Las Vegas has a well-earned reputation as an unrivaled host for the FEI World Cup Finals. Nowhere is our sport presented with the pizzazz one finds only in the “Entertainment Capital of the World!”
It all started in the year 2000 when Las Vegas hosted the FEI World Cup Final for the first time. Back then, no one had thought of hosting the Finals in both Jumping and Dressage together, something that was done for the first time in Las Vegas in 2005. It was all about Jumping at that first event in 2000 and there was excitement about bringing the sport’s premier annual event to Las Vegas. There was also an added buzz about whether or not Rodrigo Pessoa could achieve an unprecedented “three-peat” by winning the Final for a third consecutive year.
As we know, the Brazilian superstar pulled it off and Rodrigo became the first – and still only – rider to clinch back-to-back-to-back World Cup wins. To top it off, he won all three titles with the same horse, Baloubet du Rouet!
Rodrigo, son of show jumping legend Nelson Pessoa, and Baloubet du Rouet won their first World Cup Final in Helsinki, Finland, in 1998 and then followed that with a win in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1999. The pair came to Las Vegas as odds-on favorites but, incredibly, almost never even got the chance to step foot in the ring!
Imagine the concern that gripped Rodrigo and his team when the plane bringing the horses from Europe landed and his incredible chestnut stallion stepped off the plane with a case of ‘shipping fever’ and temperature of 105 degrees! Fortunately he recovered quickly and went on to make show jumping history.
The pair won the first round speed class on Thursday night and then placed second in the second round jump-off class on Friday. Under intense pressure in front of a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center, Rodrigo and Baloubet kept their cool and jumped two clear rounds on the final day to clinch the win, etching their names indelibly in the World Cup record books.
The amazing duo went on to win a team bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney that fall and then, four years later, the individual gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.
Rodrigo has participated in a total of 13 World Cup Finals, including all five held in Las Vegas (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009). He has ridden in six Olympic Games, winning a team bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in addition to his other aforementioned medals. He has also been in six World Equestrian Games and he won the show jumping World Championship at the 1998 Games in Rome. He also has won two individual silver medals as well as team gold and silver in his three appearances in Pan American Games.
Although three other riders have won the World Cup Finals three times (Austria’s Hugo Simon, and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, who narrowly edged Rodrigo to dash his hopes of a fourth title in 2003), no one, other than Rodrigo, has done it in consecutive years. That accomplishment remains his and his alone.
If you’d like to watch Rodrigo and Baloubet du Rouet in World Cup action, then click here to see their winning performance at the 1999 FEI World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.
If you want to see World Cup action from Las Vegas, then you need to make sure you get your tickets for next April’s Finals and I suggest that you do that right now because there’s a good chance that history will be made there again and I know you won’t want to miss it!