Omaha, Nebraska - October 25, 2016 - The world's top dressage riders are setting their sights on the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final when it returns to the U.S. in 2017. Riders from the Central European League have already begun competing in qualifying competitions and, with other Leagues around the world about to begin their series of events this month, riders are keenly focused on their goal of qualifying to compete at the Championship. The Longines FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final will be held concurrently with the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final when it takes place at the CenturyLink Center in Omaha, Nebraska on March 29 - April 2, 2017.
The FEI World Cup™ Finals offer spectators the rare opportunity to watch the world's elite jumping and dressage horses and riders, including Olympic, World and European Champions, compete under one roof while enjoying an abundance of attractions, top restaurants, hotels, museums and so much more that the amazing city of Omaha has to offer.
Laura Graves, the top placed American rider at the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio, is aiming her 14-year-old KWPN gelding, Verdades, toward the Finals in Omaha. Graves took fourth place individually in Rio and led the U.S. Dressage Team to the Team Bronze medal, ending a twelve-year hiatus from the medal podium. Graves and Verdades first stepped onto the world stage at the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games™ where they finished fifth individually and they went on to take fourth place at the 2015 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Las Vegas. Just a few months later the pair won Team Gold and Individual Silver medals at the 2015 Pan American Games. Graves is currently ranked fourth on the FEI World Individual Dressage Rankings and is planning on competing Verdades at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida beginning in January.
"I would love the opportunity to ride in another World Cup, and in our home country," remarked Graves about the Finals in Omaha.
"With the Western European League and Pacific League qualifying competitions just about to start, the excitement is already building," said Lisa Roskens, Chairman of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation which is producing the FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha. "With the Finals just five months away, now is the time to be sure to get your tickets for this one-in-a-lifetime chance to see this world-class competition!
Russia's Inessa Merkulova and Mister X, a 12-year-old Russian-bred Trakehner gelding, have been topping the World Cup™ qualifying competitions in the Central European League for the past several months. With four Grand Prix Freestyle victories already under their belt, the duo is looking to claim one of the two spots allocated to the Central European League and compete in their fourth FEI World Cup™ Final together. The pair are Olympic, World Games and European Championship veterans and Merkulova currently tops the Central European rankings and is ranked sixth on the FEI World Individual Dressage Rankings.
The FEI has established four World Cup Leagues - the Western European League, the Central European League, the North American League, and the Pacific League (Australia and New Zealand). The North American League of Canada and the United States gets two starting places in the Final which feature 18 combinations. At any qualifying event, the FEI Grand Prix Test serves as the qualifying test to the FEI Freestyle to Music, which is the competition in which FEI World Cup™ Dressage points can be earned.
The 2017 FEI World Cup™ Finals in Omaha will run over five days. Wednesday, March 29, will feature the Jumping Warm-up at 9:30 AM and the Dressage Warm-up at 2:00 PM. Actual competition will begin on Thursday, March 30, with the Dressage Grand Prix starting at 1:00 PM and Jumping Speed Class at 7:00 PM. On Friday, March 31, the multi-faceted Dressage Showcase starts at 3:00 PM followed by the Jumping Grand Prix at 7:00 PM. On Saturday, April 1, the Dressage Freestyle Rehearsal will be held at 9:00 AM with the Dressage Freestyle to Music - the event determining the 2017 FEI World Cup™ Champion - will begin at 2:00 PM, and the Jumping Grand Prix competition at 7:00 PM. On Sunday, April 2, the Final Jumping competition will begin at 2:00 PM, which ultimately decides who will be crowned the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Champion.
A variety of tickets packages are still available for the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final and FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final, but the VIP Tickets are the best seats in the house and include access to the VIP Hospitality Lounge throughout the event! The VIP Hospitality Lounge will feature full meals, open bar and other amenities, all included with each VIP ticket. There are also All-Session tickets available and each all-session package includes admission to five sessions.
Hospitality Packages are also available! The elegant Suites are spacious, comfortable and overlook the entire arena with seating for 20-25 people. Wait service, food, drink and access to the VIP Lounge are included throughout the event. Ringside tables gets you up close to the action in comfort and style with In-Arena seating for 8 people, complimentary wine and heavy hors d'oeuvres along with access to the VIP Lounge throughout the event. For more information on Hospitality packages please call 508-698-6810 x10.
Vendor spaces are still available in the Boutique Shopping Village which will also features the NEW Tailgate Lounge and food service area around the warm-up area. The Boutique Shopping Village encourages spectators to eat and browse the boutiques and shops while watching the world's best riders and their top horses warm-up for the competition.
The FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final was first held in 1986 and features the world's best dressage horses and riders. A total of 31 Finals have been held through 2016, and the United States 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, in Los Angeles (1995) and Las Vegas (2005, 2007, 2009, 2015). 2016 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Champion Hans-Peter Minderhoud of The Netherlands will have the opportunity to defend his title, but there will be many other top competitors who will be looking to have their name engraved on the trophy. Two-time World Cup Champion Charlotte Dujardin of Great Britain, the reigning Olympic, World and European Champion, may seek to reclaim the titles she won in 2014 and 2015, while top American rider Steffen Peters, could also regain the World Cup Championship that he won in 2009. Fellow U.S. rider Laura Graves may also have a great shot, having placed fourth at the 2015 Final in Las Vegas and again at the 2016 Rio Olympic Games.
Started in 1979, the FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final is an annual international showdown among the world's best show jumping horses and riders. In the 38 Finals held through 2016, Germany (10) and the United States (9) have emerged with the most titles. Previous FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals held in the United States include Baltimore (1980), Tampa (1989), Del Mar, CA (1992) and Las Vegas (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007, 2009, 2015). Top competitors may include 2012 Olympic gold medalist and two-time FEI World Cup™ Champion Steve Guerdat of Switzerland, who will have the opportunity to defend the back-to-back titles he won in 2015 and 2016, while top U.S. rider Rich Fellers could potentially be making his tenth FEI World Cup™ Final appearance and possibly with the legendary chestnut stallion Flexible, aboard whom Fellers has competed in eight FEI World Cup™ Finals and won the championship in 2012.