The line-up for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Final in Las Vegas, USA contains all the ingredients for one of the most exciting ever in the 37-year history of the world’s most prestigious indoor Jumping tournament.
All sorts of scenarios could play themselves out once the curtain is raised at the Thomas & Mack Arena on 15 April, as the riders and horses that have worked so hard to earn their place amongst the stars make their bid for glory. This is one title every Jumping rider wants to take, placing them amongst the greats of the sport including legendary partnerships and double-champions Ian Millar and the mighty Big Ben from Canada, and Great Britain’s John Whitaker and the magical Milton.
Since Austria’s Hugo Simon first punched the air in triumph after victory with Gladstone at the inaugural finale in Gothenburg (SWE) in 1979, the battle for this trophy has thrilled audiences all across the globe. And it never fails to spring a few surprises, as spectators witness previously unexposed talent rising to the challenge of the big occasion.
And it doesn’t get much bigger than under the bright lights of the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas where the tension and pressure are already near boiling point with only a few days to go before the action gets underway.
There are all sorts of possibilities for the final outcome, but even before the competitions begin there is a poignancy about the very presence of one horse-and-rider combination. New Zealand’s Katie Laurie can feel rightly proud no matter how her week turns out, because as she rides into the arena with Kiwi Iron Mark she will be realising the hopes and dreams of her late friend, Melanie Purcell, whose great ambition was to see her horse qualify for the Longines Final. Melanie died of cancer three years ago, but Katie never lost sight of her target, and there will hardly be a dry eye in the house should this pair have a successful week.
The country with most wins at the Final is Germany with a total of 10, including last year’s victory for Daniel Deusser who will partner his 2014 ride Cornet d’Amour once again. And the 33-year-old defending champion will be celebrating even before he arrives in Las Vegas, because he has just been confirmed as the new world No. 1 in the Longines Rankings.
Marco Kutscher, Marcus Ehning and Hans-Dieter Dreher complete the German line-up, and Ehning will have a mission all his own. Only four riders have won the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping title on three occasions, and he is one of them. He will go into the record books if he can become the first four-time champion, and as one of the great stylists of the sport, few doubt his ability to do so.
The youngest rider ever to clinch the trophy was Canada’s Mario Deslauriers who had just turned 19 when coming out on top with Aramis in Gothenburg in 1984. There are two talented 19-year-olds on the start-list again this year, Belgium’s Jos Verlooy who will turn 20 in December and Ireland’s Bertram Allen, who celebrates his 20th birthday in August. And there are lots of eyes on the young Irishman, who produced two stunning wins to challenge for the leadership of the super-tough Western European League over the winter months.
Allen’s potential has been clear from the outset of his career, and despite his lack of years he is already one of the most feared competitors on the international circuit. His extraordinary instinct for speed riding placed him out in front on the opening day of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ Jumping Championship in Normandy (FRA) last summer where he eventually finished seventh individually. That was no fluke, as he had won the Longines Grand Prix on home soil in Dublin (IRL) a few weeks earlier and with superb form over the winter he has risen all the way up to 10th in the Longines Rankings. Together with his wonderful little grey mare, Molly Malone, he is one to watch out for when the action gets underway in Vegas.
Two other men who will also be chasing down that trophy will be Switzerland’s Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, and Pius Schwizer, who have made it onto the podium in recent years but not quite managed to secure that top step. And there are eight ladies amongst the 42 starters from 20 nations. The USA’s Beezie Madden was the last female champion, pinning Guerdat into runner-up spot in a thriller at Gothenburg two years ago. And when it comes to female winners the Americans have sent out four of them, and can claim a strong association with Californian-born three-time champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum who flies the German flag.
Of the eight ladies starting at this year’s Final, five fly the stars-and-stripes and Madden looks a powerful contender once again, following on from her bronze medal individual finish at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy and a great winter on the Florida circuit.
But if it’s a fairy-tale finish you want, then look no further than fellow-American Rich Fellers and his comeback king, the amazing Flexible. Written off three times during his career due to serious illness and injury, the stallion has battled back bravely on each occasion, and his victory at the 2012 Final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) broke a 25-year drought for his country which earned him a very special place in the hearts of US Jumping fans.
Flexible’s latest spectacular recovery resulted in victory in the FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 West Coast qualifying series and now, at 19 years of age, the little Irish-bred horse with his unique way of going, and his rider who looks like he’s just stepped off the set of a Hollywood movie, are going to give it another shot.
If they were to succeed again, then the roof of the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas is likely to go into orbit with the wild delight of the host-country fans when the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Final draws to a close on Sunday 19 April.
And even the on-site fans will be super stars! Longines Ambassador of Elegance Stefanie Graf, the most successful female tennis player of all time, will be on hand to present the coveted trophy to the winner alongside Juan-Carlos Capelli, Vice President of Longines and Head of International Marketing. A truly star-studded cast in the entertainment capital of the world!
For further information on the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final 2014/2015 in Las Vegas, USA from 15 to 19 April, visit www.worldcuplasvegas.com or contact Press Officer Marty Baumann, email@example.com, +1 508 698 6810.
Facts and Figures:
- Longines presents the 37th FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final at the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas, USA from 15 to 19 April.
- 42 athletes from 20 nations will compete.
- The countries that will be represented are: Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, France, Germany, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Mexico, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Qatar, Russia, Saudi Arabia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland and USA.
- Defending champions are Germany's Daniel Deusser and Cornet d'Amour, winners at the 2014 Final in Lyon (FRA).
- 4 riders have claimed the FEI World Cup™ Jumping title on three occasions: Austria's Hugo Simon, winner at the inaugural Final in Gothenburg, Sweden with Gladstone, went on to record a back-to-back double of victories with ET FRH in 1996 and 1997. Germany's Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum was also a three-time winner with Shutterfly - at Las Vegas in 2005, Gothenburg in 2008 and again at Las Vegas in 2009. Brazil's Rodrigo Pessoa and the stallion Baloubet du Rouet hold the record as the only horse-and-rider partnership to post three back-to-back wins. They came out on top in 1999, 2000 and 2001.
- Germany's Marcus Ehning, winner in Las Vegas in 2003, in Kuala Lumpur (MAS), in 2006 and in Geneva (SUI) in 2010 will be attempting to become the first four-time FEI World Cup™ Jumping champion.
- The youngest riders at this year's final are both 19 years old, Jos Verlooy from Belgium and Bertram Allen from Ireland.
- The oldest horse is the 19-year-old Irish-bred stallion Flexible, ridden by the USA's Rich Fellers.
- Germany holds the record for most wins in the FEI World Cup™ Jumping series with 10 in total.
- Riders from the USA have claimed the title on 9 occasions.
- This will be the sixth time for the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final to be staged in Las Vegas, and the 10th time the Final has been held in the USA.