Eye on Omaha: Introducing 2017 Contenders for Longines FEI World Cup Jumping Final

Will they do it again? Steve Guerdat and Corbinian Z gallop past the 2016 World Cup trophy. Ph. Michael Van De Velde/photomichael.net

The prospective list of elite show jumping competitors coming to America’s heartland to compete in the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final Omaha 2017 includes many of the world’s best. The CenturyLink Center Omaha is going to be the place to be on March 29 – April 2 for the ‘international event of the year’ as the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final will take place alongside the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final under one roof.

There are 15 FEI World Cup™ Show Jumping Leagues across the globe, spanning Western and Central Europe, North and South America, Australia, New Zealand, Japan, South East and Central Asia and China, Caucasia and the Middle East. A total of 109 qualifying events will have taken place before the 2017 Final begins. Each League is allowed to send a specified number of qualified riders to the Final. A total of 48 athletes will compete in the Final, which ensures that the 60,000 expected spectators from all over the world will have the opportunity to watch the world’s best horses and riders compete in Omaha!

“With only a couple qualifiers remaining, it’s getting very exciting to see who will be coming to Omaha!” said Lisa Roskens, Chairman of the Omaha Equestrian Foundation which is producing the Finals. “We can’t wait to welcome 48 of the world’s best riders and we invite everyone to come be part of the most exciting and thrilling event of the year!”

The North American League (NAL) has a total of ten spots for the Finals-seven from the East sub-league and three from the West sub-league. The Live Oak International in Ocala, Florida will host the last qualifier for the East in March, and a top field is expected to compete. The last qualifier for the West, held in late February at HITS Coachella in Thermal, CA was won by American rider Ashlee Bond and Chela LS in an exciting comeback moment.

Kent Farrington and Gazelle after winning the American Gold Cup. Ph. Lucio Landa

Leading the East rankings is Kent Farrington, part of the 2016 Bronze medal winning U.S. Olympic Team in Rio who is currently ranked number two in the world. Winning qualifiers at both the American Gold Cup in New York and the National Horse Show in Kentucky, Farrington has virtually clinched a spot for Omaha.

McLain Ward, a two-time U.S. Olympic Team gold medalist who is ranked third in the world and fourth in the NAL East rankings, is looking to compete at his 17th FEI World Cup Final. Fellow U.S. Olympic gold medalist Laura Kraut, ranked number two in the East, has taken second place against top fields at qualifiers held at both the Washington International Horse Show and Palm Beach Masters in Wellington, Florida.

Canada and Mexico each get two spots for the Finals. Keean White is the top-ranked Canadian rider in the NAL Eastern League with four top-ten placings at North American qualifiers, while Christopher Surbey is the leading Canadian rider in the NAL Western League with three top-ten placings. Mexico’s Enrique Gonzales, a 2008 Olympian and winner of the Del Mar qualifier, currently ranks second in the NAL Western League. Fellow Mexican rider Francisco Pasquel, who won the qualifier last month in Guadalajara, Mexico, ranks seventh. However, with Francisco not planning to attend Omaha, the invitation goes to his brother, Patricio Pasquel, who placed 2nd at Guadalajara.

Patricio (left) and Francisco Pasquel in Guadalajara, MEX.

Egypt’s Nayel Nassar, a two-time FEI World Cup™ final competitor, heads the NAL Western sub-league rankings after winning the qualifier at the Palm Beach Masters along with three top-ten qualifier placings earned in Las Vegas, Del Mar, and the American Gold Cup. Karl Cook is the top-ranked U.S. rider in the Western rankings, after winning the qualifier at Thunderbird Park in Canada and finishing fifth at Del Mar.

American Rich Fellers and the astounding Irish Sport Horse stallion Flexible, still going strong at the incredible age of 21, have three qualifiers under their belt. The pair competed at the 2012 London Olympic Games and have competed at eight FEI World Cup™ Finals together, winning the title at the 2012 Finals in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, Holland. However, Fellers has made it clear that he does not plan to compete Flexible at Omaha.

