The world’s best show-jumping and dressage competitors are returning to the “Entertainment Capital of the World” April 15–19, 2020 for the FEI World Cup™ Finals. Hosted at the newly renovated Thomas & Mack Center in downtown Las Vegas, just off the famed Strip, this premier showcase will feature five days of equestrian competition, entertainment and shopping.
“We have so many exciting things planned for the 2020 finals—it’s going to be like nothing anyone has ever seen before,” says Pat Christenson, president of Las Vegas Events, Inc., producer of the finals.
The 2020 finals mark the seventh time that Las Vegas has hosted the FEI World Cup Finals following 2000 and 2003 when it hosted the jumping finals, and 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2015 when it hosted both the jumping and dressage finals.
As if the 50,000 square feet of shopping at the event isn’t enticing enough, here are a few more reasons to plan a trip to the finals next spring:
1. World’s Best Riders
The FEI World Cup Finals are the most prestigious annual individual championships for jumping and dressage athletes in the world. The entry lists are a who’s-who of the top names in the two disciplines including Olympic, World, European and past World Cup winners. The history of the finals’ winners shows the quality of the elite riders, many of whom don’t typically compete in the United States.
Since the FEI Jumping World Cup Final premiered in 1979, only two riders have won the final three times—Germany’s Meredith Michaels Beerbaum with Shutterfly in 2005, 2008, 2009 and Brazil’s Rodrigo Pessoa with Baloubet de Rouet from 1998–2000. Other champions include Canadian Ian Millar and Big Ben (1988–1989) and Great Britain’s John Whitaker and Milton (1990–1991). Ten U.S. athletes have claimed the title, including two-time winner Beezie Madden in 2013 with Simon and in 2018 with Breitling LS, Rich Fellers and Flexible in 2012 and McLain Ward and HH Azur in 2017.
Eleven U.S. riders competed in the jumping final the last time the event was held in Las Vegas, and after a team gold-medal win at the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games™, the American contingent should be formidable next spring.
Coming off a silver-medal team finish at last year’s WEG, the U.S. dressage riders are sure to impress fans next spring as well. The FEI Dressage World Cup Final kicked off in 1986 and a total of 33 finals have been held through 2018. The Netherlands’ Anky van Grunsven captured the title nine times—five with Bonfire and four with Salinero. Only two U.S. riders have won the championship—Debbie McDonald in 2003 with Brentina and Steffen Peters in 2009 with Ravel. The last winners at the Vegas venue were British rider Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, who defended their 2014 title. The 2020 schedule features the return of the dressage freestyle, which determines the World Cup champion, to its previous Saturday evening timeslot.
Qualifiers for both disciplines conclude in early spring, and the lists of riders selected for the finals are announced a few weeks before the competition.
2. Renovated Venue
The Thomas & Mack Center, located on the campus of the University of Las Vegas, just got a major facelift for the 2020 finals. The venue underwent two years and $75 million worth of renovations and improvements. Upgrades include enhanced stabling and better warm-up areas for the horses, new arena seats, new entrances and escalators, upgraded concessions and restrooms, new flooring and additional seating for spectators with disabilities, plus improvements to the sound system.
“During the renovation in 2015, the entire concourse was renovated with new floors, and in certain areas the concourse was widened,” says Tim Keener, Las Vegas Events vice president of Ticketing and Operations. “The additional space on the concourse will make for a more enjoyable experience for our fans attending the event.”
In 2018, the Thomas & Mack Center replaced its center video board and upgraded the beam-level video boards as well. “In addition to having a higher resolution board, which will allow fans an improved experience, there is more real estate on these boards, which will allow show production to present more information, video and stats to the attendees in arena,” adds Keener.
3. Evening Entertainment
The Thomas & Mack Center is just minutes from the Las Vegas Strip, a 3 ½-mile-long stretch of Las Vegas Boulevard. The area is packed with more than 20 of the world’s largest casino-resorts and more than 50 nightclubs with acrobats, divas, show girls, comedians and magicians.
There are Broadway-caliber musicals and productions—Blue Man Group is one of the most popular interactive highlights that incorporates everything from PVC pipes to energetic, percussive music. The exotic Cirque de Soleil offers a variety of shows, featuring circus styles from around the world, music and talented acrobats.
Magic shows have a rich history in the city with illusionists such as David Copperfield and Criss Angel. Comedy shows are a huge attraction in the area, too, and stand-up comedians such as Jerry Seinfeld, Jay Leno and Penn & Teller keep the laughs coming.
Elvis impersonators are a hot commodity in Vegas, but the city is well-known for other notorious headliners. Diana Ross, Cher, Mariah Carey and Lady Gaga are fan-favorite pop divas who always perform for sellout crowds. For country or classic rock, check out a concert with Lady Antebellum, George Strait, Aerosmith or John Fogerty.
4. Unique Adventures
Those seeking an adrenaline rush can take a dream car for a spin at the Las Vegas Motor Speedway or SPEEDVEGAS. There are also venues that offer indoor skydiving or a helicopter tour for a bird’s-eye view of the city.
