Ireland’s Daniel Coyle and the brilliant 14-year-old mare Legacy came out on top at the eleventh leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2023/2024 Western European League series in Leipzig, Germany. In an edge-of-the-seat 13-horse jump-off against the clock, the pair produced the kind of round that only a secure longtime partnership can put together, throwing caution to the wind and enjoying every moment as they pinned an A-list cast of rivals into the minor placings.
There were 11 home runners in the starting field of 40 from 15 countries, but it was Switzerland’s Martin Fuchs with Commissar Pezi and Steve Guerdat with Double Jeu d’Honvault who slotted into second and third places, while Frenchmen Kevin Staut (Beau de Laubry Z) and Edward Levy (Eify du Pic) finished fourth and fifth, ahead of Sweden’s Rolf-Goran Bengtsson (Zuccero HV) in sixth.
For Coyle, his win was particularly satisfying because last month at the eighth leg in London (GBR), he looked set for victory, only for it to be snatched from his grasp by the home nation’s Scott Brash and Ben Maher in the closing stages. The Irishman wasn’t going to let it happen again, however. Clear and fast when sixth to go against the clock, his time of 31.70 would be bettered, but only at the expense of fences on the floor.
“Legacy is like no other horse I’ve ever ridden. Once you ask her to do something, if it’s actually possible she will do it!” Coyle said, happy in the knowledge that he has now qualified for the Longines Final 2024 in Riyadh (KSA) in April.
The second fence on Frank Rothenberger’s first round track, one of seven maximum-height verticals on the 13-fence course, proved a real bogey, and it was jumped in the opposite direction to get the second round underway.
Amongst the 13 through to the race against the clock were multiple champions, and first to go was the man who claimed the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup title in 2014, Germany’s Daniel Deusser, whose trip to Leipzig has been a very successful one.
However, his new ride, Gangster v/h Noddevelt, ducked out at the water-tray oxer, now third-last on the new seven-fence track, and when Ireland’s Michael Duffy and Cantano 32 stood a long way off the next, they put four faults on the board before Britain’s Robert Whitaker returned a careful clear in 41.76 to set the first real target.
Frenchman Staut showed that time was a long way off the winning one, when steering Beau de Laubry Z home in 34.25 seconds to take a strong lead, only for reigning European champion, Switzerland’s Guerdat, to shave almost a half-second off that to go out in front with Double Jeu d’Honvault. But then Coyle and Legacy set off and blew the competition wide open, turning so tight to the penultimate vertical and galloping fearlessly on to the final oxer to stop the clock on 31.70.
That time would be beaten, but not by Germany’s Christian Ahlmann (Mandato van de Neerheide) or Kendra Claricia Brinkop (In Time), who each collected four faults. Hans Dieter Dreher and Vestmalle des Cotis were quicker than the Irish pair when crossing the line in a super-fast 31.45 seconds, but they left the penultimate vertical on the floor, while Frenchman Edward Levy (Eufy du Pic) and Sweden’s Rolf Goran Bengtsson (Zuccero) followed with safe clear rounds. However, Bengtsson’s fellow-countryman, Peder Fredricson, wasn’t holding back.
Setting off with the smoothest of runs, the 2017 European champion and Tokyo Olympic team gold medallist was up on the clock riding down to the last with the young SV Vroom de la Pomme, only to clip that for four faults in what would be the quickest time of all – 31.29 seconds. Now only 2022 World Cup champion, Martin Fuchs, was left to go with Commissar Pezi who left all the poles standing, but who couldn’t quite catch Legacy and Coyle when galloping through the timers in 32.13 seconds to take runner-up spot.
At the post-competition press conference, Fuchs said he had been riding “cowboy horses” before the class, “and I thought the spinning might help me to turn tight, but I wasn’t tight enough to beat Daniel!”
He didn’t see Coyle’s jump-off round, “but I watched Steve, and when Daniel was two seconds faster than Steve, then I knew that would be very hard to beat! So I just tried to go as fast as possible and I’d like to study the whole jump-off again now and see what I could have done better.
“From my feeling I had a really good jump-off, but Daniel was just way better today!” said the Swiss star who plans to bring his ride, Commissar Pezi, to Riyadh for the Final in three months’ time.
Three-time FEI Jumping World Cup™ champion Guerdat talked about the 11-year-old gelding Double Jeu, whom he has had since the horse was eight years old. “He has a lot of talent and is very careful and powerful, but when he goes in the ring, he gets very shy. He’s always been very good, but when you step up to 5* level and into a more difficult situation, he can sometimes have a fence down and be even more careful, and he can’t breathe in the ring so he is difficult to ride. So I always say that the day it all comes together, he will be a great horse and I think he has a bright future ahead of him.”
He won’t be taking his top rides Venard de Cerisy or Dynamix de Belheme to Riyadh; “they are waiting for the outside season and working towards the Olympic Games,” he explained. “I will do a few more shows with my other horses, and from today maybe Double Jeu is the one who will go. We will see, but I’m very happy to be qualified. I missed the Final last year for the first time in many years so I’m happy to be back!” said the man who will be competing in his fifteenth Final this time around.
Meanwhile, Coyle, who is currently ranked 14th in the world and who normally competes in North America, said he is riding on the European circuit this winter as a “training exercise.” When he is in Europe, he stays with Dutch Olympic gold medallist Jeroen Dubbeldam, who became his coach a year before Legacy came into his life seven years ago.
“Ariel (Grange) bought the mare when she was just turned eight, and Jeroen had her before, so he could tell me immediately what she liked and what she didn’t like and what was the best way to go forward with her. She took me to my first championships, and I owe so much to her in every way,” the Irishman said of the remarkable horse.
He describes Legacy as “not as simple as some people seem to think she is!” but he feels very privileged to be her partner and there is an emotional bond between him, this horse, and the whole team around them.
“I’m delighted for Jeroen Dubbeldam who found her, delighted that Ariel bought her for me – I’m over the moon – if I wasn’t good enough to steer her then it would be such a shame because she is so good!” Coyle said.
He also is well-qualified for the Final now. “Adding points was always a big factor in staying here in Europe to do the qualifiers. I won the North American League last year, but I hadn’t really done that many qualifiers this year, so it is great to add to the points I had – that was the plan and it’s going well!” he said.
by Louise Parkes