The Western European League (WEL) has 18 allotted spots for the Final and there is just one qualifying competition remaining in Gothenburg, Sweden. Two-time Olympic veteran Kevin Staut, part of France’s gold medal winning Team at the 2016 Rio Olympics, is one to watch as he leads the WEL rankings. He is currently ranked sixth in the world and has top qualifier placings with his Olympic horse Reveur De Hurtebise. He has competed at seven FEI World Cup™ Finals and placed third at the 2013 Final in Gothenburg. Second place in the WEL rankings is Italy’s Lorenzo De Luca who has earned several top-ten placings with different horses at various European qualifiers, while third ranked Denis Lynch of Ireland has earned the majority of his qualifications aboard his top horse All Star 5.

1993 FEI World Cup™ Champion, Ludger Beerbaum of Germany, a seven-time Olympic veteran with four golds medals, is looking to compete at his 21st Final. He is ranked fourth on the WEL rankings and has qualified both Chiara 222 and Casello, the horse with whom he won a Team Bronze medal in Rio. Countryman Marcus Ehning, an Olympic Bronze medalist with three FEI World Cup titles to his credit (2003, 2006, 2010), could make history in Omaha as the first rider to win a fourth title. This season Ehning won the qualifier at Madrid, Spain aboard Comme Il Faut 5 and took second place at the Oslo, Norway qualifier aboard Funky Fred. Young German rider Guido Klatte Jr. leapt up the standings to book his ticket to Omaha after a sensational 3rd place finish at the qualifier in Bordeaux.

Marcus Ehning & Comme il Faut at Madrid

As the title defender, Steve Guerdat of Switzerland is assured a spot at the Finals. He is chasing his third consecutive title, having won the 2015 Final in Las Vegas and the 2016 Final in Gothenburg. He also took second place twice (2012 in

‘s-Hertogenbosch and 2013 Gothenburg). The 2012 Olympic Champion is looking to join the ranks of triple FEI World Cup™ winners-only three other riders have that claim to fame-Marcus Ehning, Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa, who is the only rider to claim three consecutive victories (1998, 1999, 2000).

The Arab League has ended its series of 12 qualifiers and can send three riders to Omaha. Leading the ranks is Sheikh Ali Al Thani of Qatar, a 2016 Rio Olympian and three-time FEI World Cup™ Final competitor. Ranked second is Abdulrahman Alrajhi of Saudi Arabia while Quatar’s Bassem Mohammed is ranked third.

Tornike Papiashvili of Georgia, top-ranked in the Caucasus League along with Nurjon Tuyakbaev of Uzbekistan, leader of the Central Asian League, have both confirmed their participation in the Final. Confirmations for the South America South League includes riders Martin Rodriguez Vanni of Uruguay and José Roberto Reynoso Fernandez Filho of Brazil. Top-ranked Australian riders Clint Beresford and Billy Raymont have both been invited to the Final, as has Chinese rider Ciren Bianba, ranked second in the China League.

A range of ticket packages are available for the exciting Finals in Omaha. Single-Session tickets for either Jumping or Dressage range from $45 – $85 depending on the session and location. All-Session ticket packages include seats for five different events in either jumping or dressage. The best seats in the house are the VIP Tickets in the first 5 rows which include access to the VIP Hospitality Lounge throughout the event! The VIP Hospitality Lounge will feature full meals, open bar, live music, concierge service and other amenities, all included with each VIP ticket.

The 2017 FEI World Cup™ Finals will run over five days. Wednesday, March 29, will feature the Dressage Familiarization at 9:30 a.m. and the Jumping Training Session at 2:00 p.m.  Actual competition will begin on Thursday, March 30, with the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Grand Prix starting at 2:00 p.m. and Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final I (Jumping Speed Class) at 7:00 p.m.

On Friday, March 31, the multi-faceted Dressage Showcase starts at 3:00 p.m. followed by the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final II (Grand Prix) at 7:00 p.m. On Saturday, April 1, the Dressage Natural Horsemanship Clinic will be held at 9:00 a.m. (following the Freestyle sound check) with the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final (Freestyle to Music) – the event determining the  FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final Omaha 2017 winner- beginning at 2:00 p.m., and the International Omaha Jumping Grand Prix competition at 7:00 p.m. On Sunday, April 2, the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final III competition will begin at 2:00 p.m., which ultimately decides who will be crowned the winner.

For more information about the FEI World Cup™ Finals Omaha 2017 and to purchase tickets, please go to www.OmahaWorldCup2017.com, charge by phone at 800-745-3000 or at the CenturyLink Center Omaha box office. 


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