Paris, France – April 12, 2018 – The prestigious 2018 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final officially kicked off on Thursday evening with a win for the United States’ Beezie Madden and Breitling LS in the one-round speed leg of the competition.
Madden, a two-time Olympic gold medalist and three-time World Equestrian Games competitor, has only won the individual championship once in 2013 aboard Simon in Gothenburg, Sweden, where she also won Thursday’s first phase of competition.
On Thursday, Madden bested 37 of the world’s top horses and athletes aboard the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood stallion, Breitling LS (Quintero–Armonia, Acord II), owned by Abigail Wexner. Paris is Madden’s 11th World Cup Finals, after last competing in the championship in 2015 with Simon in Las Vegas, Nevada, where she finished as the top U.S. athlete and fourth overall.
The Santiago Varela-designed course, set at 1.60m in height, challenged horses and athletes throughout a series of 13 obstacles around the small, indoor main arena of the AccorHotels Arena. Thursday’s faults-converted speed phase is designed to give an athlete who is quick a chance to stay in the running, even with a rail down, heading into Friday’s second round of competition.
Madden and Breitling LS, who were 20th in the order-of-go and first in the ring after the halfway drag break, blazed around Thursday’s technical track to one of the few clear rounds of the evening in a speedy 61.89 seconds to slide into the first place position.
The pair have been partnered together for almost five years, after acquiring the stallion from Jeroen Dubbeldam in 2013. Since then, they have gone on to produce consistent top results and represent the U.S. on multiple Nations Cup teams.
Thus far throughout 2018, Madden has only shown Breitling LS for three weeks during the winter competition season leading up to this year’s World Cup Finals. During his first event of 2018, he placed second with Madden in the $100,000 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Thermal CSI3*-W at the HITS Coachella Desert Circuit, followed by wins in the $205,000 Lugano Diamonds Grand Prix CSIO4* and $205,000 CaptiveOne Advisors Grand Prix CSI4* during Week Eight and Week Eleven of the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington, Florida, respectively.
Germany’s Daniel Deusser, the 2014 World Cup Finals champion, and Stephex Stables’ Cornet D’Amour (Cornet Obolensky–Daquiri, Damiani) followed Madden two trips later and attempted to catch her time but was unsuccessful. He and the 15-year-old Westphalian gelding jumped clear and stopped the timers in 62.61 seconds, garnering second place honors.
Rounding out the top three of phase one was USA’s Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue (VDL Zirocco Blue–Silvana, Marlon), owned by LL Show Jumpers, LLC, who completed the course fault-free in 62.84 seconds. This year is Ryan’s first time ever competing in the World Cup Finals, however, he and the 9-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding are off to a good start in their debut on the world stage after Thursday’s top performance.
The defending champions of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, McLain Ward and HH Azur, sit in 10th place after lowering the height of one fence and crossing the finish line for a total time of 65.67 seconds. Fellow American, Alison Robitaille and Ace also collected 4 faults to finish in 69.48 seconds.
The second round of the 2018 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final will take place on Friday at 8:30 p.m. (2:30 p.m. EST) and involves one round with a jump-off against the clock. After Thursday’s first phase of competition, 36 will return to the main arena to participate in Friday’s next phase. Points are awarded to each athlete based on their results from each of the first two rounds. Those points are then converted into penalties that athletes carry into the third and final competition on Sunday.
FROM THE WINNER’S CIRCLE
Beezie Madden – Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final I winner
On Breitling LS:
“I thought he was fantastic today. I’m really thrilled with how well he’s been going. He was right there for me every time I called on him. He has gotten quite fast and he’s won quite a few classes in the last year, and this year as well. Some horses you might not take such a risk with today because you need the horse to be rideable and careful for the rest of the competition, but those are his strong points — he’s rideable and he’s careful. I thought today it was okay to take a shot.”
On bringing Breitling LS to Paris:
“I brought him knowing he was a hot horse. He’s 12 years old and I’ve had him the longest of my other horses at this level so I know him the best. Having said that, it’s his first championship so we’ll see how he does the rest of the way. He should have the stamina but we’ll see if he can dig in and jump the biggest fences. I wanted to do a championship with him and get that experience under his belt. He travels well and he’ll have a break after this. You want to be careful how much you do, but you also want to go and compete because that’s what we do to stay at the top of our game.”
On leading after round one:
“It’s always exciting to win here at the World Cup Finals — even just to have a good round the first day. It’s quite tense because of how much risk you take. It’s a little bit of a juggling act so when it all works out well it’s a big relief. This is one of the hardest parts of the World Cup [Finals]. Obviously the courses get harder, but today, the strategy and trying to execute it perfectly is difficult. It really went according to plan — just how I wanted to do it. I thought this would be a good format for my horse because he’s careful, fast and rideable. Hopefully he’s good for tomorrow, but we’ll see. There’s a long way to go. I’m going to take it one day at a time and at least I put myself in a good position.”
Devin Ryan – Third place
On being a newcomer to European competition:
“I haven’t spent much time in Europe competing so I’m sort of a new face in this venue, but I know I have a really good horse and he’s been competing very well in the United States in our biggest competitions. It’s been a dream of mine to represent the States at some level and here we are. I’m very happy to be here.”
On longtime partner Eddie Blue:
“When you have a horse like this, you know you can play in this league. It’s nice that we have been together since he was 4. I really have all the confidence in him and I think he has confidence in me. We know each other really well. Coming into this, it wasn’t as nerve-wracking because I really know my mount. Everything I’ve ever asked of him he’s given to me so I’m very confident.”
HEAR FROM OTHER USA SHOW JUMPING ATHLETES
On Thursday’s performance:
“’Annie’ was brilliant. I thought I was a little slow to the plank. I did one more stride than I had planned and I think it just took away a little of my momentum in the rollback going away from home. She made a good effort and just clipped the back rail. I wish I had done eight and kept the momentum up. I think it was maybe an error of being a little cautious.”
On his strategy going into Friday’s second round:
“I think the first two days you have to do as well as you can. I’d like to stay in the top 10 here but there is a little ground to make up so I’m going to have to have a good performance tomorrow night to be in the mix.”
On returning to the World Cup Finals:
“This is my fifth World Cup Finals. I just had a big break in between to get married and have two children. My last final was in 2006. I’m so grateful to be back at this level and I have an amazing horse. I’ve ridden him for a couple of years and we’ve made a lot of improvements getting to know each other. He does have a little tendency to get strong but I’ve realized that it’s more anxiety of wanting to do a really good job rather than wanting to just run me into the jump. He just sometimes thinks he has a better idea.”