For more thrills, visitors can head to the Stratosphere Casino, Hotel & Tower, which features the tallest freestanding observation tower in U.S., to try four of the world’s highest rides. Or zoom down the Las Vegas strip at FLY LINQ, which includes 10 side-by-side ziplines capable of simultaneously launching all riders. Guests take off from a 114-foot-tall tower in the direction of the tallest observation wheel in the world, The High Roller, flying 1,121 feet along The LINQ Promenade at approximately 35 miles per hour.
Vegas isn’t all glitz and glamour—there are plenty of options in the area to get away from “Sin City” for a few hours. Nature-lovers can explore the great outdoors and experience the beauty of Red Rock Canyon National Conservation Area with 19 hiking trails, a scenic driving loop, picnic areas and wildlife. Try a unique boating experience just 40 minutes outside of the city with Vegas Glass Kayaks, Vegas’ first and only crystal-clear kayak tour. Guests paddle through the waters, exploring canyons, natural hot springs, sandy beaches and caves.
For a more relaxing, kid-friendly outing, Springs Preserve features 180 acres of botanical gardens, walking trails, wildlife habitats, museums and more. The gardens are home to a large collection of Mojave Desert cacti and plants, a variety of wetland bird species, a seasonal butterfly pavilion and annual events.
Visitors don’t have to venture far from Thomas & Mack to check out North America’s only predator-based aquarium at Shark Reef Aquarium at Mandalay Bay Resort and Casino. Journey through a tunnel with views of a replica ancient temple ruin and a sunken ship surrounded by sharks and other creatures.
5. Culinary Delights
With its wide variety of cuisines, celebrity chefs and world-class restaurants and bars, Las Vegas is a foodie’s paradise. There will be plenty of dining options at the Thomas & Mack Center, but stroll down the Strip for endless culinary possibilities, from trendy dishes like Asian fusion to more familiar fare like pizza or grilled steak as well as dozens of famous all-you-can-eat buffets.
Las Vegas has the most comprehensive collection of the world’s top chefs and television icons—Emeril Lagasse, Wolfgang Puck and Gordon Ramsay, to name a few. Bobby Flay plans to open a new sushi restaurant next spring (“Shark”) while Guy Fieri’s “El Burro Borracho” offers a unique spin on Mexican dishes and Giada De Laurentiis’ “Giada” features signature Italian dishes.
Dining and entertainment go hand-in-hand in Vegas. One of the many local dinner theater options include the “Tournament of Kings” at Excalibur where guests are transported to the feasts of the Renaissance while watching a medieval live-action battle.
6. Not Just Another Horse Show
Christenson and his team have created a fan experience unlike any other equestrian championship in the world. “We’ve tried to change the way the World Cup is presented, at least here in the States,” he says. “If you’ve gone to any of the international shows, like in Gothenburg and Paris, they’re mostly local horse shows that integrate the World Cup into them, so it’s more of a local crowd at a very, very big horse show. The difference here is the focus will only be on the World Cup competition—there will not be another horse show going on at the same time. That allows us to focus on the fans.”
Close to 75,000 fans attended the event in 2015 and were treated to not just an incredible competition, but a truly Vegas experience. Spectators remember a daily dose of laser shows, singers, acrobats and, of course, Elvis. Can fans expect the same level of entertainment in 2020? “We have lots of surprises,” hints Christenson. “Stay tuned.”
Plan Your Trip
2020 FEI World Cup™ Final organizers have created the World Cup Club to give members first choice on the best available seats, and also to get the latest news, ticket and hotel information. From July 1–August 15, members of the World Cup Club, which is free to join, will have an exclusive opportunity to purchase all-session tickets. Visit WorldCupLasVegas.com/world-cup-club to sign up.
Further ticket information will be announced later this year. Check out WorldCupLasVegas.com for more details.
2020 FEI World Cup™ Finals Tentative Schedule
(Pacific time, subject to change)
Wednesday, April 15, 2020
9:30 a.m.: Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Warm-Up
1:30 p.m.: FEI Dressage World Cup™ Warm-Up
Thursday, April 16, 2020
12:00 p.m.: FEI Dressage World Cup™ Grand Prix
7:00 p.m.: Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final I
Friday, April 17, 2020
8:30 a.m.: FEI Dressage World Cup™ Freestyle Rehearsal
1:00 p.m.: Devoucoux Dressage Showcase
7:00 p.m.: Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final II
Saturday, April 18, 2020
12:00 p.m.: Las Vegas Jumping Grand Prix
7:00 p.m.: FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final (Freestyle)
Sunday, April 19, 2020
12:00 p.m.: Longines FEI Jumping World Cup™ Final III
Visit the event’s official website WorldCupLasVegas.com for more information on the 2020 FEI World Cup Finals and the latest news.
This article was originally published in the Summer 2019 issue of Practical Horseman.