Prixview Case Study: Is There a Correlation Between Young Horse Success and Success at the Five-Star Level?

James Kann Cruz. Photo ©FEI/Shannon Brinkman

By Catie Staszak for Prixview

This we know: Success at the top levels of show jumping sport is the culmination of years of careful development. But what patterns exist among the sport’s best equine athletes?

As the 2022 show calendar nears its end, Priview is diving deeper into the numbers behind the season’s top performers. For this case study, we sought to answer the following questions:

  • Does success as a young horse correlate with success at the top level? How about longevity?
  • Does the number of starts a horse makes as a young horse influence its performance in its prime years?
  • Is there a prime age to step up to top level sport?

We selected 7 of the sport’s most accomplished equine athletes and broke their careers down into three segments—Young (ages 4-9); Prime (10-14); and Mature Horse (15+) to examine the numbers.

Meet the Horses

Cayman Jolly Jumper

Age: 10
Pedigree: SF (Hickstead x Quaprice Bois Margot)
Primary Rider: Simon Delestre (FRA)
Age of first 1.60m start: 9 (2021)
Recent Highlights: 2nd, 2022 IJRC Top 10 Final

Explosion W

Age: 13
Pedigree: KWPN (Chacco Blue x Baloubet du Rouet)
Primary Rider: Ben Maher (GBR)
Age of first 1.60m start: 9 (2018)
Recent Highlights: Individual Gold Medalist, Tokyo Olympic Games (2021)

HH Azur

Age: 16
Pedigree: SBS (Thunder vd Zuuthoeve x Sir Lui vd Zuuthoeve)
Primary Rider: McLain Ward (USA)
Age of first 1.60m start: 9 (2015)
Recent Highlight(s): Winner of the 2022 Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva

James Kann Cruz

Age: 9
Pedigree: ISH (Kannan x Cruising)
Primary Rider: Shane Sweetnam (IRL)
Age of first 1.60m start: 9 (2022)
Recent Highlights: Winner, 2022 CSI5* American Gold Cup Grand Prix; 3rd, 2022 Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva

Killer Queen VDM

Age: 12
Pedigree: BWP (Eldorado vd Zeshoek x For Pleasure)
Primary Rider: Daniel Deusser (GER)
Age of first 1.60m start: 9 (2019)
Recent Highlights: Winner of the 2022 Rolex Grand Prix of Calgary at the Spruce Meadows Masters; winner of the 2021 Rolex Grand Prix of Aachen

King Edward

Age: 12
Pedigree: BWP (Edward 28 x Feo)
Primary Rider: Henrik von Eckermann (SWE)
Age of first 1.60m start: 9 (2019)
Recent Highlights: Individual gold medalist, 2021 European Championships; Winner, 2022 IJRC Top 10 Final

Leone Jei

Age: 10
Pedigree: KWPN (Baltic VDL x Corland)
Primary Rider: Martin Fuchs (SUI)
Age of first 1.60m start: 9
Recent Highlights: Winner, 2022 Rolex Grand Prix of Dinard; team gold and individual silver, 2021 European Championships; 2nd, 2022 Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva

The Data

This first graph illustrates these horses’ average faults and average finish position in the different age segments. According to Prixview data, as these top horses’ aged, their finish positions improved, indicating a careful development unfocused on winning at a young age.

Faults, however increased, an illustration of the increased level of difficulty as well as rule changes in how faults are calculated over the course of the last year.

James Kann Cruz performed best of this group as a young horse in international competition, jumping his first FEI classes at age 6. Cayman Jolly Jumper started in FEI classes youngest, beginning at age 4 in France. The reigning individual Olympic gold medalist, Explosion boasts the best numbers in his prime. Interestingly, HH Azur—who just won the Rolex Grand Prix of Geneva at age 16—made among the fewest starts of this group as a young horse, perhaps a factor of her longevity.

What other trends were evident? We found that among this group, there was no relationship between the number of competitions the horse competed in when they were younger and their average positions and faults at the five-star level (Note the flat trend lines).

When is the prime age to step a horse up to 1.60m? Each one of these horses made the move in their 9-year-old year. James Kann Cruz has undoubtedly found success at the level earliest of this group (Remarkably, he was born latest in the year of this group as well, with a July birthdate), while the majority of the other top performers fall within the “prime” age segment.

The data in this feature is provided by Prixview, the first of its kind data and gaming company for the sport of show jumping. Prixview collects revolutionary live, official competition data and processes it into educational and engaging insights and analytics for both stakeholders and new fans of the sport. Their fantasy games are free-to-play and award real cash prizes. Visit prixview.com to learn more.

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