Isabell Werth Launches Campaign to Repeat as World Cup Champion, Laura Graves Also Eyeing Paris Final

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Isabell Werth on Weihegold OLD celebrating 2017 World Cup victory. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Oct. 12, 2017

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Isabell Werth launches her campaign to win back-to-back World Cup titles when she rides the opening leg of the Western European League next week while the USA’s Laura Graves, the 2017 reserve champion, is also eyeing the Paris final next April.

Cathrine Dufour and Cassidy, Denmark’s top combination and No. 7 in the world with team silver and two individual bronzes from this summer’s European Championships, will also compete in her first World Cup event at Herning in her homeland next week.

Sönke Rothenberger, who along with Isabell is one of only five combinations in history to score more than 90 per cent in a Freestyle, plans to steer Cosmo to the World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina next September.

The World Cup Western European League’s first event in Herning is the first of nine qualifiers on that circuit to send nine horses and riders plus Isabell as the the title defender to the final of the annual championship centered on the Freestyle in Paris April 12-15.

Isabell will ride Don Johnson FRH at Herning but is expected to compete Weihegold OLD on which she has been ranked No. 1 in the world for exactly a year. In 15 starts since the retirement of Valegro following the 2016 Olympic Games, the duo has been beaten only once.

Laura Graves of Geneva, Florida and Verdades achieved the feat on her 30th birthday in the CDIO5* Grand Prix Special at Aachen, Germany–the world’s premier show and home turf for Isabell.

The victory for the world No. 3 duo came three months after riding to reserve champion at the Omaha World Cup Final where Isabell claimed her third career title.

“I would love to go to Paris!” Laura told dressage-news.com. “It is a goal for us, but ultimately the major event for next year is Tryon. It would be great to do both and we will see what ends up being the best plan.”

Laura Graves on Verdades winning the CDIO5* Grand Prix Special at Aachen, Germany. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

With an Olympic team bronze, Pan American Games team gold and freestyle silver as well as successes at World Cups, World Games and top shows on both sides of the Atlantic, Laura will stick to her program of doing what’s best for Verdades–16 years old in 2018–that she has partnered since her family bought the KWPN gelding as a foal.

The North American League has 12 World Cup events to qualify for Paris, the most ever in the United States, boosted this season by a new circuit of four shows in Southern California to match the four at Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida over the winter. Four events have already been held in the U.S., but none in Canada which is part of the North American circuit.

Steffen Peters of Santa Rosa, California on Rosamunde has the highest score in the NAL but Canada’s Brittany Fraser and All In have notched the two scores required to put the Pan Am Games team silver medal pair at the top of the standings that will decide the two to go to the French capital.

The Central European League that also gets to send two horses and riders to Paris, has two of its 11 qualifiers remaining.

Inessa Merkulova on Mister X, the standout combination from Russia at four straight World Cup finals as well as the Olympics, 2014 World Games and two European Championships, is atop the standings with Hanna Karasiova of Belarus who rode Arlekino at the Omaha final standing second.

The Pacific League is the only regional group that holds a league final to determine its sole final representative, and can include combinations that are selected at CDI3* as well as World Cup events. The league final is scheduled for Jan. 25-28.

A non-league pair, an extra starting place based on world rankings and a home athlete will be invited to bring the lineup to 18.

The calendars for the remainder of the circuits for the four leagues are:

Western European League
* Herning, Denmark Oct. 18-22
* Lyon, France Nov. 1-5
* Stuttgart, Germany Nov. 15-19
* Salzburg, Austria Dec. 6-10
* London, Great Britain Dec. 12-13
* Amsterdam, Netherlands Jan. 25-28
* Neumünster, Germany Feb. 15-18
* Göteborg, Sweden Feb. 21-25
* Hertogenbosch, Netherlands Mar. 8-11

North American League
* Temecula, California – Jan. 3-7
* Wellington, Florida – Jan. 10-14
* Del Mar, California – Jan. 18-21
* Wellington, Florida – Jan. 24-28
* Del Mar, California – Feb. 1-4
* Del Mar, California – Feb. 15-18
* Wellington, Florida – Feb. 21-27
* Wellington, Florida – Feb. 28-Mar. 4

Central European League
* Zakrzow, Poland – Oct. 27-29
* Moscow, Russia – Nov. 30-Dec. 3

Pacific League
* Boneo, Victoria – Oct. 19-22
* Werribee, Victoria – Dec. 7-10
* Boneo, Victoria – Jan. 25-28 (League final)