Henrik von Eckermann’s trophy cabinet is packed with team and individual trophies, won mainly aboard the outstanding King Edward. The mighty chestnut has led his Swedish partner to Olympic, World and European Championship medals. Add to that, the Longines Global Champions Tour Super Grand Prix, the World Cup Final and his leading position on the Longines Rankings, and one realizes just how crushing the dominance of the King Edward is.
But the trophy cabinet has one vacant spot, one trophy is still missing and this weekend in Riyadh at The Final of the Longines Global Champions Tour, that vacancy could be filled. Henrik von Eckermann can win the Longines Global Champions Tour after failing to lift the coveted trophy in 2021 when he finished 2nd behind the almighty Peder Fredricson. And King Edward is once again the go-to horse to pull it off.
Considered as the highest rated horse in the world, King Edward has landed well in Riyadh and is feeling fresh as he hasn’t jumped at all since the last Grand Prix on the LGCT circuit in Rome, which he won.
The Belgian Warmblood is known for his exceptional power and his winning warrior mentality has led him to win 2 LGCT Grand Prix this season. But this year we’ve seen 2 faces of the King. On one side, his efficiency in jump-off stands out. Whenever he made it into the final round of the LGCT Grand Prix he won it, both in Stockholm and in Rome. But on the other hand, it took a lot of effort and starts to get to those GP wins.
King Edward is the horse with the lowest clear round rate of all Championship contending horses (2 clears from 6 starts), and he holds the highest penalty per round (pen/rnd) average of the elite group of horses at 4.67, meaning that only a King Edward at the top of his game could pull of a late comeback to overtake both Smolders and van Der Vleuten for his first ever Longines Global Champions Tour Championship win.
If required, Von Eckermann could opt for Glamour Girl as his LGCT Grand Prix mount in Riyadh, and though the mare often finds herself in the shadow of the King, she did go clear in Valkenswaard in the only LGCT Grand Prix she has competed in this year.
Maikel van der Vleuten started the season strongly with a clear in Doha on Luigi d’Eclipse. But following that strong start in the first LGCT Grand Prix of the year, the stallion disappeared out of sight and Beauville Z did all the work that eventually took the son of Dutch veteran, Eric van der Vleuten, to the top of the Championship standings. With a 40% clear round rate and a 2.8 pen/rnd average, Beauville Z is to be considered as one of the best horses on the scene, but on numbers he is rated much lower than the mighty King Edward.
Also, the build up to Riyadh for the Olympic medallist is different than for King Edward. Following the stage in Rome, van der Vleuten and Beauville Z went on to jump the Nations Cup final in Barcelona followed by 3 weeks of rest before traveling to the Kingdom of Saudi-Arabia. Just like Von Eckermann, Maikel van der Vleuten has come 2nd in an LGCT title race when beaten by … Harrie Smolders in the 2017 season.
And that Harrie Smolders comes to Riyadh without his top horsed horse Monaco N.O.P. This year Monaco jumped a staggering 67% clear round rate, producing 4 clears out of 6 starts, landing on the podium 3 times. His pen/rnd average sits at just under one time penalty per round at 0.8. Monaco’s efforts resulted in 5 finishes contributing to Smolders’ lead in the Championship. But as said, that horse will not be supporting Smolders in the Saudi Capital. He travelled with his LGCT Riesenbeck Grand Prix winner, Uricas van de Kattevennen. The stallion only jumped one LGCT Grand Prix this season and won it, so on paper his statistics look outstanding but his rating sits much lower than King Eward’s or Beauville’s. And that would have a lot to do with the last European Championships. Smolders gave the stallion a break after Milan as well as 3 small 1.35m-1.40m starts at an indoor show in Belgium with a weeks break to follow.
And so with 3 different riders vying for the Championship Title, and their horses given 3 totally different preparations runs into The Final, the first challenge they all face is the LGCT Grand Prix Qualifier held on Friday evening under floodlights before taking on the 15th Grand Prix of the season. With Von Eckermann riding the highest ranked horse in the world, one would think he holds the best cards, but despite all the stats only the fences in Riyadh on Saturday night will ultimately decide the Championship podium.
With just four days until one mans dream becomes his reality, breaths are held and the pressure is on, with the action set to unfold under glittering Arabian night skies on Saturday 28 October.
For those that can not travel in person, all the action will be streamed LIVE and ON DEMAND via GCTV.