Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs was rightly proud when standing on top of the podium as winner of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2022 Final in Leipzig, Germany today. He came so close to clinching the trophy at the last Final in 2019 when slotting in behind his compatriot and three-time champion Steve Guerdat, and as he said this evening, “I’ve been a couple of times second in Championships and you obviously have it in mind you could be second again with the best riders in the world coming after me today”.
But in the end, he and his trusty steed Chaplin, were the only ones in the leading pack to stand firm in the closing stages. Chaplin gave him everything, and more, over two rounds of tough jumping in which only three of the 30 starters left both courses intact. And when Sweden’s Jens Fredricson was one of those he finished third behind The Netherlands’ Harrie Smolders who claimed the second step of the podium.
Held the lead
America’s McLain Ward held the lead as the final day began, but the first-round error with Contagious left the 2017 champion vulnerable. He shared a four-fault tally with Smolders as the second round got underway, with Fuchs stalking the two of them carrying just five and on level pegging with young British star Harry Charles riding Romeo.
But a pole off the first element of the triple combination the second time out saw Charles lose his grip and when Smolders’ gelding, Monaco, clipped the following vertical then Fuchs was quickly moving up the order.
Ward had no leeway now when last to go, any mistake would see his advantage unravel, and when his 13-year-old gelding lowered the middle element of the triple combination and also the white planks three fences from home, Fuchs had it in the bag, becoming only the fourth Swiss rider in the long history of the FEI Jumping World Cup series to hold the trophy aloft.
He rode Chaplin in Thursday’s first competition but swapped for The Sinner in Friday’s second leg. “After having a rail down on Friday I wasn’t so sure I had made the right plan. But then I was still sitting in third place so I thought two clear rounds with Chaplin on Sunday and we’ll be on the podium. That I end up winning this prestigious and historical competition obviously is a dream come true. All the best of the best riders’ names are written on this trophy and now to add mine is fantastic!”, he said this evening. He is the second member of the Fuchs family to win it, his uncle Markus Fuchs took the title with the brilliant Tinka’s Boy back in 2001.
Talking about losing his lead in Friday’s competition but somehow holding on for victory he said, “when I came out on Friday I walked to the warm-up and was pretty upset, but then Steve said ‘congratulations, now you must win on Sunday after what you did today!’. In hindsight when I looked at the video of my round I was very happy, though obviously, I was a bit lucky that I ended the course with these four points. It was a good plan that Chaplin had two days of rest and came back today to produce two clear rounds”.
Today was Smolders second time to finish in the runner-up spot, his last was partnering Emerald back in 2016 when Guerdat posted the first of his three wins. But the Dutchman was delighted with his horse this afternoon. “This was his first Championship and I wasn’t sure how it would be. We knew he could do it one day, but over three days it’s a totally different story. He was coping with it very easily so I think this won’t be his last Championship”, the delighted Dutchman said.
Plenty to celebrate
Meanwhile, Jens Fredricson also had plenty to celebrate. The older brother of Swedish phenomenon Peder Fredricson never touched a pole today, and although others may have been surprised to see him on the podium he wasn’t a bit surprised himself. He was lying ninth as the day began, and he and his horse, Markan Cosmopolit, were in spectacular form.
“I had great expectations actually and I enjoyed every second, it’s fantastic to be here doing what I love!”, he said.
He describes himself as a “hobby rider” but his CV would suggest he’s long been a serious contender with a lifetime of international successes behind him. “I work at Flyinge and Stromsholm, I’m responsible for the next generation of riding instructors in Sweden”, he explained.
His last time at an FEI World Cup Final was on home ground in Gothenburg in 2013, and he admitted he’s made quite a few changes to his riding style since then. Partly due to the influence of his younger brother, Peder.
“I had the advantage of watching him going up to World No. 1. We talked almost every day so even if I wasn’t at the shows I was there mentally. I followed his thinking and his development and I tried to do the same things, and I’ve changed a little bit my approach to the fences and I now have a horse with a very big scope. So I can sit a bit more still and have a better style. Before I used to throw my heart over and then we went over together, but now when I look at the videos of my riding and it looks quite ok! I’m blessed that I have such good contact with my little brother. One of the most fantastic things about our sport is that I’m 55 years old and getting better every day. If I was running 100 metres I would be less good every day!”, he said with a laugh.
He also pointed out how great it is to see the younger generation rising through the ranks. “You want young riders coming up, there are some in their 20s like Jack (Whitaker, GBR) and Harry (Charles, GBR) and others. It’s important to have positive young riders coming along with good horses, that’s how the sport develops and gets better”, he pointed out.
Fuchs of course is one of those, not yet 30 but already one of the very biggest names in the sport. Over the last five years he has rarely been off the podium at any of the majors, taking individual silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games in 2018, runner-up at the last World Cup Final in 2019 and following with individual European gold that same year before taking team gold and individual silver at the FEI European Championships in 2021. Today he topped all that by taking the trophy every rider treasures, the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup.
And he did it with the big, brave and charming Chaplin who he calls “the horse of my heart!” Many of the Swiss rider’s biggest wins were achieved with his brilliant grey Clooney who he describes as “a superstar and the most talented horse I’ve ever had”. But Chaplin is also super-special.
“He is just the biggest fighter, he doesn’t have the ability that Clooney has but in the end he always gives everything. It was nice in the past few weeks because we got a lot of photos of his first foals because last year he started breeding with some mares, so in the last two weeks we have a lot of pictures of new Chaplin babies that was exciting. And now to come here and win the World Cup Final with him…..”.
Photo by FEI/Richard Juilliart