As the Rolex FEI World Cup Final comes closer, the bets are on as to who will win. In a week some of the biggest names in the sport will be ready to battle it out in Scandinavium Arena in Gothenburg, and WoSJ has taken a closer look at some of the hottest candidates to claim the prestigious World Cup title.
Let’s start with the most obvious favorite of them all; world number one Christian Ahlmann who will be riding Taloubet Z. Already on the list of winners – Christian and Taloubet Z claimed the title in Leipzig in 2011 – it's a well known fact that the German rider has was it takes to go all the way to the top. Ahlmann has been ranked as number one in the world for the past five months, and topped a fantastic 2012-season off by winning the Rolex IJRC Top 10 Final in December together with Taloubet. Not only that; the 38 year old also ended second overall in the Western European League after great results throughout the season – including a win in Leipzig in January, his third in a row at this event. No wonder Christian is one of those high up on our list to take home the title once again.
Western European League winner Sergio Alvarez Moya is another one to watch out for. The Spanish rider had an extremely consistent start on the World Cup season, ending third in Oslo, second in Helsinki, winning in Verona and then ending second again in Geneva – in addition to being placed in Lyon. Although it’s been quiet around Sergio lately – he became a father earlier this year, we’re sure he will make his mark in Gothenburg. Partnering up with Carlo 273 – the sympathetic 28 year old is a dangerous contestant; the two showed super form in Paris last weekend.
Moving down to number three overall in the Western European League, Kevin Staut is always one to watch for the big occasions. The European Champion from 2009 has not made it to the top in a World Cup Final yet, and is for sure eager to prove that he has got what it takes to bring the trophy home to France and Haras des Coudrettes. The stylish Frenchman will ride his supermare Silvana HDC, and is for sure one of those that could make it to the top.
Sweden has no less than four riders in the final and has a good shot at the title! Malin Baryard-Johnson, Henrik von Eckermann, Jens Fredricson and Rolf-Göran Bengtsson will all try their best to make the World Cup trophy stay put in Sweden – and at the same time make the home crowds’ dreams come true. For Henrik this will be his first final!
A Dutch rider must also be seen as a winning candidate; ranked as number nine in the world, Marc Houtzager has proved that he has what it takes to go all the way to the top. The Olympic team silver medalist won the World Cup qualifier in London right ahead of Christmas, and also the Gucci Grand Prix in Paris in December – and with his partners Sterrehof’s Uppity and Sterrehof’s Tamino he will for sure be hungry for more success in Gothenburg.
Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat is another one to look out for. Now ranked as number three in the world, Steve brings his amazing Nino des Buissonnets to Gothenburg – and with a gold medal from London, a vice-champion title from the final in Den Bosch and a win in the Grand Prix in Rio last year it goes without saying that this pair once again will make their competitors sweat as they enter the ring.
The Americans will show up with some incredibly good riders. One of them is title-holder Rich Fellers and his by now legendary partner Flexible. This pair proved unbeatable last year, jumping into the history books as America’s first World Cup winners for the first time in 25 years. Rich ended second overall in the North America West Coast League this season, and has proved consistent form.
Some fabulous names will fly in from the East Coast League, and they are riders of the caliber needed to take home the trophy to the US for a second year in a row. The winner of the league, Kent Farrington, has been on fire over the last months and is definitely one to pay close attention to. Kent was on the winning American team in the Nations Cup in Wellington in the end of February on his World Cup-ride Uceko, he won the Grand Prix in Palm Beach on Dynamo in January, notched up two wins in Toronto in November and was on fire when he visited Spruce Meadows last year. No doubt Kent should be feared by his competitors.
A couple of other American riders should also be mentioned when it comes to the possibility of winning the final; the young, but by now experienced, Reed Kessler seems to have no fear no matter how difficult the questions asked of her – and aboard the powerhouse Cylana she definitely has a shot at the title! True to tradition those who do well in the Grand Prix at the Saut Hermès should also perform well in the finals, and since the pair finished second we expect great things from Reed and Cylana! McLain Ward should not be forgotten either. He comes en route from Wellington, where he brought home a truck full of ribbons!
At last, but not the least: Marcus Ehning and Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum. Both of them are two of the four hat trick winners in the World Cup history, and this will be a chance for them both to become historical to win the title for a fourth time. Marcus won in 2003, 2006 and 2010 – while Meredith celebrated wins in 2005, 2008 and 2009. Marcus should never be underestimated, no matter which horse he is on – and bringing Copin van de Broy and Plot Blue to Gothenburg he should be counted with when it comes to climbing up on the podium on Sunday the 28th. Winning the AIG Thermal $1 Million Grand Prixin the middle of March and jumping clear in the Grand Prix Hermès, Meredith and her second-to-none Bella Donna have already showed that they are in perfect form as they head for Sweden. Could Marcus or Meredith write history for Germany again?