French riders proved they’re the ones to beat during day one of the Longines World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden. Penelope Leprevost bested her fellow countryman, Simon Delestre, by 2.5 seconds in a thrilling speed round.

Rain didn’t keep a sell-out crowd from attending night one of the Final. A boisterous audience cheered on the field consisting of thirty-five of the world’s top riders – each setting out to solidify their place in Show Jumping history.

Friday’s winners Leprevost & Vagabond de la Pomme. Photo:© Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans.

Clear rounds came quick and fast, starting with second in the line-up, Frenchman Patrice Delaveau and Lacrimoso 3 (Landjunge – Cascavelle). They were safe in the top spot until Germany’s Daniel Deusser and Cornet d’Amour (Cornet Obolensky – Damiani) nailed their inside turns to clock-in at 66.54 seconds, successfully executing a harrowing inside turn from fences 12 to 13 – which meant narrowly avoiding a large oxer in their path. That turn, in addition to a fast pace and tidy corners elsewhere proved necessary to being in the running.

Others came close, including Nicola Philappaertes of Belgium, but nobody bested Deusser’s time until Simon Delestre, always a threat when it comes to speed, jumped to the top of the leaderboard with Qlassic Bois Margot (l’Arc de Triomphe – Galoubet A). It was a classic case of skill and luck when a hard rub on the final rail managed to stay in the cups, allowing Delestre a clear round in 66.04 seconds, just a half second ahead of Deusser.

Second place winners Simon Delestre & Qlassic Bois Margot.

Delestre nervously waited as another eleven riders had yet to go. For nine of those eleven rounds he was sitting pretty, until Leprevost and Vagabond de la Pomme (Vigo d’Arsouilles – For Pleasure), second-to-last in the line-up, put in a superb round to win in 63.78.

Leprevost admitted in the press conference that her ride went even better than planned, “I was lucky to go at the end. I had my plan in my head, but I was faster than I thought!”

After placing second in last year’s Final, Leprevost feels confident coming into this year, noting progress in her horse. “Vagabond is very simple to ride. He has a super character and a lot of scope. At the beginning we had a problem with control but now he has enough dressage so no problem with control.”

Delestre, who had walked the course with Leprevost, agreed they both had a plan in mind. “To be honest I knew I was quite fast but not stupid fast,” said Delestre at the press conference.

When asked what it would mean to win the World Cup Final as number one in the current Longines stangings, Delestre was modest, “It’s a fantastic feeling [to be world number one] but when we are in the ring that changes nothing. It’s a dream of every rider to be number one at some time in his career.” When pressed, he admitted it’d be nice to win this week.

Daniel Deusser & Cornet d’Amour

The World Cup Final is a marathon and not a sprint, a fact that Daniel Deusser learned the hard way. After winning the Final two years ago, he ran hard in last year’s speed round but had an unfortunate rail at the end. By the close of the Final, he finished far down the leaderboard. Deusser admitted to adding a little caution in this year’s speed round, “I tried to be a little bit careful. Out of experience from last year where I went fast and had one at the end and ended up 15th or something. In the last few years a lot happened second and last days.”

Deusser feels confident for the coming days. “I would say the chances are there. My horse is in good condition and jumped good. I was very happy with the way he jumped and the round we had. My goal was to be in the top 5-7 so that’s already worked out. The next few rounds a lot can happen. I have a good feeling but we will see what happens.”

No matter who walks away as this year’s winner, it’s sure to be a thrilling ride over the coming days.

1. Penelope Leprevost (FRA) - Vagabond de la Pomme, 63.78
2. Simon Delestre (FRA) - Qlassic Bois Margot, 66.04
3. Daniel Deusser (GER) - Cornet d’Amour, 66.54
4. Steve Guerdat (SUI) - Corbinian, 66.93
5. Nicola Philippaerts (BEL) H&M Forever D Arco Ter Linden, 66.94
6. Patrice Delaveau (FRA) - Lacrimoso 3 HDC, 66.96

Reem Acra World Cup Dressage Grand Prix

Hans Peter Minderhoud & Glock’s Flirt

Whether the audience at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Grand Prix included knowledgeable dressage enthusiasts or not, it was unanimous from the crowd that the breathtaking ride of the Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt (Florestan I – Gaugin de Lully) would score the big win of the day. Standing ovations and cheers erupted at the end of the effortless and elegant performance.

Minderhoud rode with quiet and soft perfection, Glock’s Flirt responding with smooth powerful precision. Of particular note were the outstanding, lively piaffes and pirouettes that were right on the money. The ride was inspiring, boasting an “IT” factor - that lively spark that ignites the passion of the dance partnership with horse and rider. Every step of the test was right on with the music, which accentuated the easy rhythm between horse and rider. The winning score of 76.871% was impressive, but the audience didn’t need to see the numbers to know Minderhoud and Glock’s Flirt deserved the win.

Minderhoud’s joy at today’s win was obvious, but he’s well aware Sunday’s Freestyle will be competitive. “I know if I want to win once then here is my chance. I was very happy, my horse was very good, really with me, and really concentrated. But Sunday is a new day, I know with those two Swedish I have to give everything and I will,” joked about the competiveness of hometown favorites Vilhelmson Silfven and Kittel.

Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven & Don Auriello

Minderhoud added that Flirt is “almost like a dog, he’s so easy to travel with. He’s not spooky at all he’s just doing his job. As a rider he’s more easy to develop because he’s always trying and with you.”

Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven on Don Auriello (Don Davidoff – White Star) secured second place with a score of 76.500%, nipping at the heels of a first place position. The big gelding’s notable impulsion with great free shoulders revealed magnificent light relaxed movement that looked like he was floating on air. And Tinne’s musicality infused the feeling of the dance into Don Auriello and the resulting lovely performance leaves the audience waiting in anticipation of the Musical Freestyle on Sunday.

But the second place ride didn’t come easy at first. “I had a very shaky start, my first center line was not how you want to start a test,” Vilhelmson Silfven admitted, “but as soon as I made a left turn I felt he was confident and I had a good feeling. But I was a little bit scared at first.”

Hometown favorites, Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic (Solos Carex – Amiral) rounded out the top three. Enthusiastic support from the crowd inspired Kittel and Scandic’s score of 76.400% . The 17 year old Stallion’s powerful piaffe’s were among the very best today and left the audience wanting more.

Watermill Scandic showed that despite his 17 years, he can be quite a handful as he bucked and played his way out the ring to the tune of We Will Rock You and the hometown crowd’s enthusiastic roars.

During the press conference, Kittel expressed how important the audience enthusiasm and emotion is to horse and rider. “I love when they clap, we need the people to clap and want to see us. I’d rather have him [Watermill Scandic] get a bit hot with great sport and audiences rather than people showing no types of emotion.”

The scores between the top riders are so close that one small hiccup in a test can easily change the rankings. Despite small errors, the appreciation for the athleticism, grace and watching the syncronicity between horse and rider leaves us all excited and anticipating the musical freestyle rides on Sunday.

Article by Ashley Fairfield-Remeza & Peg Bixby