Throwing down another extraordinary performance, Ireland’s Daniel Coyle and the 14-year-old super-mare, Legacy, stormed to victory for the second time in a week at the twelfth leg of the Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ 2023/2024 Western European League in Amsterdam, The Netherlands. They pinned Dutch stars Willem Greve and Highway TN NOP into runner-up spot by almost three full seconds in an electrifying seven-way jump-off that had the packed stadium of 6,000 spectators on the very edges of their seats.
The crowd jumped to their feet with joy, when Greve and his mighty 12-year-old stallion – one of three home starters through to the timed round – raced into the lead when breaking the beam in 38.33 seconds.
Their joy was short-lived, however, when Coyle produced a spectacular run that stopped the clock on 35.45 seconds, which was never going to be beaten.
When asked how he will celebrate his incredible two-in-a-row World Cup successes, the Irishman replied, “I’ve been doing ‘dry’ January. I do it every year, but Ariel (Grange, Legacy’s co-owner) said go and have a few beers, so I had three after last Sunday’s win. I think we might have to have a few more tonight!”
Set the target
Greve’s compatriot, Jur Vrieling, set the target when pathfinder in the second round with the 12-year-old mare Griffin van de Heffinck, who jumped clear in 40.40 seconds.
The second of the Dutch contenders, Marc Houtzager with Sterrehof’s Dante, was looking competitive until it all went wrong at the second of the remaining two elements of the triple combination, now three fences from home. Belgium’s Pieter Clemens and Emmerton lowered the previous vertical, and despite a nice clear from fellow-Belgian Gilles Thomas with Luna van het Dennehof, who crossed the line in 41.84 seconds, it was Vrieling who was still at the head of affairs with three left to go against the clock.
Greve took command with a brilliant run from the powerful Highway, who broke the beam 38.33 seconds, and the stallion shook his head proudly as his rider saluted the appreciative crowd. But from the moment Coyle and Legacy took flight over the first fence, it was clear something special was about to happen.
Curling over that opening vertical to take the shortest line to the following oxer, the pair simply swallowed up all the distances, and with the smoothest turn to the penultimate vertical and a heart-stopping race down to the final oxer, they stopped the clock in 35.45 seconds to put the result beyond any doubt, Ireland’s Denis Lynch and Vistogrand bringing the action to a close with two fences on the floor to finish seventh at the end of the day.
Analysing his own performance, Greve said, “It was a real fast jump-off and my turn into the combination wasn’t as smooth as Daniel’s; he took more risk and I think I had two strides more, but for the rest, I’m so happy for my horse! He gave everything like he always does, and as for this crowd in Amsterdam – I finished second, but they gave me the feeling that I won! We have seen great sport, and the spectators were unbelievable, so I had a super show and I think we have a great winner!” said the man who enjoyed a wonderful week at Jumping Amsterdam.
Coyle reflected on where all this recent success has come from. Commitment and determination have played a major role from an early age.
“My brother Jordan won everything in ponies and I didn’t win so much, or it seemed like that because he was winning everything! In any sport I suppose you just get stuck in and get on with it or you get left behind and give up. Thankfully it went the right way for me in the end!” he said.
So what about his ability to thrive under pressure in a jump-off?
“I think it goes back to riding those ponies at home in Ireland, where it’s very competitive. I rode with my brothers and everybody else, even the likes of Richard Howley, who now also has won a few World Cups. We all grew up on ponies and I was always chasing those guys, but it’s good to see now I can have some revenge, and I guess I also had some great horses in my career in the smaller divisions that have taught me how to do jump-offs. In the end, if being competitive in a jump-off is all I can give back to Legacy, then I’m happy enough with that!” he said.
His win was also particularly satisfying because Greve had beaten the Irishman in the Grand Prix at Rotterdam. “Willem is always very fast, and I didn’t want to get beaten by him again!”
He wasn’t sure of the result until the very end. “I was going through the finish still looking at the clock hoping I was fast enough. I didn’t know if I was slow or fast or what was the difference, but anyway, I was on the right side of it and it’s much better to win by three seconds than three-hundredths!” he pointed out.
For Coyle, this whole experience with Legacy, called “Dolly” by her owner Ariel Grange of Lothlorien Farms in Toronto, Canada, is tinged with an extra level of sensitivity. Because when he left Ireland to ride for fellow-Irishman Conor Swail and for Ariel’s mother, the late Susan Grange, in early 2016, he could never have known how his career would play out.
“Before Sue died (in October 2017), Ariel only had a few younger horses and wasn’t so involved, so I didn’t know if she was going to step up and do what she has done,” Coyle explained. Legacy is named in Susan’s memory, and while the Irishman’s partnership with Ariel has gone from strength to strength, his relationship with the mare has also grown into something pretty unique during their seven years together, although it hasn’t always been plain sailing.
“For years there, we weren’t really on the same page. She’d jump one fence very high and the next fence I’d ask her to jump, like a plank or something delicate, she’d knock it down and I’d be very confused as to why. But I feel now we are very much on the same page; we have a real understanding,” he explained.
Results have proven that beyond doubt, and the Irish rider, whose World Cup points are accumulated on the North American League table, has now taken over the lead by a long distance ahead of the Longines 2024 Final in Riyadh (KSA) in April.
When asked about his plans for Legacy, he said, “She goes back now to Ariel’s new farm in Orlando, Florida (USA), and she will have a few weeks off and then probably the 5* Nations Cup in Ocala will be her next big event.
“We’ve a huge year ahead with the World Cup Final and the Olympics, and for sure we’ll be looking at both with her, but we have to have a conversation about it all. The main thing is to get her to the Olympic Games like she is right now and to try and win a medal! She’s in the prime of her life; she’s got better, she’s got older, and maybe so have I, so I’m delighted!” Coyle said.
by Louise Parkes