Western Europe Launches World Cup Series for Omaha Final

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2016 World Cup champion Hans Peter Minderhoud with Glock's Fiirt in background. © 2016 Pelle Wedenmark/dressage-news.com
2016 World Cup champion Hans Peter Minderhoud with Glock’s Fiirt in background. © 2016 Pelle Wedenmark/dressage-news.com

Oct. 19, 2016

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

Western Europe begins competing at Odense, Denmark this week for the region’s nine starting places at the World Cup Final to be staged for the first time in Omaha in America’s Midwest, the 32nd year of the annual global championship centered on the Grand Prix Freestyle.

Odense is the first of nine qualifying events to run from now through the winter in the Western European League, one of four geographic zones to select a total of 18 horses and riders that will line up in the Final in Omaha Mar. 27.

In a reflection of the roots of the World Cup as the championship of the European indoor winter circuit inspired by Reiner Klimke’s victory round at the Olympics in Los Angeles in 1984 before the musical freestyle, more than half will come from Western Europe. The 2016 champion Hans Peter Minderhoud on Glock’s Flirt is not included in the nine, but automatically gets a start if he shows up for a couple of events.

Of the remaining eight, two spots are assigned to North America, two from Central Europe, one from Pacific/Asia, one from outside the existing leagues and two extra starting places.

Odense marks the halfway point in the 40 qualifiers in the four leagues–nine in Western Europe, 12 in Central Europe, 10 in North America and nine in Pacific/Asia. The two European leagues follow the same qualifying procedures of points earned by placings for the four best results while North America counts the average of the two best scores and the Pacific/Asia holds a final to decide the sole place.

After Odense comes Lyon, France next week, Stuttgart, Germany Nov. 16, Salzburg, Austria Dec. 7 then wrapping up this year London Olympia where two-time World Cup champions as well as champions of everything else Charlotte Dujardin will formally retire Valegro. Amsterdam, Netherlands is scheduled for Jan. 27, Neumünster, Germany Feb. 16, Göteborg, Sweden Feb. 22 and ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Netherlands Mar. 9.

Among competitors at Odense this week is Ireland’s Judy Reynolds on Vancouver K who got a head start by accumulating a maximum of 20 points at a World Cup qualifier while in the United States for the Central Park Horse Show last month that she can include on her European results. Finland’s Terhi Stegars on Axis TSF has even more with 23 points from shows in central Europe.

The next six of the nine qualifiers in North America, begin in January.

Steffen Peters of San Diego, California on Legolas with a single result so far is at the top of the standings. The newly created Las Vegas indoor event as well as one in Burbank, California in addition to possibly competing at a World Cup in Wellington, Florida during the Global Dressage Festival.

Steffen was only the second U.S. combination to win the final which he did on Ravel in 2009, six years after Debbie McDonald on Brentina became the first American to take the title.

Laura Graves of Geneva, Florida with Verdades the top ranked American combination in the world at No. 4 after her Olympic performance in Rio de Janeiro in August, has declared her intention to earn a start in Omaha that is the only championship for Americans in 2017. Laura is coached by Debbie.

She will have four World Cup events in Wellington to earn the two scores for a ticket to the final, that would be her second, as she competed at Las Vegas in 2015 to place fourth.

Laura Graves and Verdades at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas in 2015. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves and Verdades at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas in 2015. © 2015 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The final two of 12 events in Central Europe will be held before the end of this year.

Russia’s Inessa Merkuova on Mister X, ranked fifth in the world, has already accumulated the maximum of 80 points to put the pair at the top of the CEL, so barring anything unforseeen will make her fourth World Cup appearance. It would be the pair’s second in the United States where the pair were popular at Las Vegas in 2015.

Hanna Karasiova of Belarus stands second with 74 points and Russia’s Marina Aframeeva who rides Vosk, owned by the Merkulova family, is in third place 10 points further back.

The Sydney World Cup event being held this week the same time as Odense marks the halfway point of the Pacific/Asia league, the only geographic region to hold a league final and that will be in Feilding, New Zealand at the beginning of February.

The Pacific region highlights the out-of-date format of the World Cup in which, for example, the top Australian combinations are based in the Northern Hemisphere but opportunities to qualify are limited preferences for residents of the European or North American leagues while quarantine and travel requirements pretty much rule out going Down Under for their league final.

Similarly, non North American combinations seeking to qualify in the temperate climates of Florida or California rather than frequently ice- and snowbound Europe with limitations on show entries can keep full points from only one qualifier and half from a second outside their home league.

Omaha will be the sixth time the Final has been staged in the United States, in Los Angeles in 1995 then four times in Las Vegas including the first dual championships of dressage and jumping in 2005 that has now become the norm. Only the Netherlands as host of 11 Finals and Göteborg, Sweden with eight have held more.