Valegro Not to Seek World Cup Three-Peat as Western European League Launches

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Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro celebrating 2015 World Cup title at Las Vegas. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro celebrating 2015 World Cup title at Las Vegas. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

World No. 1 Valegro ridden by Charlotte Dujardin will not seek a third straight World Cup title so another horse and rider will become individual champion for the first time when the global Final is staged in Gothenburg, Sweden next March.

Valegro, 14 years old next year, is getting the winter off, Carl Hester, the coach and part owner, told dressage-news.com Tuesday as the intensely competitive World Cup Western European League kicks off the 2015/16 season at Odense, Denmark this week.

Tentative plans are for Charlotte to seek to qualify on Barolo, the nine-year-old Hanoverian gelding on which the rider won her first British Grand Prix title last month, or Uthopia, the 14-year-old KWPN stallion that Carl rode on Great Britain’s gold medal teams at the 2012 Olympics and 2011 European Championships and bronze at the 2013 Europeans and was competed by Charlotte in both England on the Continent in 2013 and 2014.

At Lyon, France in 2014, Charlotte and Valegro, a KWPN gelding, became the first British rider to win the World Cup since its inception 40 years ago as the only annual global championship and centered on the Grand Prix Freestyle. The pair repeated at Las Vegas last April.

Charlotte and Valegro is the only combination to hold every individual championship gold medal at the same time in the past four decades–2012 Olympics, 2014 World Games (both Special and Freestyle), 2013 and 2015 European Championships (both Special and Freestyle) and 2014 and 2015 World Cup. Anky van Grunsven, the queen of the Freestyle with five World Cup titles on Bonfire and four on Salinero, came close but Isabell Werth on Satchmo broke the string by taking the Special at the 2006 world championships.

Since the historic London Olympics where Great Britain won its first ever dressage medal in 100 years of dressage at the Games, Valegro and Charlotte have claimed every individual gold in the championships in which the pair have competed. The 2013 Europeans. The 2014 World Cup and World Games. The 2015 World Cup and Europeans.

The Olympics in Rio de Janeiro next summer is the focus of Valegro and Charlotte in the pair’s third year at the top of the world rankings.

The Western European League schedule that launches at Odense this week has been expanded to nine competitions from eight for the past four years with the addition of Salzburg, Austria in the lineup that also includes Lyon, Stuttgart, Stockholm, London, Amsterdam, Neumünster and ‘s-Hertogenbosch before the Final in Gothenberg, Sweden at the end of March.

The WEL is one of four leagues that make up the championships.

The Central European League of 10 competitions wraps up this week at Kaposvár, Hungary with Russia’s Inessa Merkulova on Mister X having achieved the possible maximum of 80 points that makes the pair certain to receive one of the region’s two invitations to the Final.

The Pacific League’s four qualifiers in Australia end with the Sydney CDI next week but the single representative is determined by the only league final that will be held in December.

The North American League which has the most events on the calendar with 12–two in Canada and 10 in the United States–and is the only league to use a formula of the average of the best two Freestyle scores. The NAL is more than half over but the most competitive qualifiers are to come with three in Wellington, Florida and two in Burbank, California in January and February.