America’s Laura Graves & Verdades Ready and Eager to Challenge Isabell Werth & Weihegold at Paris World Cup

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Laura Graves familiarizing Verdades with the Paris World Cup competition arena. © 2018 Shannon Brinkman

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

PARIS, April 12, 2018–America’s Laura Graves on her Verdades, the only pair to beat World Cup champion Isabell Werth on Weihegold OLD since the 2016 Olympics, declared the horse she has grown up with is “definitely ready” for the Final starting in this city of fashion and art for the first time in the 33-year history of the annual global championship.

Laura and the 16-year-old Dutch-bred gelding are looking to improve on their runner-up performance in Omaha, Nebraska last year despite a vastly different experience–outdoor tent stabling in cold and rainy weather while the competition is staged inside this pyramid-shaped indoor sports complex that can hold up to 20,000 spectators in Paris. Omaha stabling, warm up and competition arenas were closely connected indoors, and included a rare lunging arena, that helped rate the venue among the best ever.

Eighteen horses and riders–the first from the Dominican Republic and the first from the Philippines among them–comprise the lineup for the Grand Prix that starts at 1530 local time (9:30 am U.S. Eastern time) Friday with the Freestyle to decide the title on Saturday.

Isabell and Weihegold, the 13-year-old Oldenburg mare which she rode for Olympic team gold and individual silver, 2017 European Championships team, individual and freestyle gold, are defending the title won last year. That victory gave the German superstar her third World Cup. The first was on Fabienne in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1992 and the second in Las Vegas  on Warum Nicht FRH in 2007. Her record is second only to the amazing Anky van Grunsven who won the trophy nine times, five with Bonfire and four with Salinero.

Reigning World Cup champion Isabell Werth with Weihegold OLD at the Paris Final veterinary check. © 2018 Shannon Brinkman

Isabell is one of three Germans scheduled to start–the other two are Jessica von Bredow Werndl will be riding Unee BB in the fifth final that have included two third place podium finishes and double Olympian Dorothee Schneider on Sammy Davis Jr.

The Netherlands also has the maximum allowed of three combinations: Edward Gal on Glock’s Zonik, Madeleine Witte-Vrees on Cennin and Patrick van de Meer on Zippo.

The United States has two pairs–Laura and Verdades of Geneva, Florida and Shelly Francis and Danilo of Loxahatchee, Florida.

“Diddy,” as Laura calls Verdades, “is definitely ready for this World Cup,” she told dressage-news.com. “The venue is a very different experience than Omaha–not all connected–and I’m happy with how well he is handling it. The stadium is spacious and friendly and we are eager for the start tomorrow.”

For Shelly, this will be her first championship in 20 years–she rode Pikant in the 1998 World Equestrian Games–the World Cup feels “quite exciting” in what she described as “a really cool venue in a a very awesome city.”

Danilo, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, “is feeling spunky and schooling super,” she said.

Shelly Francis and Danilo in Paris. © 2018Shannon Brinkman

Austria, Belarus, Denmark, Dominican Republic, France, Great Britain, Philippines, Russia, Spain and Sweden each have one combination.