The race to be the FEI top ranked rider at this time of year is rarely as exciting as it was in 2017. The race to the top tends to follow a reasonably predictable path – if you can get over (or close to) 600 points, it is usually enough.
William Fox-Pitt was the first person to break the 600 barrier (2008 – 606 points). Two years later he did it again, very convincingly with 639 in 2010. Mary King became the first (and only) female rider to do so, just scraping over the line with 601 in 2011. Andrew Nicholson did it twice during his purple patch at the top, both in 2012 (637) and 2013 (643) — the latter setting a new record.
In 2015, Michael Jung topped the rankings for the first time, matching Nicholson’s record of 643, and he has been there ever since.
That 2015/2016 time was a period of dominance in terms of ranking points that we have never seen before or since. His September 2016 ranking saw him hit a total of 711 points. A tally we suggest is unlikely to EVER be beaten! You can read why that is an amazing stat here.
It wasn’t until we saw the Pau entries that we began to think things might get interesting. No Jung. We checked what points he would be losing as the calendar year moved and he dropped the 2016 Pau points which makes the current leaderboard look so daunting….WOW. He was going to drop 208 points – Fischertakinou (106 – 2nd – Pau ’16) and Fischerrocana (102 – 3rd – Pau ’16). The door was open.
No Jung entry at Pau 2017 meant the 600 points barrier was no longer a problem. It could be won with much less. First up was Gemma Tattersall – if she could get Chilli Knight into the top 2 at Le Lion, we would have a new trending #1. Sadly for excitable Diarm, a horse that trends in the mid forties in the first phase, did a 53.4 and the Tattersall challenge was as good as over.
Then all hell broke loose. The rumours started.
— German Eventing (@luhmuehlen2017) October 15, 2017
Before long it was confirmed. He was in. We expected it to be a procession from here. The greatest event horse ever, winner of 6 four stars (in six different venues) was surely going to win Pau and add another top level win to the collection.
At 10.52 on Friday, all hell broke loose in the office for a second time. He was in and then he was OUT. ” I really feel there’s some problem, but I don’t know what can happen in such a short time. Maybe it was too cold for him in the stable – we’ve never had this problem so at the moment I don’t know what’s happening.”
BREAKING: La B Sam is out. Will we get a NEW WORLD NUMBER 1? EquiRatings Office just blew up. pic.twitter.com/rkrXJSdRFW
— EquiRatings (@EquiRatings) October 27, 2017
The door was open again. We love new stories, we love that two of the greatest riders ever would be chasing down Jung’s points tally, but equally, we were devastated that La Biosthetique – Sam FBW wouldn’t get his chance to extend his dominance on the sport. There was a number of ways it could unfold. We covered it here. Diarm was making videos in Dublin about how we could see a FOUR WAY JUMP OFF between Sir Mark Todd and Andrew Nicholson. It was not to be. We wanted four clears. We needed three. We got none.
First up was Nicholson, if he got one into the Top 5, he would be world number 1. Qwanza runs out at 9c and then retires at 11b.
One bullet used. One more in the gun.
Toddy next. He didn’t have the same cushion. He needed two horses in the points. FEI points aren’t awarded if it isn’t an MER so any problems at the challenge was over. It didn’t take long. Kiltubrid Rhapsody at 7b picks up 20 and regardless of what happens next, it was over.
We flip back to the other Kiwi. Jet Set hadn’t delivered the test he would have wanted and was taking on his first 4* cross country track. HOWEVER, he had a flawless record. 13 internationals across the levels leading up to this point, never picked up a cross country fault, winner of CCI3* at Bramham 2016, the time to deliver at the top level was now. He set off like he meant business, no mistakes this time at 11. He took a slightly wider line going into the b element and took a straight line to c. It was one of the best of the day. The round got better and better.
We had analysts looking up from their screens at EquiRatings HQ, he couldn’t actually do it, could he? In a weird insight into our lives, Sam always commentates for us on Whatsapp voice messages. Listen to the excitement build!
As it turns out, he couldn’t. Jet Set leaves a leg at 25 and the challenge to Jung’s crown is over for another year. He will finish the season on 463 points. If that had happened in either of the last two years, we could have seen Philip Dutton, Andrew Nicholson, Chris Burton and Tim Price all move past him. It is the lowest points tally to win on record. Back in 2009, it wouldn’t have been enough to get you into the top 5! But that was then and this is now, they had their chance, who knows how long it will be before the door is open like that again. For the third consecutive year, Michael will take the top spot.