World Cup Western European League Begins This Weekend, Central Europe Finishes
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
The World Cup Western European League kicks off this weekend as the most intensely competitive of four divisions in the only annual global dressage championship while the Central European League wraps up its season to determine whch two riders get to go to the Final in Lyon, France next April.
The North American League of Canada and the United States still has most of its lineup of nine events to go with six shows in Florida and California January through March. The Pacific League has two of its four qualifiers to go before a head-to-head final in December, the only one of the four leagues to hold final in the 2013/2014 season.
The opening WEL event is in Odense, Denmark and over the next five months followed by the other seven qualifiers–Stuttgart, Germany and Stockholm in November; London in December; Amsterdam in January; Neumünster, Germany and Göteborg, Sweden in February and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands in March.
Combinations from Australia, Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Sweden and the United States will line up in Odense, organized by JBK Horse Shows that staged the hugely successful European Championships in Herning this summer.
This season is likely to see a renewed drive by the United States to seek a place on the medals podium that would generate more excitement in the World Cup that was won by Steffen Peters on Ravel the last time it was held in North America in 2009 and a year before it goes back to Las Vegas in 2015.
Louise Parkes, writing for the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) that owns the World Cup event, reported: “A fresh generation of stars with a massive fan base have breathed new life into this equestrian discipline which continues to grow and develop with each new season.”
Although Dutch riders have won the World Cup 12 times, nine of those by the amazing Anky van Grunsven from 1995 to 2008, Adelinde Cornelissen has said she does not plan for this season to compete Jerich Parzival on whom she claimed the title in 2011 and 2012 so as to preserve the 16-year-old KWPN gelding for the World Equestrian Games.
The final in Lyon April 17-21 is just four months before the WEG in Normandy, France and several riders and horses from elsewhere in the world are preparing to base themselves in Europe ahead of the quadrennial championships.
Both the Western European League and the Final, first staged 28 years ago as the final of the European indoor circuit and showcasing the musical freestyle, are sponsored by the New York high fashion house of Reem Acra, the only league with an umbrella financial supporter.
However, three of the North American League events held at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida offer the most prize money of qualifiers anywhere, each offering $50,000 (€36,500) in prize money.
Western Europe gets to send nine of the 18 combinations–it will in fact be 10 because the title defender is Helen Langehanenberg of Germany on Damon Hill NRW–to start in the Final with the North American and Central European leagues able to send two each with one from both the Pacific League and South America/Asia and two extra starting places.
Although Odense launches the 2013/2014 WEL circuit, some riders already have a head start in the points standings.
Ten West European riders–two each from Germany, Italy and Switzerland and one from Austria, Great Britain, Luxembourg and Norway–competed in some of the Central European League’s five events so far for which they earned points to take back to the WEL.
Ester Soldi of Italy with 19 points is atop the WEL standings for the moment, though the winner in Odense gets 20 points and will vault to the lead.
The final in the Central European League is held in Minsk, Belarus this weekend, wrapping up a calendar of six events that began at Lipica, Slovakia in May then moved to Nizhniy Novgorod, in Russia; Brno, Czech Republic; Moscow then Wroclaw, Poland.
The top two in the CEL standings after Minsk will be invited to the World Cup Final, as the usual league final will not be held this season.
Before Minsk, Russia’s Tatiana Dorofeeva is atop the league with 37 points, followed by Katarzyna Milczarek of Poland with 33 points; Russians Alexandra Korelova with 31 and Elena Sidneva on 29, and Katsiaryna Varchenia of Belarus with 23 points.
The Pacific League of Australia and New Zealand is somewhat muddy after two qualifying events–three were scheduled but one was canceled due to lack of entries–with two events remaining to be staged in Sydney over the next month then the head-to-head league final in Melbourne at the end of November.
The stallion OO Seven that David Shoobridge rode to the Freestyle highest score, 73.575 per cent, in the qualifiers has been retired from competition. No other combination in Australia has a result higher than 69.375 per cent in the Freestyle.
Jessica Greelish, based in Denmark, makes her World Cup debut this weekend in the WEL at Odense.
Kelly Layne, based in the United States, has competed in two World Cup events in the North American League with her best result of 71.850 per cent. Four World Cup events are scheduled from January through the end of March in Palm Beach where she lives.