April 19—Lyon, France
They’ve set world records, swept the gold at the 2012 London Olympic Games and conquered their foes yet again at the 2013 European Championships (Denmark). But there are two major titles Valegro and British rider Charlotte Dujardin still need to capture to make their dressage dominance complete, and one is up for the taking this weekend in Lyon.
Dujardin enters the Reem Acra FEI Dressage World Cup Final as the favorite with her charming crowd favorite, “Blueberry,” and if they succeed it will be a watershed moment for British dressage—the first World Cup title for the country ever in dressage.
At the moment, Dujardin holds a stunning three world records: Grand Prix (85.94 percent, set at the 2013 European Championships), Grand Prix Special (88.02 percent, set at the Hagen CDI in Germany in 2012) and Grand Prix freestyle (93.97 percent, set at the London Olympia CDI in 2013).
But Dujardin, who at 28 has become an exuberant poster child for the sport’s new generation, will have to hold off the growing threat that is Helen Langehanenberg and the stunning stallion Damon Hill NRW. Together they’ve scored in the high 80s and even reached 90 percent in the freestyle.
The 31-year-old German phenom has been close on Dujardin’s heels at each of their head-to-head meetings, and while she came up with silver at the Olympic Games and European Championships, she’s coming into Lyon as the defending World Cup champion. If anyone can stop Dujardin, it will likely be this diminutive German known for her big smile and blonde braids.
Want to watch the action? The Grand Prix goes at 3:00 (9:00 a.m. EDT) p.m. on April 19 and the Grand Prix freestyle will start at 1:35 p.m. (7:35 a.m. EDT) and are live streamed through FEI TV. You can find FEI TV here—it's a subscription service, but with the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games later this year, it's a great way to stay in touch with the sports!
Edward Gal and his rising star Glock’s Undercover are World Cup and European Championships veterans, and with that experience under the horse’s girth, they’re expected to make a strong showing here for the rebuilding Dutch team. Gal’s longtime life partner Hans Peter Minderhoud will also represent the Netherlands, aboard Glock’s Johnson TN, and Danielle Heijkoop will debut Kingsley Siro for the nation as well.
German veteran Isabell Werth is in attendance with El Santo NRW, lending a counterbalance to newcomer Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with Unee BB.
The field this year includes only two U.S. riders: Tina Konyot (Calecto V), who has the unenviable trailblazer position today, and Cesar Parra (Van The Man), who will be fourth-last in the order-of-go. Konyot’s recent scores from the spring season in Florida have varied widely, from the mid- to high-60s to nearly 80 percent, so consistency will be key this weekend. Parra and Van The Man have scored consistently in the high 60s and low 70s in recent weeks.
The line-up also boasts some fresh blood from countries not known for being dressage powerhouses, including Korea’s Dong-Seon Kim (who’s based in the United States) with Bukowski, Russia’s Elena Sidneva with Romeo-Star and Inessa Merkulova with Mister X, and Switzerland’s Marcela Krinke Susmelji with Smeyers Lazander.
Check out orders of go and live results here.
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