Show Jumping

Odds in their Favor: Expert Picks for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Calgary

Who will win the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Calgary? 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.

Thursday’s qualifying class for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Calgary featured an interesting first round with a broad spectrum of results.

Some riders handled the course quite easily, while other horse-rider combinations really struggled. It was an exciting jump-off, and Ireland’s Conor Swail and Flower cruised to the win. A number of horses jumped really well, and it was my first chance to watch many of these horses jump at an indoor venue.

These are my picks to win the World Cup Qualifier at the Royal West this week!

Pick 1: Flower ridden by Conor Swail

I have watched Flower since the summer of 2014 when the mare made her first appearance on the Ontario circuit. Back then she was ridden by Finland’s Nina Fagerstrom, who did a great job developing the mare—they were regulars on the Ontario circuit for three seasons. This past winter Conor Swail (IRL) took over the ride.

Having seen both Flower and Swail independently for many years, it has been interesting to watch this new partnership develop over the past ten months. Flower has had a number of top placings in her short time together with Swail, including winning all three classes (and the World Cup Qualifier) at Thunderbird Show Park back in August. They won again on Thursday night and I see no reason why those winning ways will not continue on Saturday!

©Amanda Ubell Photography

Strengths: This 12-year-old mare is very impressive. She is powerful and clever, with the ability to produce big jumping efforts to clear oxers and the agility to “slink” over verticals in lines. Since the start of July, they have jumped clean rounds in 80% of classes they have entered, which is a world class statistic. One of the reasons I love watching Swail ride is his ability to work with the horse to get the job done. Flower can be a bit unconventional at times with how she canters between the jumps, but Swail does a great job of ignoring this, instead focusing on getting the mare into the optimal position at the base of the fence for takeoff.

Weaknesses: The big question mark for this pair is their ability to compete indoors. When you look at Flower’s competition history, it has been a long time since she has competed inside. Although she looked comfortable on Thursday, it will be interesting to watch how the mare will cope with a more difficult track on Saturday. At times she looks difficult to manage between the jumps, and although Swail handles this well, in a condensed indoor venue this will pose a greater challenge than it typically does outdoors.

Handicap: 4-1

Pick 2: Cita ridden by Daniel Coyle

I think Cita is the best horse in the class, and Daniel Coyle (IRL) gives the mare an absolutely fantastic ride. I have had the opportunity to watch this pair quite a bit and I am always in awe of how effortless they make it look. Cita looked great again Thursday night being clear in both the first round and jump-off. This pair will easily handle Saturday’s course and will put in a fast time in the jump-off!

Strengths: Cita has everything you look for in an FEI horse. She is careful, powerful, smart and quick. She does a great job of reading each jump and manipulating her body on approach to get into an optimal takeoff position. Coyle is a slick young rider who is very efficient around the course. Cita tries really hard for him and he always delivers a confident and strong performance. From January to mid-June the pair was virtually unstoppable, producing a number of important wins.

Weaknesses: Despite the massive potential for Cita and Coyle and great results at the start of the season, the pair has struggled since mid-June. They have had three or more rails down in the last three big classes they have entered. I don’t believe this is indicative of their true skillset, but instead just a few unfortunate outings. The last few months competing in smaller classes have produced only positive results, and the pair is poised to carry this momentum into Saturday’s class!

Handicap: 7-1

Pick 3: Cescha M ridden by Isabelle Lapierre

Cescha M and Isabelle Lapierre (CAN) started their World Cup season with a win back in August at Bromont. Since then, the pair has had a number of top results in shows throughout eastern Canada. Last night they were double clean in the qualifying class, and the pair looked to be in perfect synchrony. With Cescha and Lapierre on form, they will put in a solid round in Saturday’s class and I expect them to compete for a top three finish!

©Tom von Kapherr

Strengths: Cescha and Lapierre are a perfect match! Lapierre is very comfortable finding jumps off of a gallop and seems to enjoy forward moving horses. And luckily, that is exactly what Cescha is. This mare excels when she can gallop to the jumps, using her jumping technique to convert that gallop on approach to vertical height over the fences. The ten-year-old mare tries very hard for Lapierre, and they have put in six straight clear rounds.

Weaknesses: The mare is at her best when she can gallop around the track and reach the base of each jump with some speed. This works well for most courses, and is an especially handy trait to have during jump offs. However, when indoors, there may be times where it is not possible to approach every jump with a lot of speed (for example coming off a short turn). These scenarios will put Cescha and Lapierre to the test, as without speed Cescha may struggle to cover the width of bigger oxers. On Saturday, watch for oxers off of short turns or combinations with tight distances, as these will be the two places that may cause problems for this pair.

Handicap: 12-1

Wild Card: Grand Cru VD Vijk Eiken ridden by Vanessa Mannix

This is a hometown competition for Vanessa Mannix (CAN) and I think the added excitement of competing in front of friends and family in Calgary will translate to a great result on Saturday night. Grand Cru VD Vijk Eiken and Mannix had four faults in Thursday night’s class, but they looked comfortable indoors and could have easily gone clear if not for that unlucky rail. They are my wildcard pick because their recent results have been underachieving, but I expect that all to change this week with a big performance this Saturday!

Strengths: This pair has put in some great results in several important classes this summer, including three top ten finishes in big FEI ranking classes at Spruce Meadows. Cru is a powerful jumper and has a very rhythmic canter, which is fun to watch. Although this stallion is only 11-years old, he has been jumping in big classes since 2015, and is thus one of the more experienced horses in the field. Vanessa has really solidified her riding over the past few years, as evidenced by her consistent selection to Canadian Nations Cup teams. She has a great feel for what cues to give Cru during the course, and this combination still has their best years ahead.

Weaknesses: Mannix and Cru have competed sparingly this summer, and have not competed since the start of September. Due to this, they will have to get focused to compete in Saturday’s big class with so few warm-up classes before. However, Mannix is a very focused rider and always has a solid plan, so I don’t think this will be an issue. More importantly, the pair did have a rail in last night’s class (the back rail of an oxer off a short turn). Cru can get a bit cold at times in the ring, especially when the pace slows, so it will be up to Mannix to keep the energy going throughout the class on Saturday!

Handicap: 15-1

Watch the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Calgary LIVE on at 7:30 pm MT!

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.