Spain’s Aznar Jumps Into the Lead, but Sweden’s Fredricson Steals the Show
When yesterday’s first-round winner, Switzerland’s Steve Guerdat, said today’s second competition at the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final 2019 in Gothenburg, Sweden, would shake up the leaderboard, he wasn’t wrong. A single mistake tonight sees him go into Sunday’s two-round title-decider lying third on the leaderboard, but only two points behind Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar at the head of affairs and a single point behind Peder Fredricson who set the Swedish crowd alight with a sensational home victory this evening.
Defending champions, America’s Beezie Madden and Breitling, posted by far the quickest time in the eight-horse jump-off but, like many others, fell victim to the turn the very last. She has moved right into contention however, up from tenth to equal-fourth place in the overall rankings alongside Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels and Olivier Philippaerts and Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs. And there’s only a single fence between Poland’s Jaroslaw Skrzyczynski and the top of the leaderboard. It’s really tight and all to play for going into Sunday’s finale which is guaranteed to be a thriller.
Yesterday Fredricson looked forlorn as he sat at the post-competition press conference as best Swedish rider after finishing in eleventh place with H&M All in, but what a difference a day makes. Tonight’s victory with the aptly-named grey, Catch Me Not, has changed everything. “I was so disappointed yesterday and was not expecting to win today, so I’m really happy tonight!” said the reigning European champion.
Austria’s Max Kuhner and Chardonnay led the way against the clock and set a sensible target when clear in 39.44 seconds. “First to go is never easy. As my horse is not really a naturally fast horse the strategy was to be fast enough and clear” he explained. Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum and Cool Feeling hit the first fence when next to go but Frenchman Olivier Robert made it all the way to the last before faulting there.
Skrzyczynski’s 10-year-old mare, Chacclana, was foot-perfect in a time of 39.68 before Fredricson nearly lifted the roof off the Scandinavium Arena when scorching in to take the lead in 37.94 seconds. Madden was almost three seconds quicker coming to the last, only for that to fall and when Bruynseels suffered the same fate with Delux an T&L only Aznar was left to threaten Fredricson for the win. “Going into the jump-off I felt it was safer to be in the top places for the final on Sunday so I didn’t risk all”, Alvarez Aznar explained afterwards, but his time of 37.97 was still plenty good enough for runner-up spot ahead of Kuhner in third and Skrzyczynski in fourth place. “I was not expecting to be leading tonight but to have a good round. My horse is not the fastest but he is very consistent” said the modest Spanish rider who finished sixth at last year’s Longines Final in Paris and who now has the best of the draw for Sunday’s finale.
“I want to be on the podium of a Championship and I am now in a good position but I have to stay focused and have a good ride on Sunday”, he added.
His compatriot, course-designer Santiago Varela, pointed out tonight that the game is far from over yet however. “I want to say congratulations to the riders, they did a great job tonight. Today was a new day but a lot can change on Sunday because we have two more rounds. We are only half-way through this evening—there’s a lot more jumping to do,” he warned.