by Louise Parkes for Equi Equipe
When you mention the words Verona and Jumping in the same sentence it’s just about impossible to resist. The combination of the glorious Italian city so closely associated with the story of William Shakespeare’s star-crossed lovers, Romeo and Juliet, and the annual gathering of so many of the best horse-and-rider combinations in the world for the single Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ qualifier on Italian soil is a very potent mix. And as the line-up for this year’s event which runs from 7 to 11 November confirms, this is one competition all the big names want to win.
The top-four in the current World Rankings will be there, led by the dynamic Swiss duo of No. 1 Steve Guerdat who is also defending series champion and No. 2 Martin Fuchs, the young man recently crowned individual European champion. Germany’s Daniel Deusser, World Cup champion in 2013 and current World No. 3, added his name to the Verona Roll of Honour when galloping to victory with Calisto Blue last year. And with the brilliant Scuderia Tobago Z in his string he quite clearly intends to chase down two-in-a-row this time around.
Rounding off the top four is 2017 individual European champion and three-time Olympian Sweden’s Peder Fredricson, a man whose ability to pull the impossible out of the bag time and again is second to none. And with three more of the top-10, Belgium’s Pieter Devos (7), Ireland’s Darragh Kenny (9) and Germany’s Christian Ahlmann (10) also listed, it’s going to be a super-hot weekend of top-class action.
Additional text …..also lining out at this leg of the series will be Ireland’s Peter Moloney and Cian O’Connor.
Only two riders have ever managed to win the Italian World Cup leg twice – Great Britain’s John Whitaker, with Grannusch in 1997 and Welham in 2000 when the event took place in Bologna, and The Netherlands’ Albert Zoer with Okidoki at Verona in 2005 and 2007. The fixture moved to Verona in 2001 and has been held there ever since. If Deusser does manage to make it a back-to-back victory then he will be the first to do so.
A number of other previous winners are also returning to give it another shot, including Germany’s Christian Ahlmann who scorched to victory with Aragon Z in 2013, Frenchman Simon Delestre who reigned supreme with Hermes Ryan in 2015 and Abdel Said who sprang a big surprise with Hope van Scherpen Donder in 2016. His win was a career-defining moment for the Egyptian rider who has gone on to really establish himself as a force to be reckoned with over the intervening years and who, earlier this month, helped his country earn an historic team slot at the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games for the first time in 59 years.
While the Swiss are always super-strong, you have to go all the way back to Bologna in 1999 for their only success at the Italian World Cup leg when Lesley McNaught Maendli and Dulf came out on top. And Lesley still holds the record as the only lady winner in the 26 editions of this event.
Maybe it’s time for that record to be broken, and how exciting it would be if the athlete to do it would be the very first American to be successful – Jessica Springsteen who always sets the arena alight every time she rides into the ring. However that could prove complicated, because Jessica’s “Romeo” is none other than Italian showjumping superstar Lorenzo de Luca, also always a great crowd-pleaser and a man who the Italian spectators will be right behind next week.
No doubt he would love to become the very first Italian to stand on the top step of the podium, and it would be quite an achievement because host nation riders have come so close so many times down the years but none have ever been successful on home ground. Italian showjumping is in great shape right now however, so is this the year their national anthem will ring out across the Verona arena?
There’s just over a week to go before we will know – and we just can’t wait….
Don’t miss a hoofbeat….
Check out the entry list here
And the website here