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The King Bows to No One, Day One in Riyadh

© FEI/Martin Dokoupil

Henrik von Eckermann and King Edward aren’t giving up the crown without a fight.

The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final defending champions raced to the top of the leaderboard in Round I of the 2024 Final in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia on Wednesday. They were the only pair to post a sub-67 second round.

The Swedish sensations were more than a second fastest ahead of countryman Peder Fredricson and his 18-year-old SWB gelding Catch Me Not S (67.40) and two-seconds faster than third place finishers Hans-Dieter Dreher (GER) and Elysium.

“I’m really proud of my horse, really proud of my round,” said Dreher afterward. “To lose against Henrik and Peder…it’s not a problem.” 

Thirty-four combinations representing 19 nations took a crack at Frank Rothenberger’s faults-converted speed course. Three seconds were added to clock of each pair’s time for every fence down. 

Posting a foot perfect round, von Eckermann and his browbandless wonder used massive stride and cat-like agility to their advantage.

“It was a great round today. I’m really pleased with it,” said the world no. 1. “The first day’s always the worst one. I’m glad to have it behind me.” 

Related: The Story Behind King Edward’s Avant-Garde Bridle

The highly decorated pair—von Eckermann and King Edward are the reigning Olympic team, double World, and World Cup champions—are in exceptional form heading into the Final.

In seven rounds at 1.60m this year, they have an 86% clear round average, according to Jumpr App. It’s an eight point improvement over the same period in 2023, when they averaged an already phenomenal 78% clear round average. #overachievers

Three Americans finished in the top 12 after Round I. Kent Farrington and Toulayna are tied for fourth with France’s Julien Epaillard and Dubai du Cedre. Nineteen-year-old Skylar Wireman put in the second best effort for the USA finishing in 10th. Jill Humphries and Chromatic BF sit in 12th.

The Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final continues Thursday and Saturday and streams on FEI TV.

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