A pic from my World Cup Finals trip in 2009

 With all the excitement of the upcoming Rolex Kentucky Three-Day Event and the upcoming London Olympiad, it may seem that one of the usual big name tickets on the show jumping scene has been relegated to red-headed step-child status.

From April 18-22, 2012, the best of the best in international show jumping will be testing themselves against the course and each other in the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Finals.

A total of 37 competitors from 13 leagues around the globes will descend upon s’Hertogenbosch, Holland to test their control, accuracy, and nerve in the final of the indoor season.  The last time the famed Brabanthalle hosted the final, Jos Lansink, then riding for Holland, avoided what could have been a devastating fall and won with the amazingly scopey Libero H.

Jos Lansink and Libero H win the 1994 Volvo World Cup

Riders from Australia, Belgium, Brazil, Canada, Denmark, Egypt, Estonia, France, Germany, Holland (the Netherlands), Ireland, Japan, Lithuania,  Portugal, Qatar, Russia, Switzerland, Sweden and the USA have qualified.  The US is sending East Coast League champ Margie Engle, and  representing the West Coast League will be the Master of Faster, Richard Spooner.  Rounding out the US squad will be Michelle Spadone, Kent Farrington, Beezie Madden, Kirsten Coe, Charlie Jayne, Rich Fellers, and Francie Steinwedell-Carvin.

Will this lineup be enough to bring the Rolex Cup back to the US for the first time since  Katharine Burdsall and The Natural took the title 25 years ago?  I hate to say it, but probably not, given the powerhouse that is the German team.  Christian Ahlmann and Taloubet Z will be back to defend their title, and compatriots Marco Kutscher, Ludger Beerbaum, Phillipp Weishaupt and Marcus Ehning will be looking to say  Deutschland ueber Alles by adding a record fifth consecutive win for their homeland.

Christian Ahlmann – Taloubet Z – WC Finale Leipzig 2011

Canada’s Ian Millar, two-time Finals winner on the venerable Big Ben, has been on a hot streak lately after a very successful stab at the Winter Equestrian Festival in Wellington.  However, he’s elected not to participate so the sole Canadian flying the flag with Belgian based Olympic champion Eric Lamaze.

Don’t count World #1 Ranked/European Champion Rolf Goran Bengtson of Sweden out , or Edwina Alexander-Tops on her plucky little Cevo Itot du Chateau.  Also to be watched are Switzerland’s Pius Schwizer and France’s Kevin Staut (sigh) on the wonderful grey mare Silvana.

The opening day (4/18) will have warm-up and training competitions, followed by a Speed Round on Day 2 (4/19).  Riders hoping to stay in the hunt usually need to finish in the top 10 of this round as their scores are carried over into the other events.  Final 2 will be held on 4/20, then the riders and their mounts have a rest day before the decisive Final 3 on Sunday.

Riders possessing a hat-trick of wins (3) include Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum, Hugo Simon of Austria, Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa, and Marcus Ehning, another German.  Back to back Finals winners are Canada’s Ian Miller (Big Ben,  1988-89), perennial UK favorite John Whitaker on the much beloved Milton (1990-91) Austria’s Hugo Simon on ET (1997 -98)  and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum on the inimitable Shutterfly (2008 -09).  Only Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa on the copiously talented Baloubet du Rouet scored his three-peat on the same horse in consecutive years, 1998-2000.

So, check the action out on www.feitv.org from 4/18-4/22.  You’ll need to purchase a subscription, which you can do by day, month, or annually.

This is the schedule (thanks to Michelle and Becca for converting the times):

Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final I – Thursday April 19 at 19.10 local/ 1:10 pm Eastern US time

Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final, Grand Prix – Friday April 20 at 11.55 local time /5:55 am Eastern US time

Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final II – Friday April 20 at 18.55 local/12:55 pm Eastern US time

Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final, Freestyle – Saturday April 21 at 13.55 local/7:55 am Eastern US time

Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final III – April 22 at 13.55 local/7:55am Eastern US time