From 11th to 15th April 2018, after a long break of over a quarter of a century, the AccorHotels Arena in Paris will once again host the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final and the FEI Dressage Final in this legendary venue. The best riders on the planet and their star horses still have six months to win the precious qualifying points before the competition in the Parisian arena. This weekend in Lyon, where the FEI World Cup legs will be taking place, the names of some of the jumping and dressage riders qualified for Paris 2018 may well be revealed. Review of the men and women currently at the top of their game.
The Western European league, to which the Lyon leg of the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping belongs, will be sending a total of eighteen riders to the final in Paris. The riders in this league are currently battling it out over thirteen legs; some already benefit from a serious lead over their competitors. This is the certainly case for five of them, who after three legs have accumulated over twenty points out of the forty needed to qualify. Three of the five will be competing this weekend at Equita, Lyon’s horse exhibition, with one objective in mind: the World Cup leg on Sunday, the Longines FEI World CupTM Jumping presented by GL events, where 20 points will be awarded to the winner.
The contenders include Italy’s Alberto Zorzi, who came fourth in the recent European Championships this summer in Gothenburg, and is the current leader on the circuit. There is also Maikel van der Vleuten, current European and World team champion and winner of the Italian leg in Verona last weekend. However, the clapometer in Lyon is likely to go off the scale for France’s Kevin Staut, currently second in the provisional rankings with 24 points. The current team Olympic champion and team silver medallist at the World Championships, France’s best rider has not won a World Cup leg since Stuttgart in 2012. There’s no doubt that the rider from the Parisian region, who has since made Normandy his home, will have his heart set on a place in Paris next spring.
Just like the sixteen other French riders competing this weekend in the former capital of the Gauls, among whom are the three other Olympic champions: Philippe Rozier, Roger-Yves Bost (the winner of the World Cup leg in Lyon in 2014) and Pénélope Leprévost (also the winner in Lyon, in 2015). This includes current European champion, Sweden’s Peder Fredricson, Swiss rider and multiple medal winner, Steve Guerdat, 2012 Olympic champion, winner of the Longines FEI World Cup final in 2015 and 2016, as well as previous winners of the final such as Germany’s Christian Ahlmann (2011) and Marcus Ehning (2010). Number five in the Longines World Rankings (on 1st October), Great Britain’s Scott Brash will also be in Lyon and has made no secret of the fact that he is looking for a place in Paris.
As for the FEI World Cup Dressage, in the absence of the new discovery of recent months, Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour, who deposed the leader Isabell Werth at the first leg in Herning ten days ago, the two main contenders are likely to be the two regulars here in the Lyon arena: the aforementioned German star and Sweden’s Patrik Kittel, never one to miss the opportunity to ride at Equita, who came third in the previous leg in Denmark, despite being more than two points behind his nearest rival.
Titleholder Isabell Werth has made the final in Paris one of the main objectives of her season. She is hoping to qualify her three leading horses, Emilio, Don Johnson and Weihegold (with whom she rode to victory in the Lyon leg in 2016) to give her the pick of horses and enable her to travel to the AccorHotels Arena in April with the one in the best form. Spain, who has sent two great ambassadors and could well put a damper on her ambitions. In 2015, the Lyon arena proved lucky for Beatriz Ferrer-Salat, back again at Equita this year. And then there is Morgan Barbançon Mestre, who won the World Cup leg in Mariakalnok, Hungary in May. Plenty of other French riders will be giving it a go and audiences in Lyon will once again be firmly behind local rider Pierre Volla who, ever since his sixth place in Equita in 2015 earned him a standing ovation from a jubilant crowd, has dreamt of being in the spotlight in Paris and will of course be hoping to qualify. Other riders representing France in Lyon alongside Volla, from the Rhône Alpes region and the current national champion, will include Ludovic Henry and Arnaud Serre.
And of course an FEI World Cup Dressage leg would not be an FEI World Cup Dressage leg without a solid German presence: alongside Isabell Werth, Germany will be represented by Fabienne Lütkemeier, a member of the current Olympic championship team, and Dorothee Schneider, another current Olympic team championship holder. No less than that...