Cesar Parra and Catherine Haddad-Staller Likely Americans for World Cup Final

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Catherine Haddad-Staller riding Mane Stream Hotmail in the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Freestyle that is likely to earn the pair an invitation to the Final a month from now. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Catherine Haddad-Staller riding Mane Stream Hotmail in the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Freestyle that is likely to earn the pair an invitation to the Final a month from now. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 15, 2014–Cesar Parra and Van the Man and Catherine Haddad-Staller and Mane Stream Hotmail are likely to be invited to the World Cup Final in Lyon, France following the last of the North American League qualifying competitions on the East Coast of the United States.

Both New Jersey-based riders, Catherine in Califon and Cesar at Whitehouse Station, were the top ranked riders from Canada and the United States in the NAL after Tina Konyot, who finished first, said she was saving Calecto V, her 2012 Olympic and 2010 World Equestrian Games partner to campaign for a place on the American team for this summer’s world championship.

“If we are called,” joked Catherine, “we will serve.” Michael Davis, the owner of Van the Man, had not made a decision. Catherine, based in Germany for 20 years until late 2012, competed in two World Cup Finals on different horses.

The average of the best two Freestyle results that are required under NAL rules were 73.962 per cent for Cesar and 72.962 per cent for Catherine. The last of the nine World Cup events in the NAL–all in the United States for the 2013/14 season–will actually be held in California next week but the top of the standings are considered unlikely to change.

Their success has brought to a head the issue of covering costs for non-Europeans to compete at the annual World Cup Final.

The NAL was unusual this season in that two Florida-based Danish riders, Lars Petersen on Mariett and Mikala Gundersen on My Lady, finished at No. 1 and No. 2 on the leaderboard. But as they are not citizens of Canada, Mexico or the United States, they can go to the Final only as “additional” riders and depending on results in the Western European League which includes Denmark.

Cesar Parra on Van the Man at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Freestyle that is likely to have won the pair an invitation to the Final in Lyon, France in mid-April. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Cesar Parra on Van the Man at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Freestyle that is likely to have won the pair an invitation to the Final in Lyon, France in mid-April. © 2014 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The success of the two Americans and the two Danes has confronted both the United States Equestrian Federation (USEF) and the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) with controversial issues on the structure and implementation of the annual individual championship series. It was launched in 1985 primarily as a European indoor winter circuit centered on the musical freestyle.

Organizers of the World Cup, with approved of the FEI, pay only a portion of the costs for combinations outside Europe to compete at the Final when held in Europe–two from the North American League and one from the Pacific League as well as others not in any league.

Tim Dutta, who heads up his international horse transport company, included two round trip transatlantic air fares for dressage horses each year as part of a major sponsorship deal with the USEF. One of the two slots from 2013 were not used and he agreed to roll it into this year and the U.S. opted to give one of those slots to a successful World Cup combination.

But with two horses ridden by Americans probably to be invited and the other two shipping slots earmarked for World Equestrian Games pairs later in the year, the U.S. is mulling funding options.

The organizer of the Lyon Final will pay €9,000 (US$12,500) per horse and €1,200 (US$1,670) per rider for air fares for North American entries as well as covering hotel and some meal expenses for the rider and groom, plus stabling for the horse. That amount covers only about half the out-of-pocket costs that in previous year have typically been borne by riders and owners.

However, when the Final is held in the United States–which it has been on four occasions and will be in 2015 as the only host for dressage outside Western Europe–the American organizers are required by the FEI to cover all the costs of Europeans, that could number 10 or so horses along with the riders and grooms.

Another issue brought to the forefront by the results of the two Danish riders is the format of the World Cup and its four leagues, that can all have different rules depending on the decisions of separate committees in each area.

Western and Central European Leagues are determined by points awarded at a specified number of qualifying competitions. However, a Western European combination, for example, can earn only one full set of points and one half set of points if they compete outside their own league. The Central European League usually holds a league final to determine which two combinations will go to the big final, but it did not do so this season.

North America determines its standings based on the average of the best two scores. The Pacific League is decided by invitations extended to riders to a league final to fill its one slot.

The increasing globalization of the sport–spurred most recently by creation of the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington that is attracting a growing number of foreign riders as well as offering substantial prize money over the winter which is the peak for World Cup qualifying–has led to calls to rationalize the World Cup structure.