Las Vegas Showdown: Valegro and Totilas

Two of Dressage’s All-time Best Horses Set Sights on 2015 World Cup™ Final in Las Vegas

Well, it looks like the showdown we have all been dreaming about is finally set to happen! The word is out that two of the greatest horses in dressage history plan to compete at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Las Vegas next April 15-19.

Reigning Olympic and World Champion Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain will bring Valegro while Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath will bring Totilas. Both have scheduled the qualifying competitions in which they plan to compete and announced that they are targeting the Final in Las Vegas. It is going to be a historic showdown and there is no better setting for this clash of the titans than the “Entertainment Capital of the World!”

Dressage fans from all around the globe are anxiously awaiting this encounter. Both horses are mesmerizing to watch and are almost freaks of nature in their talent. Their performances in recent years have helped catapult the sport of dressage into the limelight and projected the sport’s popularity beyond equestrian sports’ fans and right into the mainstream media.

Matthias Alexander Rath (GER) and Totilas at CHIO Aachen 2014 © Hippo Foto - Dirk Caremans/FEI

Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath and Totilas
© Hippo Foto – Dirk Caremans/FEI

Totilas, the legendary black stallion, first set the dressage world on fire about 5 years ago when he seemed unbeatable with his former rider, Edward Gal of The Netherlands. Together they were the first ever to break the previously unthinkable score of 90%, and they won all three gold medals at the 2010 FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky. Following those Games, Totilas was sold to Germany to become the new ride for Matthias Alexander Rath, a sale that caused an uproar in the dressage world.

With all eyes on the new pairing, Totilas suffered an injury and disappeared from competition. He even wound up missing the 2012 Olympic Games. However, after a two-year hiatus and some changes in training regime, Totilas and Rath made a very successful return to the competition arena this past spring looking for a spot on the German Team for the 2014 World Equestrian Games.

The pair had wins in Kapellen (Belgium), Wiesbaden (Germany), and Perl (Germany) prior to competing at the last team qualifier in Aachen (Germany) last July. That was to be the site of the highly anticipated showdown with Valegro, who swept double gold at the 2012 Olympics; however, it was a showdown that began but didn’t have the climax everyone was longing to see.  More on that in a moment.

British superstars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro  © Kit Houghton/ FEI

British superstars Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro
© Kit Houghton/ FEI

Meanwhile, Dujardin and Valegro are the reigning sweethearts of the sport and have become household names in Europe. The duo has set world records (previously held by Totilas) in all three tests (Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle), are ranked number one in the world, and are the first to hold four titles simultaneously as they are the reigning Olympic, European, World Cup and World Champions!

 

Since the beginning of 2012, Dujardin and Valegro have never placed lower than second, although their invincibility started to be questioned last July at Aachen where they had an uncharacteristic lackluster performance due to higher than usual temperatures at the competition. Totilas and Rath, who now seem to have gelled together, made their way into the winner’s circle after claiming both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special with Dujardin and Valegro placing second. However, the much anticipated climax of the showdown, in the Grand Prix Freestyle, didn’t take place as Totilas was withdrawn from the competition “to be saved for another day.”

Another face-off was set for the 2014 World Equestrian Games (WEG) this past summer with the title of World Champion on the line. There was an incredible sense of excitement and speculation as to which of the two legends would win the gold. However, misfortune struck again as Totilas incurred another injury prior to WEG and was withdrawn from the competition.

The dressage world was excited to see Dujardin and Valegro back in top form, however, as they executed near-perfect performances which received high scores. The pair helped Great Britain to the team silver medal and they won both individual gold medals and the prestigious title of World Champion. However, the long-awaited match-up between the sport’s two all-time greats was put off yet again.

Well, now it looks like those at the 2015 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas next April will be the lucky ones who get to see this historic face-off.  Much like the famous ‘Match Race of the Century’ between Thoroughbreds Seabiscuit and War Admiral, or other big sports showdowns like Peyton Manning vs. Tom Brady in football or the famous basketball battles between Bird and Magic in the 1980s, this competition between the two ‘heavy weights’ of the dressage world will be of historic proportions. I hope you’ve ordered your tickets because this “Dressage Showdown of the Century” is surely one that you will not want to miss!

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