this contributed to his rail last night. He had the B element of the triple combination (oxer-one stride-vertical-two strides-oxer) down with his hind end. 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!
Pick 2: Catypso ridden by Eric Navet
This is an exciting horse to keep an eye on for the future! At just ten-years old, Catypso has already jumped some big tracks with top results, and he looked to be in great form in the class last night. Further, when you have a master like Eric Navet in the irons you know the course will always be masterfully executed. This pair, like Jamie and Luebbo, also competed at the World Cup Finals in Omaha and had great performances there.
Strengths: It is clearly evident that Catypso has been trained in a great program. Catypso is patient and methodical in his jumping and had some fantastic jumping efforts last night. In the qualifying class he looked comfortable, adjustable and powerful. As I mentioned before, I have complete faith that Eric will have a great plan for Catypso that will put it in the best position to succeed on Saturday.
Weaknesses: As one of the youngest horses in the competition, Catypso has fewer experiences to draw upon. Also, Catypso did not have a great outing at his most recent competition (Thunderbird at the end of August). A rail down in both the opening class and the Word Cup were uncharacteristic for the horse. But, that was August, and this is October. The last two times Catypso has had a month or more off from competing, he returned to the competition ring with only clear rounds. Hopefully that trend continues this week.
Pick 3: Emilie De Diamant A S ridden by Jack Hardin Towell
Emilie De Diamant A S and Hardin Towell spent the summer competing in Europe and had a number of great results. On Thursday, they put in a clear first round and the horse appeared to be in great form. Jack made the decision not to return to contest the jump-off, which tells me he is focused on a great result in the World Cup Qualifier.
Strengths: The mare had some great jumps last night and looked like she was “judging” the jumps well, efficiently clearing them with minimal effort. Jack rode very well and I am sure he will be looking for a big win in Sacramento. I also thought it was a wise decision not to do the jump-off last night, instead focusing on having his horse in top form for Saturday’s important class.
Weaknesses: In the recent past, the mare has not competed much indoors. Although she looked great on Thursday, it will be interesting to watch her Saturday over a bigger and more technical track. Some horses struggle indoors when the jumps get bigger, let’s hope that isn’t the case for Emilie De Diamant A S. The mare can also be a bit impatient at some jumps, not taking the full time needed to execute her technique. Like Luebbo, watch Emilie De Diamant A S at the combinations, if she is good there she will likely be clean.
Wild Card: Toulago ridden by Adrienne Sternlicht
Toulago and Adrienne Sternlicht are my wildcard choice. When you look at their recent competition history, a 27th place finish at the Old Salem World Cup Qualifier and an 18th place at the Hampton Classic Grand Prix highlights their September results. However, when you dig a bit deeper, there is a lot of potential for this pair. Toulago and Adrienne jumped some big tracks at Spruce Meadows in June and July, and had quality results in Europe in July and August. The combination looked comfortable in Sacramento on Thursday with just one time fault, and if both Toulago and Adrienne are on form, I expect a strong round to springboard them into the jump-off.
Strengths: Toulago has great bodily awareness and control. If you get a chance, re-watch his round from Thursday (available on Horse Network), it was a thing of beauty. Toulago and Adrienne answered all of the jumping questions presented by the course designer Marina Azevedo). Toulago does an amazing job of analyzing the jumps and adjusting his movements to jump clear. If not for that pesky time fault (which I know they can easily address during Saturday’s class), they would have been in the jump-off. The pair looked very comfortable indoors on Thursday, putting in one of the more effortless rounds of the day. I really like Adrienne as a rider; I think she has great “feel,” a massive upside in the sport.
Weaknesses: On first glance their competition record is variable, with the pair finishing outside of the top 15 in 50% of their classes since June. However, they have produced four fault rounds in big grand prixes, and they jump clear often enough to demonstrate big-time potential. There were not many weaknesses in their class on Thursday. Between jumps they can be a bit more efficient, but for the actual jumping efforts they were on fire. If the pair can jump as well as they did on Thursday, they will go double clear on Saturday!!
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.