Beezie Madden (USA) on Breitling LS. Photo FEI/Glen Burgess

By Alice Collins

There are 11 riders from the USA carrying the stars and stripes at the FEI World Cup final in Paris, which kicks off today (April 12) in France’s capital, Paris. 

McLain Ward — ranked eighth in the world — will pilot Double H Farms and Francois Mathy’s HH Azur. Not only did this pair help the US team to silver at the Rio Olympics, but they are the defending World Cup champions. Earlier this week, at a ceremony in Paris, the 12-year-old mare by Thunder VD Zuuthoeve was proclaimed the Longines FEI World’s Best Jumping Horse.

Created in 1978, the FEI World Cup has become one of the most prestigious jumping circuits. There are 10 months of qualifiers in 16 leagues around the world. At the end of the qualifying circuit, the 40 best riders in the world are invited to this high profile final each year.

Both McLain and fellow US rider Beezie Madden (riding the 12-year-old Quintero son, Breitling LS) have made the trip over the Atlantic recently, after spending the winter season in Wellington, Florida.   

Azur gave McLain two podium visits out of the five classes she jumped in Wellington, finishing third in a grand prix and topping a table A class. The Mexican-bred stallion Breitling LS has carried Beezie to two lucrative wins in Florida, topping two grand prix classes. Both top class American riders will be bidding to capitalise on their winter form in Paris. 

Also joining them representing the USA at this year’s World Cup final are Jamie Barge, Charlie Jacobs, Andrew Kocher, Jenni McAllister, Alison Robitaille, Devin Ryan, Sarah Schering, Richard Spooner and Kristen Vanderveen. 

Kristen will partner Bull Run’s Faustino de Tili, who also competed briefly in Wellington at the end of last month. Her confidence will be high after good, attacking ride at the Miami Beach leg of the Longines Global Champions Tour, which put her in second place in a hot class.

As well as defending champion McLain, last year’s bronze medal-winning pair Sweden’s Henrik von Eckerman and Toveks Mary Lou will return to try to improve their bottom rung podium finished and capitalise on the absence of last year’s silver medal winner, Swiss rider Romain Duget on Twenty-two Des Biches. 

Other top names in the star-studded field include Steve Guerdat (SUI), Harrie Smolders (NED), France’s Roger Yves-Bost (a former European champion title-holder), two members of Great Britain’s Whitaker dynasty, German powerhouses Daniel Deusser and Marcus Ehning and Ireland’s Denis Lynch. For a complete and up-to-date list of starters, click here.

Competition in the World Cup jumping classes kicks off today (Thursday, April 12). There are three rounds before the winner is crowned on Sunday,  April 15 after a two-round final. For a detailed breakdown of the complete 2018 World Cup final jumping competition, click here.