March 2, 2015--Reigning Olympic individual gold medalist Steve Guerdat is at the head of the class among the 18 riders who qualified for the Longines FEI Show Jumping World Cup Finals in the Western European League. The Swiss competitor won the final league qualifier over the weekend in Gothenburg, Sweden, with Albfuehren’s Paille, who likely will be his choice to ride in Las Vegas, as he saves his Olympic mount, Nino des Buissonets, for this summer's European Championship.
It's an exciting group that includes defending Cup champion Daniel Deusser of Germany; his countryman, three-time Cup winner Marcus Ehning, whose victories include the Vegas finals in 2003, and a host of very experienced riders, among them Marco Kutscher of Germany and another Swiss stalwart, Pius Schwizer.
Meanwhile, making his first start in a finals will be Ireland's Bertram Allen, who was a teen sensation at last year's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games. He's a real threat, having finished second in the league.
The USA's Lucy Davis, who also rode at the WEG, was fourth in the Western European League, but since she's a Californian, she qualified as an extra in the North American West Coast League, which is led by our blogger, Susie Artes. Another qualifier in the Western European League, Edwina Tops-Alexander, is getting a slot via her home league, since she is an Australian.
There are still two more qualifiers to go this month in the North American East Coast League, where it looks as if two former Cup winners, Leslie Burr Howard (1986) and Beezie Madden (2013) could be in the line-up, along with league leader Todd Minikus, Jack Towell and McLain Ward. Next weekend's qualifier is in Wellington, Fla., and the final qualifier is in Ocala at Live Oak, March 21. West Coast riders can also participate there, which could make changes in who qualifies from California: right now, Karl Cook stands second and Rich Fellers, the 2012 World Cup champion, is third.
Other qualifiers in the Western European League are Kevin Staut (France), Maikel van der Vleuten (Netherlands); Douglas Lindelöw (Sweden); Jur Vrieling (Netherlands); Hans-Dieter Dreher (Germany); Simon Delestre (France); Martin Fuchs (Switzerland); Geir Gulliksen (Norway); Penelope Leprevost (France); Sergio Alvarez Moya (Spain); Luca Maria Moneta (Italy) and Gerco Schröder (Netherlands). Gerco, the London 2012 individual silver medalist, finished one point ahead of the USA's Reed Kessler to make the cut.
Sweden's Rolf-Goran Bengtsson, fourth in the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games last year, also qualified but declined to make the trans-Atlantic trip.