Las Vegas, Nev. - Returning to the U.S. for the first time in six years, the FEI World Cup Finals will takeover Las Vegas, Nev., this week, hosting many of the finest jumping and dressage athletes from around the world. The U.S. will be represented by an impressive line-up of athlete-and-horse combinations, including three former champions and four athletes currently ranked within the top ten in the world. Taking place April 16-19 at the Thomas and Mack Center, competition will include the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final and Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final.
Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final
Forty-one of the world's top jumping athletes will contest three legs of competition over four days to determine the ultimate victor. The field will include world number one and defending champion Daniel Deusser of Germany and his 2014 winning partner Cornet D'Amour. Set to vie for the title is a talented U.S. contingent which includes multiple combinations capable of landing on the podium. Along with seasoned veterans, the competition will also feature U.S. combinations fresh to the world stage, providing them with valuable preparation for upcoming international events as the U.S. look towards the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil.
"There is a great tradition here in Las Vegas, it's the sixth time the World Cup Finals have been held here and we have a very talented home squad representing the U.S.," said Robert Ridland, U.S. Jumping Chef d'Equipe. "We have the winners from two of the last three years [Rich Fellers and Beezie Madden], and McLain Ward who had a memorable run here in 2009 in what was one of the most exciting World Cup Finals ever. There's a lot of excitement not only with the athletes, but also with the fans. We know there are going to be tremendous crowds and it's our opportunity to do something great in a marquee event."
U.S. Jumping Athletes
Qualifying out of the North American East Coast League, the seven U.S. athletes are a mix of a former Final champion, steely veterans and newcomers to the international scene. Topping the North American East Coast League standings is Todd Minikus, who will bring Two Swans Farm's Babalou 41. Though still young, the mare has made quite a name for herself, going double-clear in the FEI Nations Cup presented by Kingsland Equestrian at CSIO4* Wellington to help the Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team to a Gold medal in February. That same week the pair won the CSIO4* Grand Prix presented by Lugano Diamonds.
Laura Kraut returns to FEI World Cup Final competition after a nine year hiatus. In that time Kraut has earned a Team Silver at the 2006 Aachen FEI World Equestrian Games and a Team Gold at the 2008 Olympic Games. Kraut will ride the Evita Group's Nouvelle.
The 2013 Final champions, Beezie Madden and Abigail Wexner's Simon, look to repeat their winning performance this year. Currently ranked seventh in the world, Madden has spent the winter competing in Florida. In February, Madden and Simon aided the United States to a Silver medal finish at the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup presented by Edge Brewing Barcelona at CSIO4* Ocala.
Jack Hardin Towell will make his first FEI World Cup Final appearance aboard Jennifer Gates, LLC's Lucifer V. Kristen Coe, who punched her ticket to the Final with a third-place finish in the Live Oak International CSI2*-W Grand Prix, will ride Ilan Ferder, Lovsta Stuteri, and Tal Milstein's Baronez and Lovsta Stuteri's Czardas 30.
A veteran of 15 FEI World Cup Finals, McLain Ward, currently ranked fourth in the world, brings two experienced mounts to the Finals this year with Double H Farm's HH Carlos Z and Sagamore Farm's Rothchild. Ward and HH Carlos Z took home multiple wins on the 2015 Winter Equestrian Festival circuit, including most recently in the Rolex Grand Prix CSI5*. Coming off a Team Bronze medal win at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, Ward and Rothchild went on to win the Hickstead FEI World Cup Grand Prix at the Royal Winter Fair Horse Show in Toronto, Canada.
Rounding out the East Coast athletes is Katie Dinan, competing in her third consecutive Final. Dinan brings her newest partner, Grant Road Partners, LLC's Stakorado.
Leading off the North American West Coast League is Rich Fellers and Harry and Mollie Chapman's Flexible, who return for their seventh Final competition. In addition to their remarkable win at the Final in 2012, they are the only U.S. athlete-and-horse combination to have competed when the Final last landed on home soil in 2009.
Additionally from the West Coast will be Karl Cook and Signe Otsby's Jonkheer Z, making his second Finals appearance, and first time competitor Vinton Karrasch aboard Coral Reef Ranch's Coral Reef Baloufino and Coral Reef Follow Me II.
Qualifying out of the Western European League, Lucy Davis and Old Oak Farm's Barron have had a wealth of success on both sides of the Atlantic over the last year. In September of 2014 the pair were members of the Bronze medal winning Hermès U.S. Show Jumping Team at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, and in November they were second in the World Cup Qualifier at CSI5* Stuttgart. Back home in early 2015 Davis and Barron won the World Cup Qualifier at the CSI2* Thermal and the following week topped the Ruby et Violette WEF Challenge Cup Round 7.
Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final
The two leading U.S. combinations will be joined this week by 16 of the best athlete-and-horse combinations from ten nations as they go head-to-head in two tests taking place over three days, with the winner of Saturday's Grand Prix Freestyle crowned as the 2015 champion. The Dressage Final is set to be an intriguing contest as reigning world number one, Olympic and World Championship Gold medalists and defending Final champions, Great Britain's Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro will start as clear favorites. With both talent and poise on their sides, the U.S. duo of Steffen Peters and Laura Graves will be in contention for a coveted podium finish.
"We are thrilled that the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Finals are back in U.S. and in this exciting town once again," said Robert Dover, U.S. Dressage Chef d'Equipe/Technical Advisor. "I am very excited to see our athletes compete this week in what will be super competition. Both Laura Graves and Verdades and Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 have been great in the qualifiers leading up to Finals and both can achieve strong and excellent results for America."
U.S. Dressage Athletes
The last time Peters went down centerline at a FEI World Cup Final it was at this very venue in 2009 where he was the ultimate victor. The U.S. has not stood atop the World Cup Dressage Final podium since then and Peters will be in the hunt for a second title with Four Wind Farm's Legolas 92. An Olympic and World Championship medalist, Peters enters this week as one of the most decorated dressage athletes in U.S. history. With Legolas 92, Peters swept all tests in the 2014/2015 FEI World Cup Qualifying competitions on the West Coast.
Laura Graves has quickly established herself as a dominate international competitor, having only made her Big Tour debut in 2014 with her own Verdades. The pair, who have been together since the gelding was a yearling, have continued to develop their performance over the last year. In their first Grand Prix National Championship in June, Graves and Verdades rose to the occasion, taking Reserve Champion honors (second only to Peters and Legolas 92). They went on to represent the U.S. at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in September where they surprised the world in their first international championship for the United States. The pair helped the U.S. to an impressive fourth place finish and placed eighth in the Grand Prix Special and fifth in the Grand Prix Freestyle. Since then the pair has finished no less than second in CDI competition, winning both classes at the World Cup Qualifier during week 10 of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival and anchoring the U.S. Team at the CDIO3* Wellington where they also won Individual Gold.
The Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final and the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final can be seen live at any of the following websites: feitv.org, fei.org, worldcuplasvegas.com. There is a fee for these webcasts.