Russia’s Inessa Merkulova will lead the way in Dressage and Belgium’s Jos Verlooy will be the first Jumping rider into the ring when the much-anticipated FEI World Cup™ Finals 2015 begin at the Thomas & Mack arena in Las Vegas, USA tomorrow. There was a big attendance for tonight’s draw which took place at the Hakkasan nightclub in the MGM hotel. It was America’s Steffen Peters and Denmark’s Agnete Kirk-Thinggaard who selected the names and numbers that decided the order-of-go for the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Grand Prix which will begin at 12 noon local time.
The draw for the first leg of the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final, which follows at at 19.00 tomorrow evening, was conducted by defending champion Daniel Deusser from Germany assisted by America’s Rich Fellers and Beezie Madden who claimed the coveted trophy in 2012 and 2013 respectively.
All three former Jumping champions are competing with the same horses with which they previously enjoyed success, and Madden starts in 25th place with Simon while Deusser goes 33rd with Cornet D’Amour followed immediately by Fellers partnering his 19-year-old living legend, Flexible in 34th place. A total of 41 horse-and-rider combinations are listed to contest the opening speed class in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final and you can find the full running order here
The Hakkasan nightclub usually applies an age restriction of 21 years, but an exception was made for the two young Jumping riders, Jos Verlooy and Ireland’s Bertram Allen, who are still only 19.
Having risen from 70th place to the No 10 spot in the latest Longines rankings after a sensational run of form over the last year, Allen is hotly-tipped to make a big impression this week. But he insisted today that “there are 20 or 25 riders here who could win”. He was happy with how his grey mare, Molly Malone, schooled this morning, and, when asked about his plans for the coming days, said “I’ll be going out every day to win, but just how I’m going to do it I don’t exactly know yet!”
His natural horsemanship has already earned him a huge fan-club, not least in his home country. He said today, “I really appreciate the support and goodwill I’m getting from home and I will be doing my very best here this week. I’m ready to crack on with it now, and if it doesn’t go well it won’t be because myself and Molly aren’t trying! We both like a good atmosphere, and I think the buzz in this arena is going to be amazing!”
Everyone agrees that the Thomas & Mack is an electric venue, and earlier today there were plenty of spectators watching the warm-up sessions for both Jumping and Dressage. Daniel Deusser showed that he means business when he says he wants to take the Longines title for the second year in row, putting on an exhibition with Cornet D’Amour over the eight-fence practice track.
And defending Reem Acra champion, Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin who also holds the world no 1 spot in her discipline, was greeted by a wave of applause before even entering the arena later in the day with her world-record-beating specialist Valegro, who seemed to thoroughly enjoy showing off in front of the crowd.
They are drawn 12th of the 18 starters in tomorrow’s Reem Acra Grand Prix, while leading German challenger Isabell Werth will be 15th to go with El Santo and The Netherlands‘ Edward Gal and Glock’s Undercover precede Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB who will be last into the ring. You can find the full running order here.
Steffen Peters, winner of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage title at Las Vegas in 2009 with Ravel, will go in 16th place tomorrow with Legolas. But American eyes will also be closely watching the performance of their brightest new star, Laura Graves, who, despite an early draw in fourth spot, is expected to finish well up the leaderboard with Verdades at the end of the opening competition and to be in strong contention in Saturday’s Reem Acra Freestyle finale.
FEI First Vice-President and Chair of the Jumping Committee said tonight “both the Dressage and Jumping titles are so important for any athlete to win and I’d like to thank Reem Acra and our First Partner, Longines, for their fantastic support. We are also really grateful to the USEF, but most of all we are grateful to our great ally, the horse, who does such wonderful things for us and brings so much happiness into all of our lives”.