The “pinch me” moments just keep on coming for Phillip Steiner and Cassina Dior who this afternoon rode their way into the final of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup Final in Omaha, Nebraska.
The Kiwi combo placed 24th on the second day of competition, just making it through to the top 30 on ranking for Sunday’s final.
“It’s just surreal,” said the Tauranga horseman. “She was just super out there. I have never walked a track where you can’t see over the top of the fences. That was massive out there – definitely the biggest track I have ever ridden.”
The horse had handled it like a pro, listening all the way round, jumping her heart out and completely unfazed by the likes of the very “spooky, ugly” wall. “The course had everything – short strides, related lines and such a challenge, but to go out there and do it . . . it is just incredible. It is like a dream.”
Steiner said he preferred to think he was just riding a course at Taupo to keep his focus. “I just have to block out who I am riding against here,” he said. “I just pretend I am at Taupo, and take a deep breath and just focus.”
The mare was still very green but he felt she had so much potential so he was very conscious of managing her so she continues her journey to the top of the sport.
The commentators were full of praise for the efforts of the Kiwis who had travelled halfway round the globe to contest one of the world’s most prestigious jumping contests.
Phillip and Cassina Dior – who is by Diarado out of a Capitol I mare – had two rails down in the first round today, both coming after they got a little deep into verticals.
Nine combinations went through to the jump-off today where Richard Vogel (GER) aboard United Touch S ruled supreme. The combo critically chopped a stride out going into the double and just kept on pushing to finish double clear in 35.11 seconds. Harry Charles (GBR) on Balou du Reventon was second in 35.25 seconds, with Andreas Schou (DEN) aboard Darc de Lux third in 35.58.
Neither of the top three from day one of competition came through to the jump-off this afternoon, giving the ranking list a real shuffle up which decided the top 30 to head through to the final tomorrow.
At the end of today, Andreas Schou and Pius Schwizer (SUI) sit at the top of the rankings on zero, with yesterday’s winner Henrik von Eckermann (SWE) in third on a single penalty. Today’s Bernardo Costa Cabral (POR) designed course included 17 obstacles and covered 440m.
Phillip won the right to represent the nation at the final by winning the New Zealand league, one of 13 held around the world, hosting 53 competitions.
He is one of 19 riders competing in their first-ever World Cup final, but it is a star-stacked field with previous winners chasing hard to get their hands back on the much-coveted trophy.
Below is the timetable for the competitions this week, live streaming available via FEI.TV
Jumping Final 3
Top 30 in first round of final, top 20 in second round
By Diana Dobson – HP Media Liaison
Photos by Christine Cornege Photography