March 23, 2015--The long battle to get to Las Vegas ended over the weekend for U.S. show jumpers. Next month, it will be time for the real test--meeting top riders from Europe and elsewhere at the Thomas & Mack Center, the venue for the World Cup finals for the first time since 2009.
At that point, no American had won the title since 1987. The home side didn't get satisfaction in that regard six years ago, as Germany's Meredith Michaels Beerbaum won (though there was a tiny bit of consolation in the fact that she was born an American before switching her citizenship.)
The tide finally turned for the U.S. in 2012, when Rich Fellers and Flexible took top honors. The next year, Beezie Madden did the same with Simon. The trend was broken last year, as Germany's Daniel Deusser won. But both Beezie and Rich will be back in April, hoping to deliver another U.S. triumph.
The final qualifier was held Saturday at the Live Oak show in Ocala, Fla., where Ireland's Cian O'Connor won a two-horse jump-off aboard Good Luck. But since the Western European League already was finished, and because he wasn't going for it anyway, the top points belonged to Beezie, second on Vanilla.
Todd Minikus still stayed atop the leaderboard with 81 points, to 77 for Laura Kraut. Beezie moved up to third on 76, follow by Hardin Towell (71) and Kirsten Coe (66). McLain Ward, who incidentally was second at the 2009 finals with the late, great Sapphire, is next in line with 61 points. Leslie Burr Howard, part of the great American World Cup dynasty that dominated the early years of the finals, won in 1986 (with a horse named after McLain). She also had 61 points, but is not going in the finals. Her place will be taken by Katie Dinan, McLain's former student. And just reminding you, as we told you earlier this month, Lucy Davis of California got an extra spot because she qualified in the Western European League.
In the West Coast league, Rich Fellers' trip to Live Oak pulled him even points-wise with our blogger, Susan Artes, both on 65. However, he won the league because he had higher placings in his appearances in the qualifiers. The other West Coaster with a ticket to Vegas is Karl Cook. Vinton Karrasch, who made a last-ditch bid to be one of the three riders from the West Coast League to make it to Thomas & Mack, fell short. He was 12th at Ocala. That placing, however, couldn't gather enough points to overtake Karl, who has a total of 58.
The finals are always exciting, but having them in Vegas amps up the electricity. Hope you can make it, but if not, follow Practical Horseman Magazine's World Cup microsite and facebook page using the hashtag #WorldCupJumping15 for all the news.