This week officially marks the first of Spring 2023 and the promise of blooming flowers, longer days, warmer temps and—best of all—the return of Major League Show Jumping (MLSJ)!

Season 3 promises to be MLSJ’s biggest yet, with $8.5 million plus in prize money, ten CSI5* events, and two new $1 Million Finals—the Individual Final, December 1-3 and the Team Final, December 8–10—to take place at Desert International Horse Park in Thermal, CA.

The best part: This year’s roster is fully stacked with a who’s who of some of the best names in the business. How do the squads measure up? Check out their Power Rank, based on the average, combined world ranking of the top three riders on every squad as of December 1, 2022. Like the ranking list, itself, the lower the number, the better a team’s odds.

Here’s how it all shakes out.

The Favorites

Why They Can Win

Ranking points. On paper, and with their 16 Power Rank, Trailblazers have virtually stacked the deck this season with the most Top-50 ranked riders in the League in Conor Swail, Daniel Bluman, Darragh Kenny and Lillie Keenan. Keenan (USA) and Kenny (IRL) both joined the Trailblazers midway through the 2022 season after Bluman (ISR) departed, helping the team to a fourth-place finish overall. Swail is a clutch nab from 2022’s Eye Candy.

This season, the gang’s all here. Add in the notorious speed of former Roadrunner Kyle King (USA) and world no. 65-ranked Nayel Nassar (EGY) and it’s clear Trailblazer are aiming for nothing less than the title.

More to the point: Trailblazers currently boast the highest team ranking average of MLSJ. Is 2023 theirs to lose? 

Why They Can Win

Chemistry, for one thing. Top-ranked riders, for another. Last season’s champion, team Helios returns with founding members Ashlee Bond (ISR), Mark Bluman (COL) and Karl Cook (USA) for Season 3. They’ve added ace Canadian Erynn Ballard, formerly of the Lugano Diamonds, in place of Eugenio Garza (MEX), as well as former Northern Lights rider Sam Walker and new MLSJ recruit Roberto Teran (COL) to the lineup.

As Manager and Olympian, Bond is a proven entity in the irons and out, with a reputation for morale-building and getting the most out of her fellow riders—all of whom, by the way, just happen to be ranked in the Top 250 in the world. What’s more, two Helios members, Bond and the ultra-competitive Cook, finished second and third individually last year, while the Helios team topped the League with a dominant 84 points. With a Power Rank of 76, can they do it again?

Why They Can Win

Competitive drive. It’s what led Eye Candy to finish in second place last season with 77 points and take the title back in 2021 with 80. This season, they’ll bring back experienced vets Paul O’Shea (IRL), Amy Millar (CAN), Jacqueline Steffens Daly (CAN), and Richie Moloney (IRL)—the latter a late swap in 2022. Proven speed rider Jessica Mendoza (GBR) is back in the MLSJ mix after a 2022 injury, and the squad has super equine talent in the form of O’Shea’s Squirt Gun and Millar’s Truman, both of whom jump clear 50 percent of the time or better at 1.50m (per Jumpr App).

They’ll face a serious loss in Ireland’s Conor Swail (traded to the Trailblazers), but will enjoy continued fan-girl backing from owner/manager/mascot wrangler and social media personage Erica Hatfield. Will they win? With a Power Rank of 100, Eye Candy is a top contender. Will Hatfield make every MLSJ stop an entertaining romp? Without a doubt.

The Contenders

Why They Can Win

Consistency. Top 100-ranked Irish riders Shane Sweetnam and Jordan Coyle, along with #livinglegend Margie Goldstein-Engle and Lacey Gilbertson (both of the USA) have been together for all three years of MLSJ competition, rebranding from the ‘Lucky Charms’ to the Spy Coast Spies in 2022. All bring not only experience but talented strings of horses at this level, while U25 recruit Ashley Vogel (USA) and Darragh Kerins (IRL) will bring fresh energy to the mix.

In 2022, Sweetnam himself tied for 5th Individually and, according to Jumpr App, boasted a standout 60% clear average at the 1.50m MLSJ competition height. Trust him and the rest of the Spies to be gunning for the top spot after their third-place finish last year.  

Why They Can Win

The element of surprise. Only America’s Kaitlin Campbell returns from last year’s Roadrunners, but she’s bringing back two pinch hitters from 2021: Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) and the one and only McLain Ward (USA). Currently sitting at no. 4 in the world, Ward is the highest-ranked rider in the League and, after a whopper of a 2022/2023 season, comes onto the team with key experience as both a competitor and coach.

Daniel Coyle (IRL), for his part, tied with Shane Sweetnam for 5th place in the 2022 MLSJ Individual standings, while Amanda Derbyshire (GBR) is no stranger to either top-level speed or pressure. A virtually new team with a 51 Power Rank and Ward as anchor? The Roadrunners have our attention.

Why They Can Win

It’s Farrington, Kent Farrington. The definitive 2022 MLSJ individual winner with a whopping 93 points, Farrington, currently ranked 13th in the world for the USA, has returned this year with a vengeance—and his own eponymous, all-American team.

Backing him is wunderkind Natalie Dean, 23, who cracked the top-100 for the first time in 2022. The two competed, along with Hood, as part of the now-defunct Lugano Diamonds team. All three, plus Gochman, come to the Farrington team with a deep bench of horses on their strings. And, at the 1.50m height, according to Jumpr App, Farrington himself jumps clear 48% of the time—which should surprise exactly no one. It’s his team, after all. 

The Underdogs

Why They Can Win

The confidence of youth. With three members of the team still U25-eligible and the average age of all members under 29, the Crusaders may have less combined experience than other teams on the roster, as evident by their 205 Power Rank. But they also top 50-ranked Nicolas Pizzaro (MEX) to take the lead, and plenty of horse power—including former Beezie Madden ride, Garant—under Callie Schott (USA) and Audrey Schulze (USA). 

Why They Can Win

They come in as the underdog. The Northern Lights may have finished the season last in the standings, but don’t expect them to stay that way. Leading the almost-all-Canadian charge (minus the USA’s Alexis Sokolov) will be Vanessa Mannix and Ali Ramsay, both ranked in the top-200 in the world and both coming into MLSJ following particularly strong winter seasons at Desert International Horse Park.

No question the Northern Lights will be hoping to maximize their established camaraderie and perhaps the midseason trade window to boost the team’s position this year. Don’t count them out.

How to Tune-In

Catch all the Major League action, every stop along the season, on MLSJ TV—and be sure to download the MLSJ App for all things Major League! Available on Google Play and the App Store.