The World Championships in Denmark are exactly one month away. But there’s still one more observation event to get through before US Equestrian names a team.
Because who needs to plan their summer?
This week sees the FEI Jumping Nations Cup Knokke Hippique CSIO5* in Knokke-Heist, Belgium. Like Katniss Everdeen shooting the apple out of the pig’s mouth before the Hunger Games or McLain Ward capturing two 1.60m wins at CHIO Aachen, Germany last week, five short-listed athletes get one final chance to impress the
Gamesmakers selection committee. And the bar has been set high. (See: McLain Ward in Aachen).
Donning the red, white and blue this weekend are:
Bliss Heers and her 12-year-old super stallion Antidote de Mars have a 50% clear round rate in four 1.60m appearances this year (JUMPR App), jumping double clear in February’s 5* Grand Prix in Wellington. But it’s their Nations Cup record that’s most noteworthy. The pair jumped double clear in their Nations Cup debut in Wellington in 2021 and were 0/1 at Spruce Meadows that same year. There’s also an elimination in the Nations Cup in Poland (2021) and 8 faults in the Nations Cup of Canada (June 2022) on their record. But we’ll chalk those up to extenuating circumstances.
If you’re thinking Michael Who’s? you’d be forgiven for the short-term memory lapse. Hughes followed up a stellar junior career in the U.S. by immediately moving to Europe at age 19. He joined Stephex Stables in September 2020, now riding alongside world No. 6 Daniel Deusser (GER). Twenty-six year old Hughes and Kashmir Van D’oude Pastory have logged podium finishes this year in Vejer de la Frontera (1.55m 4*), Eindhoven (1.50m 3*) and just last month in Knokke (1.55m 3*), jumping double clear in each. He’s a long shot, but one to watch.
A staple in the world top 50 and on the U.S. team, Kraut is the most decorated rider of the five. She was part of the gold medal teams at the 2008 Olympic Games in Beijing and the FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon, NC, and the recent silver medal team at the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo. In 2022 alone, she’s logged 20 international podium finishes. Most recently with Confu, she won the $216,000 Horseware Ireland Grand Prix CSI4* in March and jumped double clear in the CSIO5* Nations Cup in Rome in May.
The reserve rider for the Tokyo Olympics team, Brian Moggre is knocking at the door for his first senior championship. His 16-year-old mount Balou du Reventon was voted 2021 International Horse of the Year. The stallion has made six appearances at the 1.60m level this year, posting a double clear in the 5* Grand Prix in Wellington, FL in February and an 8/0 in the Nations Cup in Rome in May, another team observation event for the World Championships. He’ll be looking to improve on that performance this weekend.
Jessica Springsteen was also a member of the silver medal winning 2020 Tokyo team with Don Juan van de Donkhoeve. Her Olympic mount hasn’t shown since March, so all eyes are on Rmf Zecilie. Of late, the 15-year-old mare has a case of four faulitis, jumping clear in only two of their past eight performances since May at 1.50m and above. But they also haven’t picked up more than four faults in those classes and consistency counts. Hopefully, they find the cure in Knokke.
Competition begins July 7. The Zoute Plage Jumping Nations Cup CSIO5* starts at 2:00 p.m. GMT+2 on Friday, July 8.