Omaha, Neb. – April 1, 2017 – Gearing up for Sunday’s grand finale, the main arena of the CenturyLink Center took a break from World Cup competition on Saturday evening and hosted the International Omaha Jumping Grand Prix. The 23-year-old Belgian native, Nicola Philippaerts, who has been competing all week in the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, decided not to continue in Sunday’s third round of competition with his World Cup mount H&M Harley vd Bisschop, and instead try their luck in Saturday’s grand prix. That decision paid off as the pair went home with the first place prize on Saturday to conclude their visit to Omaha.
The two-round competition consisted of 14 international horse and athlete combinations. The top 10 challengers from round one returned for the second round, with the faults collected from round one also carrying over into round two.
The Alan Wade-designed course gave way to four clear rounds after the first round, with those riders entering into the second round with the advantage of 0 penalties to their name. Those riders were: Karl Cook (USA), Ludger Beerbaum (GER), Lorenzo De Luca (ITA) and Philippaerts.
Cook and Tembla, owned by Signe Ostby, finished as the highest ranked American rider of the evening, collecting 4 faults in the second round in 38.95 seconds for fourth place.
Beerbaum and Chiara, owned by Madeleine Winter-Schulze, also added 4 faults to their second round score, but finished 8/10ths of a second faster than Cook in 38.17 seconds for third place.
“Without a doubt this has been one of the nicest events and setups,” said Beerbaum. “It has been a pleasure. The crowd was very good — they’re enthusiastic and the facilities are great. It has been a very nice experience to come here. Even though with my results, I have to be a bit more critical because my goal was to finish in the Final at least in the top 10 and I was quite far away from that.”
Both Cook and Beerbaum originally traveled to Omaha planning to compete all week in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, but, after disappointing performances in Thursday and Friday’s first two rounds, decided to also focus their efforts towards Saturday’s competition instead.
“Originally Chiara was not planned for the Final because I actually got most of the qualifying points with Casello,” said Beerbaum. “After an injury, he was off for four weeks and he was just starting to walk and trot so he was not ready for the Final. The question was do I go with my second horse, Chiara, or do I stay at home? I finished fourth in the grand prix in Paris, which was quite nice, and I thought, ‘Well, I’ll give it a try.’ But reality hit us here. With your second horse, you have to accept it’s never really going to be at the top.
“My round was nice and [Chiara] felt good, even though the class today was no comparison to the other two days so it was kind of easy for her,” continued Beerbaum. “I am happy after having not the best rounds the past two days. It is nice that she still proves her shape and her form.”
“It didn’t go so well in the first round on Thursday, but it feels great to come back and jump clear,” explained Cook. “It’s not the same level, but it feels good and it makes you feel like you are still riding well. It always feels great just to be here and to ride and walk amongst all the riders that are here. It’s great to ride for USA in my home country and I think the fans really have taken to it.”
Omaha is Beerbaum’s 21st World Cup Finals. He won the event in 1993 and has finished second on three occasions. However, out of all the World Cup Finals he’s been to, the veteran still favors Gothenburg — where the first ever World Cup Finals was held in 1979 — the most.
“In terms of atmosphere, Gothenburg is probably my favorite World Cup Finals because the crowd is unbelievable,” said Beerbaum. “It’s really special because they cheer for everyone there and it’s always very full. You get goose bumps when you come out of the ring and go clear there. In Sweden, show jumping is the second most popular sport and you feel that so it’s unbelievable.”
Philippaerts, who has competed in three World Cup Finals, and the 9-year-old Belgian Warmblood gelding, owned by Ludo Philippaerts and Ben Beevers, produced the first double-clear round of the evening, moving straight to the top of the leaderboard where he would remain in 38.65 seconds.
“There were a few really quick ones in the second round and I had to try to go as quick as possible because I saw Ludger had one down,” said Philippaerts. “I thought it was a very nice class to win. Even though I didn’t get through the Final, I’m very happy with this win today.
“World Cup Finals is always the top point of the season,” continued Philippaerts. “I’m very glad that I’ve always had a horse to be able to ride in the World Cup Finals. I think until now it’s been great. This year was a little bit of a disappointment, but I’m happy to be able to come here and get some more experience. Hopefully it will not be the last time.”
De Luca followed with the second double-clear round of the class aboard Limestone Grey, owned by Stephex Stables. Their time of 39.77 seconds would be good enough for second place honors behind Philippaerts.
“I’m really pleased,” said De Luca. “[Limestone Grey] jumped really well so I finished the indoor season [on a good note] with him and it’s a pleasure to jump here.”
De Luca will also compete in Sunday’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final round three with his second mount, Ensor de Litrange LX. The pair currently sit in 15th in the overall rankings heading into phase three with 16 penalties.
The champion of the 2017 Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final will be crowned on Sunday following the third and final round of the competition, which will begin at 2 p.m. (CST). At the conclusion of Friday’s second round, points were awarded to riders based on their finishes throughout the first two rounds, which were then converted into penalties that will be carried into Sunday’s final round. The third competition has two rounds, with the top 30 riders returning for the first round. The 20 best-placed riders following round one will move on to the second round and the rider with the lowest number of penalties after all three competitions will determine the overall winner.
Results: International Omaha Jumping Grand Prix
- Nicola Philippaerts/BEL/H&M Harley vd Bisschop/0/38.65
- Lorenzo De Luca/ITA/Limestone Grey/0/39.77
- Ludger Beerbaum/GER/Chiara/4/38.17
- Karl Cook/USA/Tembla/4/38.95
- Christian Heineking/GER/NKH Calango/4/41.16
- Audrey Coulter/USA/Alex/8/38.70
- Max Kühner/AUT/Cornet Kalua/8/40.21
- Jamie Barge/USA/Luebbo/8/40.92
- Jennifer Gates/USA/Bardolino/8/47.65
- Karen Cudmore/CAN/Ceonto/18/53.11