December 3, 2014--While the battle rages among show jumpers about who will qualify for the Longines final in Las Vegas, there is one name that is a given for the Reem Acra Dressage Finals: Defending champion Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain with Valegro.
If she finishes two qualifiers, she's automatically in for the finals, and she's counting on it.
Things likely will proceed as usual, which means everyone else is riding for second place in Vegas. Charlotte is starting a new cycle. She's been European Champion, Olympic Champion and now World Champion this year, and she'll be going for the World Cup for the second time in 2015. Her appearance will put as much excitement into the final as the fireworks they like to shoot off in the Thomas & Mack Center.
Charlotte and the horse she calls Blueberry hold the world records in the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle (only the Grand Prix and Freestyle are contested in the World Cup Finals) and she has been ranked number one in the world since August 2013.
A really cool face-off would be another meeting between Valegro and Totilas, the 2010 champion with former rider Edward Gal, but that seems unlikely -- even though I was told during Dressage at Devon by people who appeared to be in the know that Toto would be in Vegas.
He'd have to qualify, and hasn't been competing since he beat Valegro at Aachen and then dropped out of Germany's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games team. He has no points, so it would seem impossible for him to make up ground, assuming, of course, that he competes again.
Another face-off that won't happen is a meeting between Charlotte and Helen Langehanenberg of Germany on Damon Hill NRW. Helen, the 2013 Cup winner, earned silver to Charlotte's gold in the Special and Freestyle at the WEG, but her partnership with the owners of the stallion has been dissolved.
Another German, Fabienne Lutkemeier, leads the Western European League with 54 points, while 2011 and 2012 World Cup champ Adelinde Cornelissen of the Netherlands and her aged but brilliant Jerich Parzival are in a four-way tie for third with 37 points. Germany's Isabell Werth is ninth with just 30 points, but she has won the finals in Vegas previously and could rise in the ranks to qualify. Edward Gal, another Cup winner in Vegas, is 18th with 20 points on Glock's Undercover, so he will have to hustle in order to have his second shot at the title.
In the North American League, Canada's Jacqueline Brooks has three scores over 71 percent so far with D Niro, while her countrywoman, Ashley Holzer, has earned 70.060 and 76.125 with Tiva Nana. The latter is the highest score of any league competitor so far. Among the U.S. contingent, Michael Barisone and Victor are the only ones with two scores, and both were over 70 percent.
Qualifying rules are different for the North American League, where only two scores count from a maximum of six qualifying events. In the Western European League, four scores count.
There are six qualifying competitions yet to come in the U.S., four in Wellington, Fla., and two in California. You can expect to see Steffen Peters, a previous Cup winner in Vegas, step up to the plate with Legolas, and WEG sensation Laura Graves will be competing in Florida with Verdades. The excitement is only just beginning on their side of the Atlantic.
The two other leagues for Reem Acra are the Central European and Asia/Pacific, but neither has ever had a winner at the finals.
For more information on the current standings, please visit http://www.fei.org/fei/events/world-cups/dressage/current-season.