Monthly Archives: December 2014

Three-Peat Pessoa: History Made At First World Cup Final In Las Vegas In 2000

Las Vegas has a well-earned reputation as an unrivaled host for the FEI World Cup Finals. Nowhere is our sport presented with the pizzazz one finds only in the “Entertainment Capital of the World!”

It all started in the year 2000 when Las Vegas hosted the FEI World Cup Final for the first time. Back then, no one had thought of hosting the Finals in both Jumping and Dressage together, something that was done for the first time in Las Vegas in 2005. It was all about Jumping at that first event in 2000 and there was excitement about bringing the sport’s premier annual event to Las Vegas. There was also an added buzz about whether or not Rodrigo Pessoa could achieve an unprecedented “three-peat” by winning the Final for a third consecutive year.

Making History: Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet clinch their third consecutive World Cup title in Las Vegas in 2000 (c) Jan Gyllensten

Making History: Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet clinch their third consecutive World Cup title in Las Vegas in 2000 (c) Jan Gyllensten

As we know, the Brazilian superstar pulled it off and Rodrigo became the first – and still only – rider to clinch back-to-back-to-back World Cup wins. To top it off, he won all three titles with the same horse, Baloubet du Rouet!

Rodrigo, son of show jumping legend Nelson Pessoa, and Baloubet du Rouet won their first World Cup Final in Helsinki, Finland, in 1998 and then followed that with a win in Gothenburg, Sweden, in 1999. The pair came to Las Vegas as odds-on favorites but, incredibly, almost never even got the chance to step foot in the ring!

Imagine the concern that gripped Rodrigo and his team when the plane bringing the horses from Europe landed and his incredible chestnut stallion stepped off the plane with a case of ‘shipping fever’ and temperature of 105 degrees! Fortunately he recovered quickly and went on to make show jumping history.

The pair won the first round speed class on Thursday night and then placed second in the second round jump-off class on Friday. Under intense pressure in front of a sold-out Thomas & Mack Center, Rodrigo and Baloubet kept their cool and jumped two clear rounds on the final day to clinch the win, etching their names indelibly in the World Cup record books.

The amazing duo went on to win a team bronze medal at the 2000 Olympic Games in Sydney that fall and then, four years later, the individual gold medal at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens.

World Cup Champions Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet

Three-Peat World Cup Champions Rodrigo Pessoa and Baloubet du Rouet

Rodrigo has participated in a total of 13 World Cup Finals, including all five held in Las Vegas (2000, 2003, 2005, 2007 and 2009). He has ridden in six Olympic Games, winning a team bronze medal at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics in addition to his other aforementioned medals. He has also been in six World Equestrian Games and he won the show jumping World Championship at the 1998 Games in Rome. He also has won two individual silver medals as well as team gold and silver in his three appearances in Pan American Games.

Although three other riders have won the World Cup Finals three times (Austria’s Hugo Simon, and Germany’s Meredith Michaels-Beerbaum and Marcus Ehning, who narrowly edged Rodrigo to dash his hopes of a fourth title in 2003), no one, other than Rodrigo, has done it in consecutive years. That accomplishment remains his and his alone.

If you’d like to watch Rodrigo and Baloubet du Rouet in World Cup action, then click here to see their winning performance at the 1999 FEI World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden.

If you want to see World Cup action from Las Vegas, then you need to make sure you get your tickets for next April’s Finals and I suggest that you do that right now because there’s a good chance that history will be made there again and I know you won’t want to miss it!

When Brentina Rocked the House

In looking ahead to next year’s FEI World Cup Dressage Finals, I want to flashback to the 2005 Finals in Las Vegas and remember the mesmerizing performance by U.S. rider Debbie McDonald and her superstar mare, Brentina, owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas, for whom Las Vegas’s Thomas & Mack Center is named.

Based on their record, Debbie and Brentina are one of the most successful combinations in US dressage history. The pair won the 2003 World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden, the first U.S. pair ever to do so. They competed at two Olympic Games – 2008 in Hong Kong and 2004 in Athens, where they were part of the U.S.’s Bronze medal team. They also participated in the 2002 World Equestrian Games (WEG) in Jerez, Spain, and the 2006 WEG in Aachen, Germany, where they also won a team Bronze medal.

Brentina's retirement ceremony in Las Vegas 2009 (PMG photo)

Brentina’s retirement ceremony in Las Vegas 2009 (PMG photo)

Brentina was formally retired in ceremonies at the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. There was barely a dry eye in the house as a scarf of roses was laid over Brentina’s neck in celebration and appreciation of the much-loved Hanoverian mare and her contribution to the sport. However, with all their winning performances, Brentina and Debbie are in many ways most remembered for their groundbreaking performance at the 2005 Finals in Las Vegas when, performing in front of a sold-out crowd, the duo virtually ‘rocked the house” with their Grand Prix Freestyle, forever changing the way dressage is watched.

The general rule of thumb in dressage is for the spectators to remain silent from the start of the performance until the finish, but in this case the crowd could not contain itself. The choreography and music choice could not have been more perfect for the big chestnut mare, as each of Brentina’s footfalls struck the ground in perfect timing.

Debbie McDonald & Brentina wow the crowds at the 2005 FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas

Debbie McDonald & Brentina wow the crowds at the 2005 FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas

As Debbie and Brentina performed to a medley of Motown hits, the crowd got totally involved and as Brentina performed her last piaffe pirouette and passage down the center line, the packed stadium found itself clapping along to the music which was reaching its climax with Aretha Franklin’s R-E-S-P-E-C-T. With McDonald grinning from ear-to-ear, Brentina floated to her final halt after which the crowd erupted in cheers. What an amazing moment!

Although Debbie and Brentina didn’t win that Final, winding up in third place, the world will forever remember that performance as one that changed the direction of the sport. For the way the crowd reacted to the upbeat performance changed the way people watch dressage, a fitting and lasting legacy for one of the sport’s most beloved combinations.

I spoke with Debbie earlier this year about that night and she agreed that it truly was an incredible moment. “People still bring it up when they see me,” she said. “And I have to say that I smile every time they do. It was something special that I know I will never forget!”

If you’ve never seen this remarkable performance, give yourself a treat and click on the video below to watch the night Brentina and McDonald ‘rocked the house’ at the 2005 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas. And be sure to listen as the end of the performance nears to hear the crowd join in like it never had before!

The 2015 FEI World Cup Finals in Las Vegas feature both the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final and the Longines FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final. The event promises to be bigger, better and more exciting than ever, and who knows what magical moments lie in store! So if you haven’t ordered your tickets yet, you should do so now. What a perfect holiday gift!