Lexington, KY - A talented contingent of American riders have traveled to Lyon, France, looking to secure top results for the United States in FEI World Cup Final competition. Many of the world's best jumping and dressage riders have assembled at the Lyon Eurexpo to contest the only annual FEI championship, which will be held April 17-21.
In the Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final, 11 riders will try to extend the U.S. winning streak to three consecutive years, and once again look to bring the World Cup back across the Atlantic. In the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final, two team veterans head to France eyeing the first American victory since 2009.
Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final
The Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final gets underway Friday, April 18, with the Speed Leg and continues the following day with round two. The 2014 champion will be crowned on Monday, April 21, with the final two rounds of competition.
"We are in a similar position as we were last year, when we sent eleven riders (including the defending champion) to do battle against the best in the world," said U.S. Chef d'Equipe Robert Ridland. "The United States has produced more World Cup winners than any other country, and with the talented group of riders we have here in Lyon, we look to extend that record."
Reigning champion Beezie Madden (Cazenovia, NY) brings her winning partner from the 2013 Final, Abigail Wexner's Simon, to Lyon to defend her title. The pair spent the winter jumping at the FTI Consulting Winter Equestrian Festival and helped the U.S. to a third-place finish in the Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup presented by G&C Farm. Additionally, the two-time Olympic Games Team Gold medalist heads into the Final in strong form after winning the Gene Mische $200,000 American Invitational, presented by G&C Farm to kick off April.
In Lyon, Madden will be joined by a strong group of U.S. team veterans including Kent Farrington, McLain Ward, and Leslie Burr Howard. Farrington (Wellington, FL) enjoyed an extremely successful 2013/2014 FEI World Cup Qualifying season that saw him win the World Cup Qualifier at the Washington International Horse Show among other top placings, helping him to top the North American East Coast League. At this year's Final, the 2011 Pan American Games Team Gold medalist will ride Amalaya Investments' Voyeur and Robin Parsky's Blue Angel.
After finishing second at the 2009 Final, Ward (Brewster, NY) looks for a World Cup victory to add to his extensive resume, which boasts two Olympic Team Gold medals (2004 and 2008) and a 2006 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Team Silver medal, among many prestigious Grand Prix victories. In Lyon, he will ride Sagamore Farms' international veteran, Rothchild, and Double H Farm's exciting HH Carlos Z. Burr Howard (Darian, Conn.) will utilize the experience that helped the U.S. to Team Gold at the 1984 Olympic Games and Team Silver at the 1996 Olympic Games as she looks for a strong finish with Jane Clark's Tic-Tac in France.
A talented group of riders under the age of 30 are set to demonstrate what the future of U.S. jumping looks like at the 2014 Final. Katie Dinan, Lucy Davis, Charlie Jayne, Saer Coulter, and Ashlee Bond Clarke are all set to go head-to-head with many of the best in the sport in Lyon.
Dinan (Wellington, FL) and Davis (Los Angeles, CA) are making their second Finals appearance and look to improve upon the results garnered in 2013. Additionally, they both represented the U.S. at the 2013 Furusiyya FEI Nations Cup Jumping Final, helping to secure a Consolation Round victory. In France they will again team up with their partners from Barcelona, Dinan with Grant Road Partners LLC's Nougat du Vallet and Davis on Old Oak Farm's Barron.
Reserves for the U.S. team at the 2012 Olympic Games, Jayne (Elgin, IL) and Alex Jayne and Maura Thatcher's Chill R Z are also making their second consecutive start at an FEI World Cup Final. For Jayne this will be his fourth trip to the annual championship after appearing at the previous three finals in Leipzig, s'Hertogenbosch, and Gothenburg.
Coulter (San Francisco, CA) and Bond Clarke (Hidden Hills, CA), along with Davis, represent a group of the West Coast's rising stars making an impact on the international scene. Coulter will make her Finals debut in Lyon but is well acquainted with the competition, having attended the 2013 edition after receiving the USET Foundation's Maxine Beard Award. The top U.S. finisher in the North American West Coast League will ride Copernicus Stables, LLC's Springtime and Carmena Z in her first Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final. Bond Clarke has had a successful lead up to her third Finals, including winning the AIG $1 Million Grand Prix in Thermal and two earlier Grand Prixes at the same venue. In France, she will ride Little Valley Farms' Chela LS and Klatte Zuchtoff & Little Valley Farms' Agrostar.
Rounding out the U.S. effort in Lyon are Charlie Jacobs and Jenni Martin-McAllister. Jacobs (Boston, MA) was a member of the winning American team at the 2012 CSIOW Buenos Aires and will use that experience in his first Finals with CMJ Sporthorse, LLC's Flaming Star. Martin-McAllister (Sun Valley, CA) enters the 2014 Final after having collected top finishes on the West Coast, including a third-place finish in the $50,000 Tuff Rider/Equine Couture Grand Prix before traveling to Florida and finishing fifth in the $50,000 Live Oak Grand Prix CSI2*-W. She will ride Granville Equine's Casseur de Prix in France.
Brianne Goutal (New York, NY) had been planning on making her third career Finals appearance in Lyon but has had to withdraw due to injury. She plans to be back competing in May.
Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final
The hotly contested Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final gets underway Saturday afternoon with the FEI Grand Prix Test. All eyes will be on the Lyon Eurexpo on Sunday, April 20, as the winner of the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle will be crowned the 2014 Final champion.
This year's Final is shaping up to be a battle of the titans of the sport, as current Olympic and European champions, Great Britain's Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, look to add the World Cup title their resume. They will be pushed all the way by the world-class field, including reigning champions, Germany's Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill, as well as the United States' Tina Konyot and Cesar Parra.
Konyot (Palm City, FL) has represented the U.S. at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games and the 2012 Olympic Games with her longtime partner Calecto V and the pair make their first World Cup start in Lyon. They head into the weekend on strong form after a successful winter campaign on the Florida circuit, including winning the Freestyle at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI5* presented by Diamante Farms.
Parra (Whitehouse Station, NJ) and Michael and Sarah Davis' Van the Man also head to Lyon on the heels of a strong winter season spent competing in Wellington. The pair has built a strong partnership over the years and recently finished sixth in the Freestyle at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI-W sponsored by Today's Equestrian and GF Enterprises, LLC.
"I am very excited to have two excellent combinations going to Lyon for the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final, Tina Konyot with her Olympic stallion, Calecto V, and Cesar Parra riding Van The Man," said USEF Chef d'Equipe Robert Dover. "Both horses have continued throughout the winter Florida season receiving ever higher scores in the Grand Prix as well as their Freestyles and I feel confident our athletes will deliver strong performances in France."