With 15 of the top 17 riders in the world in action, Jumping Verona 2014 promises spectacular sport. Staged within the programme of the 116th Fieracavalli, the world’s greatest annual gathering of equine enthusiasts, the three-day jumping extravaganza which has long established itself as a major fixture on the international calendar has, once again, attracted the finest horse-and-rider combinations from around the globe.
Competitors from 16 nations will compete against the best of the home representatives, and the visitors will be led by Great Britain’s Scott Brash who has maintained the No. 1 spot on the Longines world rankings for the last 12 months. Jumping Verona has always been about quality, and it doesn’t get much better than what is on offer this time around. Last year, Brash won the main class on the opening day with Bon Ami, and then German giant, and three-time FEI World Cup™ champion, Marcus Ehning, demonstrated the enormous potential of his “special one”, the grey stallion Cornado NRW, with victory the following afternoon. It was his fellow-countryman, Christian Ahlmann, who won the main event of the weekend however, the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping qualifier which this year offers €175,000 in prize-money. Ahlmann borrowed the gelding, Aragon, from his partner Judy-Ann Melchior at the last moment, and the decision paid off handsomely as he quickly cemented an excellent relationship with the horse, going on to further success over subsequent months.
As Jumping Verona 2013 kicked off, much of the talk was about Britain’s Ben Maher who was heading the world rankings at the time following a tremendous run of form. A year later, he is lying 12th while Brash holds the whip hand ahead of Germany’s Ludger Beerbaum in second, Ehning in third and America’s Kent Farrington in fourth place. French riders Kevin Staut and Patrice Delaveau lie fifth and sixth while the man who claimed the 2013/2014 FEI World Cup™ Jumping title, Germany’s Daniel Deusser, holds seventh spot. And all of these top names will be in action next week, along with so many more.
But the name on many people’s lips right now is that of an unassuming young Irishman, Bertram Allen, whose extraordinary talent has seen him rocket up to No 17 in the latest world rankings and who seems destined for super-stardom. He will get his first crack at collecting World Cup points in Verona, and the 19-year-old who won the first competition at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy two months ago, and who finished individually seventh in the final analysis, will be one to watch. He will be without his top mare, Molly Malone, but he is already considered a formidable opponent on any horse.
However those precious World Cup qualifying points will not be easily earned, and Olympic champion, Steve Guerdat, will be on a mission. The Swiss rider steered Nino des Buissonnets into third at the first qualifier in Oslo, Norway two weeks ago and then won last weekend’s leg in Helsinki, Finland so is now heading the Western European League leaderboard and needs just a few more points to book his ticket to the Longines Final in Las Vegas, USA next April. It is very early in the season, but just one more good result at Verona will do just that.
The startlists throughout the show will be laden with World, European and Olympic medallists from many nations, but all will have to face the rising tide of home-grown talent.
Italy has made a real come-back to the top end of the sport this year. Victory on home ground at Arezzo in September secured a place in the elite Europe Division 1 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup™ series in 2015, and the Italian team finished a very creditable seventh at the Furusiyya Final in Barcelona, Spain last month. Lorenzo de Luca and Luca Maria Moneta have both been in great form over the first two legs of this year’s Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping series and, for all their strength, the visitors may well have to be at their very best as Italian riders can be expected to put on a tremendous show of strength in front of their home crowd when Jumping Verona 2014 gets underway in seven days’ time.