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Will History Repeat Itself? Riders to Watch at the 2023 FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final

ECCO FEI World Championships 2022, Herning (DEN) HENRIK VON ECKERMANN of Sweden jumps on KING EDWARD in the second competition of the FEI World Team & Individual Jumping Championship during Agria FEI Jumping World Championship 2022 in Herning, Denmark, August 11, 2022.

The time has come.

After 83 qualifiers worldwide, the names we can expect to see on the startlist of the 2023 FEI World Cup™ Final in Omaha, NE, has been released. The competitors planned their schedules diligently, spending the latter part of 2022 and first quarter of 2023 fighting for a coveted spot in the prestigious final. 

Among the qualifiers for the FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final are eight of the world’s current top 10. Forty-two partnerships from 19 nations worldwide will be represented.

Only four previous winners mark their names on the star-studded list: Martin Fuchs (2022), McLain Ward (2017), Daniel Deusser (2014), and Marcus Ehning (2010, 2006, 2003). With serious horsepower, each of the reigning champions are top contenders. But, with the strength of the field, it could very well be a new name atop the four-day final in Omaha this year.

McLain Ward (USA) riding Callas to second place at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ NAL 2022/2023 – Fort Worth (USA) ©FEI/Shannon Brinkman

McLain Ward / Callas

McLain Ward (USA) has had a year, and we mean that in the best way possible. In March, he shot up to number four in the world rankings, after winning the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva, SUI in stunning fashion. He still finds himself in the live contender position, just one win away from what could be the second-ever Rolex Grand Slam title.

But all of that was separate from his FEI World Cup™ Final partner, Callas. The 15-year-old mare came into Ward’s string in 2022 and has proven herself every step of the way. With a CSI5* Grand Prix win at the Winter Equestrian Festival in February, a second-place finish in the 2022 American Gold Cup CSI5*, and a 62% clear round average at the 1.60m height, consistency is kind of their thing. 

Ward pulls out Callas for only the biggest events, so the mare will certainly be fresh and ready for the challenge in Omaha. It’s the same stage where he won the title in 2017, his first victory in the FEI World Cup™ Final. 

Julien Epaillard (FRA) and Donatello d’Auge, winners of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022/23, Amsterdam (NED). © FEI/Arnd Bronkorst

Julien Epaillard / Donatello D’Auge

Julien Epaillard (FRA) finished second in the Western European League (WEL) with 92 points. Parting ways with his all-star mount Caracole De La Roque at the close of 2022, he relied on Donatello D’Auge to maintain his world ranking and currently sits in third. 

Epaillard won FEI World Cup™ Qualifiers in Amsterdam with Donatello, and Madrid and Lyon with Caracole, marking three separate wins throughout the 2022/2023 season. He also came second in the recent Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* at the Dutch Masters. 

According to Jumpr App, when Epaillard and Donatello jump clear at 1.60m, they tend to win. The pair also boasts a 55% clear round average in their 65 starts together.

Daniel Deusser (GER) and Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z were part of the leading German Team at the Longines FEI Jumping European Championship. ©Dean Mouhtaropoulos/Getty Images for FEI

Daniel Deusser / Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z

Daniel Duesser (GER), third in the WEL standings, and his World Cup™ Final mount Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z have earned an unbelievable 2,645,695 euros in their seven years together. To date, 2023 hasn’t seen the 15-year-old stallion slow down. With a 71% clear round average this year, the duo is on fire, especially when compared to their overall 59% clear average. 

Deusser and Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z have shown ultimate consistency at the highest levels, with CSI5* wins worldwide, from Wellington to Madrid, Shanghai, Oslo, plus a Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* win at the Dutch Masters.

Deusser was the World Cup Final champion in 2014 in Lyon, FRA aboard Cornet D’Amour, and now he leans on his long-time partner to attempt a repeat victory nine years later.

Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) and King Edward jumped to third place at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022/23 in Bordeaux, FRA. ©FEI/Eric Knoll

Henrik Von Eckermann / King Edward

The clear favorite is Henrik Von Eckermann (SWE) and the ultimate royal, King Edward. And it’s not just because he won the WEL with 102 points. King Edward is a championship specialist. In 2021, the Belgian Warmblood was the only horse to jump the entire Tokyo Olympic Games without a single pole down. Jump-off times determined the pair’s ultimate individual fourth place finish, but they did come home with the team gold medal for the unstoppable Swedes.

In 2022, Von Eckermann and the now 13-year-old gelding continued in stunning fashion, earning individual and team gold at the FEI World Championships in Herning, Denmark. Again, the duo didn’t drop a single pole, and came home with serious bling.

Proving incredible resilience, they dominated the WEL, even after two consecutive winning championship performances. During the 2022/2023 season, they took FEI World Cup™ Qualifier wins in Basel, Bordeaux, and Verona, plus a third place finish in the Rolex Grand Prix CSI5* of the Dutch Masters. Von Eckermann came third in Omaha 2017 and Paris 2018, both aboard Tovek’s Mary Lou. This year, he’s fighting for his first FEI World Cup™ Final win.

Martin Fuchs (SUI) riding Leone Jei at the ECCO FEI World Championships 2022. ©FEI/Leanjo de Koster

Martin Fuchs / Leone Jei

Martin Fuchs (SUI) is the defending FEI World Cup™ Final champion, and though he’s going with a different mount for 2023, his odds are not reduced. Having just retired his 2022 champion Chaplin from the sport, the obvious choice in the European champion’s string was Leone Jei, who is quickly filling the shoes of Fuchs’ beloved Clooney 51.

Leone Jei burst onto the scene as a promising nine-year-old, and now, at 11, has the proven record of a winner. In 2021, the duo claimed the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva, just one spot shy of a repeat victory, placing second in 2022. They were also winners of the 2022 Rolex Grand Prix at Dinard and the 2021 European Championships silver medalist.

The Fuchs family has a storied past in the FEI World Cup™ Final. Martin’s father Thomas and uncle Markus have both earned top five finishes, plus a victory for Markus, throughout the ‘90s and ‘00s. Martin is carrying on the family tradition, currently sitting in second in the Longines World Rankings.

FEI World Equestrian Games™ Tryon USA Devin Ryan of the United States on Eddie Blue. ©FEI/Martin Dokoupil

Wildcard: Devin Ryan / Eddie Blue

Though they are team gold medalists from the Tryon 2018 World Championships, Eddie Blue hasn’t had the ideal start to his year with Devin Ryan (USA) aboard. Coming off a stellar year in 2022, with an 80% clear round and 100% top-10 averages at 1.60m, including an FEI World Cup™ Qualifier victory in Lexington, KY, the 14-year-old gelding has yet to jump a clear round at any height in 2023.

But they are a championship pair through and through, jumping double-clear for the USA at past Nations Cups in Aachen and Dublin. They also took the runner-up position at the 2018 FEI World Cup™ Final in Paris, one of only two pairs to jump double-clear on the final day of competition, a feat in and of itself.

If the horse can return to form, their consistency could certainly carry them to a top result. But if their confidence is shaken from a rocky start to the year, it could be a different story for the veteran duo.

See more qualified pairs here.

The FEI Jumping World Cup Final will stream live, April 4–8 on FEI TV.

Feature image: Henrik von Eckermann of Sweden jumps on King Edward in the second competition of the FEI World Team & Individual Jumping Championship during Agria FEI Jumping World Championship 2022 in Herning, Denmark, August 11, 2022.

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