Richard Vogel (GER) and United Touch S – Copyright ©FEI/Richard Juilliart
On a night of sensational sport, Germany’s Richard Vogel steered the brilliant stallion United Touch S to win the second leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final 2023 in Omaha (USA). But it is Denmark’s Andreas Schou (Darc de Lux) and Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer (Vancouver de Lanlore) who share the lead going into Saturday’s third and deciding competition.
The top three in the opening Speed class all lost their grip, but overnight leader and world number one, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann (King Edward), only slipped to third with a single fence down. However, Britain’s Scott Brash (Hello Jefferson) plummeted from second to equal-ninth when leaving three on the floor, while Germany’s Daniel Deusser (Scuderia 1918 Tobago Z) retired and is now completely out of contention.
With points from both the Speed leg and the Jump-Off now converted into penalties, there is less than a fence between the top six going into the top-30 last-day test.
Schou and Schwizer are out in front on a zero score and von Eckermann will carry just one penalty point, while 26-year-old Vogel will start with two on the board and Brazil’s Yuri Mansur and the USA’s Hunter Holloway will start with three penalties already on their scorecard.
The result is far from decided because time faults or a fence down on Saturday can change everything.
Only nine of the 39 starters found the key to another superb 14-fence first-round course set by Portugal’s Bernardo Costa Cabral. Regardless of experience this was a track that tested every single rider, and while the oxer at fence 10 proved particularly influential. there were poles on the ground all the way to the very last.
First into the jump-off, flying Frenchman Julien Epaillard left the door wide open with two down with Donatello d’Auge, but Norway’s Victoria Gulliksen followed with a cracking clear from her beloved Papa Roach in 38.71 to take the early lead.
Then America’s Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue, runners-up at the 2018 Final in Paris, hit the very last fence before Harry Charles forged a new lead with Balou du Reventon that stopped the clock in 35.25 seconds.
The British rider’s advantage was short-lived when Vogel’s big-striding horse galloped through the finish in 35.11 seconds with apparent ease. Although Schou (35.58 seconds) and last-to-go Schwizer (36.18 seconds) left all the timber intact, they had to settle for third and fourth places, respectively, while Vogel reigned supreme ahead of Charles.
Talking about his win, Vogel, whose recent form has seen him rise 23 places in the world rankings in the last month, said, “It’s our first World Cup Final, so we are delighted with how it has gone so far. Obviously, we will try to do our best on the final day, but we are already very happy!”
Runner-up Charles, who is highest ranked U25 rider and number 15 in the latest world rankings, was also more than pleased. He’s clearly thrilled to be partnering the brilliant Balou du Reventon who only joined his string last December.
“He’s not really a horse, he’s a Pegasus! For sure he’s the best horse I’ve ever ridden and even at 17 years old, he is still one of the best horses in the world. I’ve been watching him since I was growing up and it’s an honour and a privilege to be sat on him. I love every minute of every time I get to go in the ring with him!” he said proudly.
He described the course as “fantastic… I didn’t think it was too big but it rode really difficult and we got a great result. A lot of good guys from yesterday didn’t quite have the result they wanted today which was good for me! So it has made it a really exciting competition.”
Third-placed Schou also had plenty of nice things to say about his handsome stallion Darc de Lux, who has helped place him in the joint lead going into the final day.
“Yesterday we managed to stay near the top, and today he came out like he did all the indoor season and fought for me all the way around and gave me the clear round that was needed.” When the penultimate vertical came up very deep, the 12-year-old horse didn’t hesitate to oblige.
“That was all credit on him. I deserved to have a mistake in that turn. I had seen Richard’s round and I knew I had to give it all, and when I put so much pressure on him the canter gets difficult to handle. When I turned, the distance wasn’t there and I had to add one (stride), but he’s such a sharp and clever horse that he managed.”
When asked if he was surprised to find himself in the joint lead, he replied, “I think I have to say yes! But when you see his (Darc de Lux’s) record all indoor season, he jumped six World Cups and ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) and Geneva (SUI) and he’s been clear in most or maximum one down. He’s such a consistent, clever, and careful horse, so he actually deserves to be there because he is actually one of the best!”
by Louise Parkes