Paris, France – April 12, 2018 – Though the show jumping horses kicked off the FEI World Cup™ Finals on Wednesday, U.S. dressage competitors headed down the jog lane for the health inspection on Thursday morning at the AccorHotels Arena.
The United States’ Shelly Francis is thrilled to be in Paris at her first FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final with Patricia Stempel’s 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, Danilo (De Niro 6–Annabelle, Andiamo). After a successful qualifying season at the Adequan Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), the pair headed to Germany for a week before traveling to Paris. Francis earned her qualifying scores with Danilo during AGDF with a score of 72.625 percent in the Grand Prix and a score of 77.725 percent in the Grand Prix Freestyle during Week One’s CDI-W. Francis and Danilo returned to the CDI-W ring during the third week to receive a score of 73.87 percent in the Grand Prix and a score of 76.15 percent in the Grand Prix Freestyle.
“He’s feeling very Dani-high instead of Danilo, which is all good!” Francis laughed. “His eyes are popping out of his head. Danilo has been working super and feeling awesome. I have him really fit. He’s a little on the frisky side but that’s OK.
“It wasn’t me deciding [to come to Paris], it was him coming together and understanding how to work with a little bit of pressure,” she continued. “Because I started training him a little later in his life, he’s kind of like a 10 or 11-year-old even though he’s just turned 14. We’re very excited for this week!”
Fellow American Laura Graves is no stranger to the World Cup Finals, as she will make her third appearance at the championship with Verdades, her 16-year-old KWPN gelding (Florett As–Lilwilarda, Goya). In 2015, the pair appeared at their first World Cup Finals in Las Vegas, Nevada, where they placed fifth in the Grand Prix with a score of 74.314 percent and fourth in the Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 79.125 percent. In 2017, they returned to the prestigious indoor competition in Omaha, Nebraska, and placed second in the Grand Prix with a score of 79.8 percent and second in the Grand Prix Freestyle with a score of 85.307 percent.
“We have very high hopes,” Graves said. “It’s the first time we have competed against our European competitors since Aachen last year. I always get excited for the first big international [event] of the year, which is World Cup for us. He feels better than ever. He feels strong and fit and ready to go!”
The duo had an impressive season in Wellington, Florida, remaining undefeated and receiving a score of 84.975 percent during Week Eight of the 2018 AGDF — the highest score ever earned in the festival’s history. She is returning to the World Cup Finals arena with the dream of overcoming world No. 1 ranked athlete Isabell Werth of Germany and Weihegold OLD for the overall individual title.
The 2018 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final kicks off on Friday with the Grand Prix at 3:30 p.m. (9:30 a.m. EST) followed by the Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday at 2 p.m. (8 a.m. EST), where this year’s champion will be crowned. Francis and Danilo will compete at 4:24 p.m. (10:24 a.m. EST), while Graves and Verdades will head down centerline at 5:51 p.m. (11:51 a.m. EST) on Friday.