OMAHA, Neb.--Hunter Holloway of Topeka, Kansas on Pepita Con Spita finished five beautifully ridden rounds in the Jumping World Cup Finals to place third behind the winner Henrik von Eckermann on King Edward and second placed Harrie Smolders 0n Monaco N.O.P. on April 8.
In the two round Final, the leading 30 riders competed in the first round, and the top 20 returned for the second round.
The courses designed by Bernardo Costa Cabral of Portugal were championship tracks with both technical questions and big fences.
“Obviously, Hunter’s podium finish was fantastic,” said U.S. Jumping Chef d’Equipe Robert Ridland. "She was so focused all week long. This wasn’t just the two rounds today; this was all four. She absolutely deserved to be there. It is always great to be on the podium, but it is even more fun because she is a hometown girl. She is from the Midwest and to be on the podium in Omaha has got to be really special. The experience she got at the World Cup Final last year in Leipzig clearly put her in good stead for this week. She knew what to expect and she rose to the occasion, so that was fantastic.”
HOLLOWAY placed 16th in Leipzig in her first appearance in the World Cup Finals.
Apparently concentrating on riding in and placing well in World Cup qualifying classes, Holloway hasn't been seen much so far in the top competitions in such venues as the Winter Equestrian Festival.
Following the first two classes.a Speed class Wednesday evening and a jump-off class Thursday evening, the placings were added together and converted into faults for the Final.
Holloway, who began the last evening on three faults, had rails at fence three and 11B of the triple combination for eight penalties in round one for a total of 11 penalties to be tied for fifth place.
Returning fourth from last in reverse order of penalties in round two, Holloway delivered an excellent clear round to finish on 11faults, which eventually placed her third on the podium.
Holloway has been aiming for Omaha since her first World Cup Final appearance last year in Leipzig.
“After we got the first one under our belt, she felt super,” said Holloway. “I felt like I knew she could do it and I could do it. So, I was just exited to come back and attack it again on home soil."
“I was really hoping to go double-clear, and I made a few mistakes in the first round,” said Holloway. “She was super. She should’ve been clear, I was not. I knew I really needed to fight for that clear round, every bit of it. And that’s what I tried to do the whole way round. Just fight for that clear round, every second, every inch.”
Devin Ryan and Eddie Blue were the second highest placed U.S. pair in 13th place.
Ryan of Long Valley, N.J., had a rail at 11A of the triple combination in the first round for four penalties to up his score to 15 penalties and in the second round had the front rail of the fence 9 oxer down for four more faults and a final score of 19 penalties.
Even with the rails, Eddie Blue, who was Ryan''s team gold medal mount at the 2018 World Championships in Tryon, showed fabulous form throughout the two rounds after a year off..
Nick Dello Joio on Cornet’s Cambridge finished in 20th place in his World Cup Final debut, gaining valuable experience on the world stage.
Dello Joio, starting on 18 faults, had a rail at 11A of the triple combination for four penalties in the first round, increasing his total to 22 penalties, and rails at fences three and 10 in the second round for eight faults to finish on an overall score of 30 penalties.
McLain Ward on Callas and Aaron Vale on Prescott made the final 30 but with four faults and 15 faults respectively didn't qualify for the final 20, but placed 23rd and 28th.
“I’m very happy with Nick’s and Devin’s horses,” said Ridland. “Eddie Blue is back and jumping in great form at this level, and Nick and Cornet's Cambridge are on an upward trajectory. Overall, Omaha was a very positive week.”
HENRIK VON ECKERMANN and the brilliant gelding King Edward wrote another page of equestrian history when becoming the first-ever Swedish winners of the Jumping World Cup.
In a gripping two-round decider that was completely unpredictable to the very end, the pair who have dominated the sport in recent times beat second placed Harrie Smolders of The Netherlands on Monaco NOP while Holloway just beat Brazil’s Yuri Mansur on Vitiki for third place by the narrowest of margins.
“I can’t put it in words because it was a bit up and down!” von Eckermann said of his journey to the title this week. “On Friday having the one down I was really disappointed but at the same time I thought, well, he didn’t have to jump the jump-off and with being just one point behind the leaders maybe it’s not so bad. And King Edward felt really fresh when he came out today, we had the rail in the first round but otherwise he felt fantastic, and so for the last round I had to just trust him, he’s in super shape, we jumped three jumps in the warm-up, in we go and he was unbelievable!”
The last evening's first round saw a big shake-up on the leaderboard after two exciting days on Wednesday and Thursday.
Only three of the 30 starters managed to go clean in the first round, and Ireland’s Denis Lynch rocketed up from 19th to 12th going into round two with the first fault-free ride on the brave little Brooklyn Heights.
Defending champion, Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs, had the next clean round on Leone Jei to improve from 15th to eighth while The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders and Monaco NOP, lying overnight seventh, were also clear which piled the pressure on the remaining six to go.
When Holloway had two down and Germany's Richard Vogel on United Touch S had 12 faults, then just the top three were left to go.
Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann made it all the way to the bogey penultimate combination where his world championship gold-medal-winning partner King Edward, like many before him, had the middle element down.
But for joint-leader, Denmark’s Andreas Schou, it was a much tougher round when Darc de Lux hit the first element of the double at seven, the vertical at 10 which rode on a short four strides from the previous triple bar, and also had one down at the final combination for a total of 12 costly faults.
So when Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer on Vancouver de Lanlore lowered only the first element of that tricky final combination he moved his score on to just four faults to take the lead, but with little breathing space as both von Eckermann and Smolders were now carrying five faults apiece into round two.
Britain’s Harry Charles on Balou du Reventon was lying fourth on nine faults while Holloway and Brazil’s Mansur were in joint-fifth with 11 faults apiece.
The top 20 went into the second round in reverse order of placings over a brand new course, and Irishman Lynch was clean again to post the only double-clear of the night.
Schou produced the next faultless round and both Mansur and Holloway also returned without penalty, but the Brazilian would pay a big price when just over a second slower than the American.
When Britain’s Harry Charles dropped out of contention with two rails down, it was right down to the wire with just three to go, and when Smolders hit the oxer at fence nine this time out he opened the door even wider for the final two.
Von Eckermann jumped a superb clear to pile all the pressure on Schwizer, who now had no room for error.
So when the Swiss star had both the second element of the double at fence eight and the following oxer at nine down, it was a done deal. Von
Eckermann was clear winner on a final scoreline of 5, Smolders was second with nine and Holloway would finish on the same 11-fault score as Mansur but her quicker time would earn that third step on the podium.
The 25-year-old Holloway was thrilled to find herself on the same stage as two of the greats of the sport.
“I’ve always had pretty big goals and to be sitting with riders such as this is such a great honor," she said. "I’m very excited to be here and I think my horse performed great all week. My relationship with her is getting stronger and building, and I feel we are just getting started so I’m very excited for the future with her.”
Before the final presentation, the official flag handover to the next hosts of the World Cup Finals in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia took place, with Lisa Roskens, Omaha Equestrian Foundation Founder first passing the flag to FEI President and IOC Member Ingmar de Vos who then presented it to Fuad Ibrahim, CEO of the Saudi National Federation.