This weekend, the Longines Masters of Paris debuted a brand new form of competition for show jumping fans everywhere: the highly anticipated Riders Masters Cup, a dramatic, U.S. vs. Europe duel-style event presented by EEM, with the support of the EEF (European Equestrian Federation) and Longines.

At the end of two exciting rounds of head-to-head competition, Team Europe walked away with a 9-6 victory over Team USA thanks in part to strong, back-to-back performances by Italy’s Lorenzo de Luca and Jeunesse van’t Paradijs. But the Riders Masters Cup isn’t over yet. The second and final showdown will take place on April 28, 2018 during the inaugural Longines Masters of New York at NYCB Live with a U.S. home crowd cheering on their team.

Still trying to wrap your head around this new show jumping format? Never fear! We’re breaking down the Riders Masters Cup with six fun facts below.

1. Who’s who?

The competition is the brainchild of EEM CEO and Longines Masters creator, owner, and organizer Christophe Ameeuw. Former Olympian (1976) and 2016 Rio Olympic Coach Robert Ridland served as the U.S. coach and determined team selections for the Americans, while two-time Swiss Olympian Philippe Guerdat served as coach for the European team.

2. How are the duels determined?

Lauren Hough and Lorenzo de Luca.

Once the final lineup of riders was selected, the five “duels” were randomly drawn by Racing 92 rugby player, Dimitri Szarzewski, with the head-to-head Round 1 matchups as follows:

  • Team USA Devin Ryan vs. Team Europe Kevin Staut from France
  • Team USA Chloe Reid vs. Team Europe Maikel van der Vleuten from The Netherlands
  • Team USA Laura Kraut vs. Team Europe Grégory Wathelet from Belgium
  • Team USA Reed Kessler vs. Team Europe Jos Verlooy from Belgium
  • Team USA Lauren Hough vs. Team Europe Lorenzo de Luca from Italy

3. What’s the difference between Round 1 and Round 2?

Gregory Wathelet (BEL) riding MJT Nevados S.

The first round is run as a Table A grand prix course, with each of the five duels won bringing one point to the winning team. The second round is run against the clock, and here, strategy and the choice of team leaders is paramount. During this round, riders are allowed to switch from a grand prix to a speed horse and the coach from the losing team in the first round designates his first rider to go. The winning team, however, has the advantage of choosing his first direct opponent, and that pattern switches for the next duel to go. Each duel that is won accumulates two points for the winning team, while each rail dropped costs three penalty seconds.

4. How competitive does it get?

Lorenzo de Luca (ITA) riding Jeunesse van’t Paradijs.

If Saturday night was any indication—very! The Riders Masters Cup had an enthusiastic French crowd on their feet at several different points throughout the competition, and a few of the riders were all-too-happy to indulge in a little friendly class wager. Chloe Reid, Kevin Staut, and Maikel van der Vleuten all got in on the action.

5. How did the teams stack up?

American Team, European Team, Masters Cup – Longines Paris Masters 2017.

Of the 10 riders competing, an even mix on both sides were former Olympians, including Hough, Kraut, and Kessler for Team USA; and Staut, van der Vleuten, and Wathelet for Team Europe. The American team was comprised of four women and one man (Devin Ryan), while the all-male European team included a mix of riders from Belgium, the Netherlands, Italy, and France. In terms of current rankings, however, Europe had a clear advantage, with three of their riders in the top five, including Staut at #3, de Luca at #4, and van der Vleuten at #5 in the world. The highest-ranked rider on Team USA was Laura Kraut at #27.

6. What can we expect from Part II of the Riders Masters Cup in New York?

Chloe Reid (USA) riding Sally 643.

Plenty of excitement! “The home field advantage will be for us and in our favor in New York,” promised Team Captain Robert Ridland after the inaugural class. “The spectators, riders, and the sport, in general, will realize what it’s about after seeing this and I really look forward to that. We’ll give them a run for their money.”

We can’t wait!

-Photos by Thomas Reiner.