February 2020 - Inside the World Cup
Written by by Marty Bauman
Saturday, 01 February 2020 21:48
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How riders earn their way into the 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas.

by Marty Bauman

Check the calendar, everyone—it is 2020 and that is great news for all dressage and show jumping fans! We are just three months away from one of the great weeks any of us is likely to have this year when the FEI World Cup™ Finals return to Las Vegas.


The Finals will once again be held at the Thomas & Mack Center in the “Entertainment Capital of the World” on April 15-19. The world’s best horses and riders in the Olympic disciplines of dressage and jumping will be on hand seeking to win the title of World Cup™ champion. Qualifiers are well underway and it won’t be long until riders from around the world are booking their flights and hotel reservations—something I hope all of you have done already.

This marks the seventh time that Las Vegas is hosting the FEI World Cup™ Finals. The Jumping Finals were held there in 2000 and 2003 and combined Finals in both Jumping and Dressage were held there in 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2015. Each Final in Las Vegas has been an incredible experience and this one promises to be the best one ever.

Isabel Werth celebration. Photo ©SusanJStickle.com

FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final

The FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final was first held in 1986. A total of 34 Finals have been held through 2019, and the U.S. has won the championship twice – in 2003 (Debbie McDonald with Brentina) and 2009 (Steffen Peters with Ravel). The Final has been held in the U.S. six times previously – in Los Angeles (1995), Las Vegas (2005, 2007, 2009, 2015) and Omaha (2017).

The Netherlands has won the most titles (13), nine of which were won by Anky van Grunsven with her two superstar horses, Bonfire and Salinero. Defending champion Isabell Werth of Germany has won five titles, including the last three aboard Weihegold OLD.

In order to reach the Final, riders and horses qualify through one of four FEI Dressage World Cup™ Leagues: Western Europe, Central Europe, North America, and Pacific (Australia and New Zealand).

In any League, a rider/horse combination may start in only six qualifying events, with the four best results to count (except for North America, where the three best results count). At each event, the Grand Prix serves as a qualifying test to reach the Grand Prix Freestyle, which is the competition where the World Cup™ points are earned.

To be eligible for the World Cup™ Final, each rider/horse combination must meet the minimum qualification score of at least 68% in the Freestyle in two different Qualifiers (CDI-W). For riders that don’t belong to one of the recognized Leagues, one of the above results may be obtained at a CDI3/4/5*/CDIO.

A maximum of 18 riders may participate in the Final – Western European League (9), Central European League (2), Pacific League (1), North America (2), Non-League National Federations (1), FEI extra starting places (2), and Title-Defender (1). Each rider may ride only one horse although the defending Champion (Isabell Werth of Germany) is automatically qualified with a horse of her choice, but she still must compete in the Freestyle in at least two Qualifiers during the qualifying season.

German riders currently hold the top three spots in the Western European League. Benjamin Werndl is leading the pack on 63 points, followed by second placed Frederic Wandres on 61 points, and Helen Langehanenberg, who won the 2013 Final in Gothenburg with Damon Hill NRW, sits in third place with 60 points.

The Final, judged by a panel of seven FEI Judges, consists of the compulsory FEI Grand Prix which takes place on Thursday afternoon and the FEI Grand Prix Freestyle to Music on Saturday night. All competitors who finish the Grand Prix with at least 60% may continue through to the Freestyle. The Final result in the Freestyle determines the FEI World Cup™ champion.

Steve Guerdat (SUI) & Albfuehren’s Paille win WC Gothenburg 2015. Photo: ©FEI Roland Thunholm

Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final

The FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final has been held 41 times since 1979. Besides those in Las Vegas, Finals were held in the U.S. in Baltimore (1980), Tampa (1989), Del Mar, CA (1992), and Omaha (2017). The U.S. has won the most titles (11), with Germany (10) second. There was a 25-year span between U.S. victories from when Katharine Burdsall won in 1987 with The Natural until Rich Fellers re-claimed the title for the U.S. in 2012 with Flexible. It was the first of back-to-back wins for the U.S. as Beezie Madden won the 2013 Final with Simon. She won again in 2018 aboard Breitling LS, one year after her four-time Olympic teammate McLain Ward won with HH Azur.

The U.S. was dominant this past decade but as a new decade begins, the Europeans will be coming to Vegas with full force trying to turn things around. You can expect to see about 40 riders in next April’s Final. They will get there by earning points at qualifying competitions held in 16 FEI Leagues around the world. The most notable are those in Western Europe and North America, but there are others of significance such as those in Central Europe, South America, Australia, New Zealand, and Japan, among others.

McLain Ward on podium. Photo: ©Marty Bauman

The Western European League is allowed 18 riders in the Final, and North America is allowed 14 (7 US riders from the East Sub-League; 3 US riders from the West Sub-League; 2 Canadian riders and 2 Mexican riders from either the East or West).

The competition is fierce in the Longines Western European League, as the top three riders currently have 55 points each. In the number one spot is Belgium’s Pieter Devos, followed by defending champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland in second place, and Italy’s Emanuele Gaudiano in third place.

U.S. rider Brian Moggre, at just 18-years-of-age, is leading the North American Eastern Sub-League with 56 points. Beezie Madden is in second place with 49 points. Hot on her heels with 46 points is Adrienne Sternlicht, who was part of the gold medal winning U.S. team at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Tryon.

Karl Cook, who has represented the U.S. at three Finals, is currently leading the North American West Sub-League rankings with 49 points. He is followed by Israel’s Ashlee Bond, who sits in second place with 39 points. Holding third place is Olympic gold medalist Will Simpson with 34 points.

The number of finalists from the other Leagues is determined by the FEI Jumping Committee according to the overall standard of their League. If the country hosting the Final does not have a qualified rider (not a worry this year), they may nominate a “Wild Card” competitor to represent them in consultation with the FEI Jumping Committee.

In the Final, riders must ride horses on which they have completed at least one qualifier during the current season. The Defending Champion (Steve Guerdat) is allowed to enter two horses of his choice. Horses must be at least 9 years old to compete.

The 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals are going to be incredible. The best jumping and dressage athletes from around the world all under one roof.

Author Marty Bauman is founder of Classic Communications. Further information on the 2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas, and the chance to join the World Cup Club, is available at the event’s official website at www.WorldCupLasVegas.com.


Longines FEI World Cup Jumping League standings

West Coast League: (before Jan. 25 & Feb. 8 qualifiers in Mexico)
1.     Karl Cook (USA) – 49
2.     Ashlee Bond (Israel) – 39
3.     Will Simpson (USA) – 34
4.     Cassio Rivetti (Brazil) – 33
5.     Keri Potter (USA) – 32
6.     Kelli Cruciotti Vanderveen (USA) – 32
7.     Jenni McAllister (USA) – 29
8.     Vanessa Mannix (Canada) – 28
9.     Alex Granato (USA) – 26
10.     Zazou Hoffman (USA) – 26

East Coast League: (before Feb. 1 & March 7 qualifiers in Florida)
1.     Brian Moggre (USA) – 56
2.     Beezie Madden (USA) – 49
3.     Adrienne Sternlicht (USA) – 46
4.     Laura Kraut (USA) – 37
5.     Rowan Willis (Australia) – 34
6.     Andrew Ramsay (USA) – 30
7.     Margie Goldstein-Engle (USA) – 29
8.     Conor Swail (Ireland) – 27
9.     Sarah Segal (USA) – 27
10.     Andrew Welles (USA) – 26