With the first round of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final just hours away, the odds makers are abuzz with who will take home the most coveted individual title in show jumping.
Not literally abuzz. No one bets on these things. But if, say, you were to put your money where your mouth is, show jumping sports analyst Tim Worden, PhD, has a few well-informed ideas on where it’s most likely to bring you glory and praise. Based on stats and science.
Without further ado, here are his top four picks to bring home the trophy. (Spoiler: McLain Ward isn’t on his list!)
4. Henrik von Eckermann and Mary Lou 194
Coming in the number four spot on Dr. Worden’s list is Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann and Toveks Mary Lou.
“This 12-year-old bay mare and Henrick have been on fire over the past year,” said Dr. Worden. “They had a really good result a couple weeks ago in the Rolex Grand Prix [in Geneva] and over the past year have had eight top ten finishes in some really big classes, which is a testament to how strong they’ve been. Furthermore, in the World Cup Final last year in Omaha, they were very strong there, finishing third.”
Equally impressive, he says, is the athleticism and skill of the partnership.
“When you watch this pair compete, the mare is incredibly explosive. She’s got all the talent in the world. Of course, Henrick does a really good job riding her,” he continued.
“They do have a couple of underachieving results—performances over four faults,” said Dr. Worden. “I think as long as Henrick has her in form this week, they’ll be really tough to beat. Another thing to consider is that a Swedish rider has never won a World Cup Final, so Henrick will be looking to reverse that trend this week.”
3. Beezie Madden and Breitling LS
Dr. Worden’s number three pick is veteran partners Beezie Madden (USA) and Breitling LS.
“Beezie has been partnered with this stallion for quite awhile now. They’ve had very consistent top results over the past four years. This pair has been on an absolute role since the start of the year. They won two Grand Prix in Wellington in Florida and they had a second place finish in the World Cup class in California,” explained Dr. Worden.
“They are incredibly consistent together. You have to go back to June of 2017 to find a class where they’ve had more than one rail. Further, Beezie has won the World Cup Final before. She did it in 2013 with Simon, so you know she has the skill to make it happen.”
Consistency counts with this combination, he continued.
“When you watch this pair compete, Beezie is just so accurate and consistent, it’s really impressive. Breitling is so efficient going over the jumps. They make it look effortless as a pair,” said Dr. Worden.
“Occasionally, they will have a rail. But when you watch the film, it’s never really explained. It’s hard to know if Breitling didn’t correctly read the jump or if he was just a little out of position on take off. But regardless, Beezie has taken the time to go over to Paris with this horse, I’m sure she’s got him ready and they’ll be very difficult to out do.”
2. Harrie Smolders and Emerald
For his number two pick, Dr. Worden taps the Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders and Emerald.
“This 14-year-old chestnut stallion and Harrie have just been so consistent over the past couple of years. They put in a double clear a couple of weeks ago in the Rolex Grand Prix [in Geneva]. When you look at their competition history, it’s just clear round after clear round. Similar to Beezie and Breitling, you have to go back to the summer of 2017 to find a class where they have had more than one rail down,” he said.
“What’s more, they’re very good in the World Cup Final format. Back in 2016, this pair was second to Steve Guerdat, so you know they have all the tools to make it through a lot of jumping in a short amount of time that this championship requires.
While he says you can’t fault much with the horse, there is one weak spot to combination.
“When you watch the film of this pair, the horse is so active, so explosive, so energetic—i’s just incredible to watch. Harrie’s a great rider, so you know he gets a good ride every time,” he said. “Occasionally, and it’s very rare, the horse will hang up over a wider spread fence, causing a rail. You saw this at the 2016 Olympics in the individual final. But again, those rails are rare and if they’re on form, they’ll be very difficult to beat this week.”
1. Marcus Enhing and Cornado
“If I was a betting man, I’d pick Cornado and Marcus Ehning (GER) to win it all this week,” said Dr. Worden.
“This 15-year-old gret stallion and Marcus have been together for a long time. The results they’ve put together are just so impressive. Whenever you look at the competition record of this pair, there’s always a different stat that really jumps off the page. This pair haven’t had more than one rail down in a meaningful FEI class since the start of 2016, which is a truly remarkable stat.
“In the last seven FEI classes they’ve competed in, they’ve been top three in five. So they’ve only missed the top three in two of them, which again is just an out-of-this-world stat.”
What’s more, he pointed out, Ehning has won the World Cup Final three times previously.
“You know he can handle the pressure and get it done, as he’s done many times before,” said Dr. Worden.
“Another very important thing to consider is that a few weeks ago in the Grand Prix in Paris, this pair finished third. This is significant because the course designer for that class, Santiago Varela, is also the course designer for this week’s World Cup Final. So you know Marcus and Cornado are comfortable with the course he sets and that’ll probably make them very confident going into this week.”
When it comes to horsepower, Cornado is the full package.
“Watching the film, they are just a very impressive pair. They make it look so easy. Cornado is strong, he’s powerful, he’s got the scope, he’s very clever, he has great bodily awareness. There really are no weaknesses in a jump off with this horse. Occasionally, if Marcus really has to steady to a jump, he’ll lose some vertical impulse, which makes it a little bit harder for a horse to get off the ground. But again, he’s just so powerful and athletic, he can overcome this and it’s very rare to see them have more than a rail, or even a rail.”
Tune into FEI TV to find out if Dr. Worden’s predictions pay! (For free coverage, LonginesTiming.com has the live results.