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Among U.S. riders vying for the three Final berths reserved for the highest-ranking athletes in the Western Sub-league, Karl Cook and his mare Tembla are hoping to claim a spot.
Last year, they earned a ticket to the Final by being the top-ranked pair in the west at season’s end, but the 25-year-old rider and his coach and fellow World Cup Final contender Eric Navet decided to sit it out.
They determined the Final’s extra degrees of difficulty might be too much too soon. Not so this year as Karl’s partnership with Tembla has matured—the pair are looking to claim more points this weekend and qualify for the Final.
Eric also plans to contest this Saturday’s event with Catypso, with whom he finished third at last year’s event at Thermal.
Right now, those look to include Sacramento winner Audrey Coulter and Texas-based German rider Christian Heineking, who won the Las Vegas round. And Charlie Jacobs, who is on the bubble on the East Coast and whose many California visits make him a fan favourite.
At least, that’s how things looked a week before the big competition. Equestrian sports are unusual in that because two athletes are involved - one being an animal - adding to the variables!
The second-ranked American rider in the Western Sub-league, Jenni McAllister, knows that all too well. Getting to the Final in Omaha was Team McAllister’s singular goal at the outset of the season and their win at Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Calgary in October put them perfectly on track for that.
However, a bruised foot for her top horse, LEGIS Touch The Sun, has put that in jeopardy. Just a week before this weekend’s event, Jenni decided that “Whiskers” wasn’t quite back in form and would not enter the competition.
“Pushing his recovery doesn’t help me because we could end up making it worse. I just have to be realistic and I feel like the right thing will happen.”
She has a strong second-place position and it’s very possible she can hold onto a spot in the Final even without earning more points on Saturday.
Rich Fellers and his 2012 World Cup Final champion, Flexible, hold the third-place spot in the qualifying rankings, but won’t be contesting the event either. “He’s still very enthusiastic and energetic and enjoys his job,” says Rich of his partner in a total of eight Finals and the 2012 Olympics.
“He loves to jump clear rounds and, at 21, I think we have to be realistic about what he can do at the 1.6 meter level.”
Flexible’s many fans will be happy to know he is at Thermal and will likely contest one of the week’s two additional FEI competitions.
Text by by Kim F Miller
Images by Amy K. Dragoo/AIMMEDIA