The 2014 FEI World Cup Finals are being held this week in Lyon, France and, using the model initiated in Las Vegas in 2005, feature both the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final and the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final. Both promise to present equestrian sport at its best and their conclusion will start the official countdown to the long-awaited return of the World Cup Finals to Las Vegas one year from now, in April 2015.
The field for the 29th Dressage Final includes 18 horse-and-rider combinations from 11 countries. These finalists qualified from four different Leagues around the world. Heading the list are the defending World Cup champion, Helen Langehanenberg of Germany with Damon Hill NRW, and the reigning Olympic and European champion, Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain on Valegro, who holds records for the highest scores ever recorded in the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle.
The strength of these top two contenders is reminiscent of the last decade when Any van Grunsven of The Netherlands and Isabell Werth of Germany were so dominant. Van Grunsven, who is not in this year’s Final, has won the title a record nine times including one in Las Vegas in 2005. She is the main reason why The Netherlands has the most wins of any country with 12. (Germany is second with nine.) Werth, who will ride this week on either El Santo or Don Johnson, has won the Final twice including one in Las Vegas in 2007. She has also been runner-up four times including 2009 in Las Vegas when American Steffen Peters took the title on Ravel.
The U.S. has two riders competing – Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida on Calecto V, and Cesar Parra of Whitehouse Station, NJ who will ride Van the Man. Konyot rode for the U.S. at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky and the 2012 Olympic Games in London. Parra has represented his native Colombia in the Olympics, World Equestrian Games, Pan American Games, and World Cup Finals. He began riding for the U.S. in 2009.
One of the big stories entering the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final is whether or not the U.S. can claim a third straight win. U.S. riders dominated the early years of the World Cup Final, winning seven of the first nine. Inexplicably, it was another quarter century before a U.S. rider would win again with Rich Fellers ending the draught on Flexible in 2012. Beezie Madden made it back-to-back wins last year when she took the title on Simon.
Madden’s win last year put the U.S. in a tie with Germany for the most wins (nine) in the Final’s first 35 years. German riders have done particularly well in Las Vegas with Marcus Ehning claiming the first of his three wins there in 2003 and U.S. native Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum winning there twice for her adopted country (2005 and 2009).
Joining Madden (Cazenovia, NY), who will again ride Abigail Wexner’s Simon, in the U.S. line-up is an impressive mix of veteran and young riders with some talented horses. Included are:
- Kent Farrington of Wellington, FL with Willow and Voyeur
- McLain Ward of Brewster, NY with Rothchild and HH Carlos Z
- Katie Dinan of Wellington, FL with Nougat du Vallet
- Brianne Goutal of New York, NY with Nice de Prissey and Zernike K
- Leslie Burr-Howard of Darien, CT, the 1986 World Cup champion, on Tic-Tac
- Charlie Jayne of Elgin, IL with Chill R Z
- Charlie Jacobs of Boston, MA on Flaming Star
- Saer Coulter of San Francisco, CA with Springtime and Carmena Z
- Ashlee Bond Clarke of Hidden Hills, CA with Chela LS and Agrostar
- Jenni Martin-McAllister of Sun Valley, CA on Casseur de Prix
- Lucy Davis of Los Angeles, CA on Barron
With 41 riders from 20 countries competing, it will be a challenge for the Americans to pull of the “three-peat.” The Europeans have several strong contenders, including a very deep and talented German team and a two-rider British contingent featuring Scott Brash, the number one ranked rider in the Longines FEI World Rider Rankings.
We can all watch the action live as it happens on FEI TV at www.feitv.org. What will happen is impossible to predict, but the one thing we do know is that this year’s FEI World Cup Finals are guaranteed to produce incredible excitement that will whet our appetite for what lies in store one year from now in Las Vegas!
By the way, don’t miss out on your chance to assure yourself the best seats at next year’s Final in Vegas. Here’s how it’s going to work:
The renewal period for previous VIP and all-session ticket holders runs through Friday, May 30, 2014. Tickets will then go on sale to World Cup Club Members starting on Monday, June 30. If you were a 2009 VIP and/or all-session ticket holder and haven’t received information on renewals, please email firstname.lastname@example.org today. If you haven’t been a VIP and/or all-session ticket holder, join the World Cup Club right now. There’s no cost and it takes less than a minute. You will receive the most up-to-date information on the World Cup and you’ll be first in line, after the previous ticket holders, for the best seats for next year. Do it now at www.worldcuplasvegas.com/home/world_cup_club. I’d hate for you to miss out!