Omaha, Nebraska - With just a few qualifying competitions remaining, the world's leading dressage riders have focused their sights on the year's biggest bullseye - the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final Omaha 2017 in Nebraska - which is being held concurrently with the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final Omaha 2017. A star-studded line-up of international horses and riders is expected to compete at the CenturyLink Center on March 29 - April 2, and it's looking like it may be one of the strongest fields in FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals history!
"With the Finals rapidly approaching, it gets more exciting every week watching the results of the qualifiers as the world's top riders vie for spots in Omaha," said Lisa Roskens, Chairman of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation which is producing the Finals. "It looks like we may have as many as eight of the top 10 riders in the world, giving fans in this country a rare opportunity to see most of our sport's stars compete head-to-head. It is really going to be so exciting and I can hardly wait!"
The FEI has four World Cup™ Leagues in dressage - the Western European League (WEL), the Central European League (CEL), the North American League (NAL), and the Pacific League (Australia and New Zealand) (PL). Just 18 horse/rider combinations qualify for the Finals so spectators are guaranteed to see the best of the best!
In North America, Laura Graves, the highest placed American rider at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games where she finished fourth and secured the Team Bronze medal for the U.S., expressed her intention of trying to qualify for Omaha with her Olympic partner Verdades just days after last summer's Olympics finished. "I would love the opportunity to ride in another World Cup, and in our home country," remarked Graves about the Finals in Omaha.
Since their launch onto the world stage at the 2014 World Equestrian Games, Graves and Verdades have shined in every outing. They took fourth place at the FEI World Cup™ Finals Las Vegas 2015 prior to winning Team Gold and Individual Silver medals at the 2015 Pan American Games. Currently ranked fifth in the world, the pair won the North American League qualifier in Wellington, Florida in late January - their first competition since Rio. They are highly favored to win a spot in Omaha.
Steffen Peters, a four-time Olympian with three bronze medals and the 2009 FEI World Cup™ Champion, is another rider looking to reach Omaha. He won the qualifier in Las Vegas in January with Rosamunde, and with four World Cup Final appearances under his belt already, Peters, a two-time Pan American Games Individual Gold medalist, is also regarded as one of the favorites to reach Omaha.
With just three qualifying competitions left in the WEL, two-time FEI World Cup™ champion Isabell Werth of Germany, the most decorated dressage rider in Olympic history with 10 medals to her credit, has expressed her desire to compete in Omaha to seek her third championship title. Ranked number one in the world, Werth leads the WEL rankings after winning qualifiers aboard her Rio Olympic mount Weihegold in Lyon (France), Stuttgart (Germany) and Amsterdam (The Netherlands), where she earned a personal best score. Werth is also headlining The Dressage Showcase on Friday afternoon in Omaha, an educational event titled "Young Horses to Grand Prix with Olympic Champion Isabell Werth Presented by the Dressage Foundation."
Also planning to ride in Omaha is Olympic Gold and Silver medalist Carl Hester of Great Britain, who currently sits second in the WEL rankings and fourth in the world rankings. Hester is looking to bring Nip Tuck, the horse on whom he won a Team Silver medal at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games. Hester, a five-time Olympian, also won Team Gold at the London Olympic Games in 2012. He and Nip Tuck won the FEI World Cup™ qualifier on home turf at the London Olympia Horse Show and took second place at both the Lyon and Amsterdam qualifiers. The pair would be a spectacular combination to watch in Omaha.
Ireland's Judy Reynolds and Vancouver K are another pair to keep your eyes on. The duo competed at the 2016 Olympics and are Ireland's most competitive duo with many top-ten placings at competitions around the world. They won the qualifier at Dressage at Devon (USA) last fall, placed seventh at Stuttgart (Germany) and fourth at London Olympia where Reynolds earned a personal best score.
Dutch rider Edward Gal, an Olympic bronze medalist and the 2010 FEI World Cup™ Champion, is also seeking a spot in Omaha with Glock's Voice. The pair took third and fourth places at the qualifiers in London and Amsterdam respectively and Gal now wants the opportunity to reclaim his title at his tenth FEI World Cup™ Final appearance. "I will now compete at 's-Hertogenbosch for sure and maybe Gothenburg, because I'd like to make it to the Final in Omaha," he recently said.
As the title defender after his win at Gothenburg, Sweden last March, Hans-Peter Minderhoud of The Netherlands is assured a spot at the Finals. He and Glock's Flirt could be a force to be reckoned with, after having won last year's Final and placing fifth the year before. In this year's qualifying competitions, the pair earned second place in London and fifth in Amsterdam.
The CEL has ended its series of qualifying competitions and has two allocated spots for the Finals. Leading the rankings is Russia's Inessa Merkulova with Mister X. The duo are Olympic, WEG and European Championship veterans who tallied four victories at FEI World Cup™ qualifiers this year.
A range of ticket packages are available for the Finals in Omaha. Single-Session tickets for either Jumping or Dressage range from $45 - $85 depending on the session and location. All-Session ticket packages include seats for five different events in either jumping or dressage. The best seats in the house are the VIP Tickets in the first 5 rows which include access to the VIP Hospitality Lounge throughout the event! The VIP Hospitality Lounge will feature full meals, open bar, live music, concierge service and other amenities, all included with each VIP ticket.
The 2017 FEI World Cup™ Finals will run over five days. Wednesday, March 29, will feature the Dressage Familiarization at 9:30 a.m. and the Jumping Training Session at 2:00 p.m. Actual competition will begin on Thursday, March 30, with the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Grand Prix starting at 2:00 p.m. and Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final I (Jumping Speed Class) at 7:00 p.m.
On Friday, March 31, the multi-faceted Dressage Showcase starts at 3:00 p.m. followed by the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final II (Grand Prix) at 7:00 p.m. On Saturday, April 1, the Dressage Natural Horsemanship Clinic will be held at 9:00 a.m. (following the Freestyle sound check) with the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final (Freestyle to Music) - the event determining the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final Omaha 2017 winner- beginning at 2:00 p.m., and the International Omaha Jumping Grand Prix competition at 7:00 p.m. On Sunday, April 2, the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final III competition will begin at 2:00 p.m., which ultimately decides who will be crowned the winner.
For more information about the FEI World Cup™ Finals Omaha 2017 and to purchase tickets, please go to www.OmahaWorldCup2017.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or at the CenturyLink Center Omaha box office.