The stage is set and it’s all-systems-go at the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas, USA where the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping and Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2015 Finals get underway on Thursday.
All horses passed their veterinary inspections on Tuesday, including those of Connolly’s RED MILLS Brand Ambassadors, Bertram Allen who rides Molly Malone V and Edwina Tops-Alexander who will be aboard the mare Fair Light Van t Heike.
The line-up for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Final in Las Vegas, USA contains all the ingredients for one of the most exciting ever in the 37-year history of the world’s most prestigious indoor Jumping tournament.
This is one title every Jumping rider wants to take, placing them amongst the greats of the sport including legendary partnerships and double-champions Ian Millar and the mighty Big Ben from Canada, and Great Britain’s John Whitaker and the magical Milton.
Since Austria’s Hugo Simon first punched the air in triumph after victory with Gladstone at the inaugural finale in Gothenburg (SWE) in 1979, the battle for this trophy has thrilled audiences all across the globe. And it never fails to spring a few surprises, as spectators witness previously unexposed talent rising to the challenge of the big occasion.
Speaking this week to World of Showjumping, Edwina Tops-Alexander, whose entire stable of horses are fed exclusively Connolly’s RED MILLS Feed, has picked fellow Red Mills team-mate Bertram Allen as one of her favourites to land the coveted World Cup title,
“I think either Daniel Deusser or Bertram Allen could win the final. They are both on super form and both have their best horses there, so it’s going to be exciting,” she said.
The country with most wins at the Final is Germany with a total of 10, including last year’s victory for Daniel Deusser who will partner his 2014 ride Cornet d’Amour once again. And the 33-year-old defending champion will be celebrating even before he arrives in Las Vegas, because he has just been confirmed as the new world No. 1 in the Longines Rankings.
Connolly’s RED MILLS Brand Ambassador Bertram Allen meanwhile, has just broken into the world’s top-ten, a phenomenal achievement for a rider yet to reach his twentieth birthday.
The youngest rider ever to clinch the trophy was Canada’s Mario Deslauriers who had just turned 19 when coming out on top with Aramis in Gothenburg in 1984. There are two talented 19-year-olds on the start-list again this year, Belgium’s Jos Verlooy who will turn 20 in December and Ireland’s Bertram Allen, who celebrates his 20th birthday in August. And there are lots of eyes on the young Irishman, who produced two stunning wins to challenge for the leadership of the super-tough Western European League over the winter months.
Allen’s potential has been clear from the outset of his career, and despite his lack of years he is already one of the most feared competitors on the international circuit. His extraordinary instinct for speed riding placed him out in front on the opening day of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ Jumping Championship in Normandy (FRA) last summer where he eventually finished seventh individually. That was no fluke, as he had won the Longines Grand Prix on home soil in Dublin (IRL) a few weeks earlier and with superb form over the winter he has risen all the way up to 10th in the Longines Rankings. Together with his wonderful little grey mare, Molly Malone, he is one to watch out for when the action gets underway in Vegas.
Edwina Tops-Alexander would love to add the World Cup Vigo D Arsouilles title to her list of wins that includes multiple Longines Global Champions Tour triumphs and the Australian will rely on the mare Fair Light Van t Heike, in Las Vegas.
Along with defending champion Daniel Deusser – Marco Kutscher, Marcus Ehning and Hans-Dieter Dreher complete the German line-up, and Ehning will have a mission all his own. Only four riders have won the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping title on three occasions, and he is one of them. He will go into the record books if he can become the first four-time champion, and as one of the great stylists of the sport, few doubt his ability to do so.
Two other men who will also be chasing down that trophy will be Switzerland’s Olympic champion Steve Guerdat, and Pius Schwizer, who have made it onto the podium in recent years but not quite managed to secure that top step. And there are eight ladies amongst the 42 starters from 20 nations. The USA’s Beezie Madden was the last female champion, pinning Guerdat into runner-up spot in a thriller at Gothenburg two years ago. And when it comes to female winners the Americans have sent out four of them, and can claim a strong association with Californian-born three-time champion Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum who flies the German flag.
Of the eight ladies starting at this year’s Final, five fly the stars-and-stripes and Bezzie Madden looks a powerful contender once again, following on from her bronze medal individual finish at the Alltech FEI WorldEquestrian Games™ 2014 in Normandy and a great winter on the Florida circuit.
But if it’s a fairy-tale finish you want, then look no further than fellow-American Rich Fellers and his comeback king, the amazing Flexible. Written off three times during his career due to serious illness and injury, the stallion has battled back bravely on each occasion, and his victory at the 2012 Final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch (NED) broke a 25-year drought for his country which earned him a very special place in the hearts of US Jumping fans.
Flexible’s latest spectacular recovery resulted in victory in the FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 West Coast qualifying series and now, at 19 years of age, the little Irish-bred horse with his unique way of going, and his rider who looks like he’s just stepped off the set of a Hollywood movie, are going to give it another shot.
If they were to succeed again, then the roof of the Thomas & Mack Arena in Las Vegas is likely to go into orbit with the wild delight of the host-country fans when the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping 2014/2015 Final draws to a close on Sunday 19 April.