Historic Verona, a UNESCO World Heritage Site packed with Roman and medieval ruins, palaces, squares, bridges and churches, is also home to a venerable horse show, the Fieracavalli, which is this year celebrating its 120th anniversary (the inaugural Horse and Agriculture Fair was held in 1898). But today, the equestrian extravaganza – featuring more than 200 events over four days – takes place in the distinctly modern Veronafiere Exhibition Centre, with the highlight of the competition being Sunday’s €190,000 World Cup showdown.
Fifty riders and 129 horses from 17 nations have come to Italy for the CSI5*-W event, including Great Britain’s Team Olympic gold medallist and Scott Brash and his veteran compatriot (and fellow Olympic medallist) John Whitaker. They will be joined in Verona – not far from the popular Lake Garda roughly 25 kilometres to the west – by Irish rivals Bertram Allen, Michael G. Duffy and Mark McCauley.
Not surprisingly, the host nation will have the largest contingent of athletes at the show, led by top-ranked riders Lorenzo de Luca, Alberto Zorzi and Emanuele Guadiano. And the home side will be facing, among others, World No.1 Harrie Smolders of the Netherlands (last year’s winner, fellow Dutchman Maikel Van der Vleuten, is not entered this year), Switzerland’s Olympic Champion Steve Guerdat, Sweden’s Henrik von Eckermann, Germany’s Daniel Deusser, France’s Kevin Staut, Spain’s Eduardo Alvarez Aznar, Belgium’s Niels Bruynseels, Austria’s Max Kühner, the United States’ Jessica Springsteen and Australia’s Edwina Tops-Alexander. The full list of entries is here, with the next Western European qualifier this season set for next weekend across the Alps, in Lyon in eastern France.
And while over time the Shakespearian tale of Verona’s Romeo and Juliet has come to represent the idea of ‘star-crossed lovers’, another of the Bard’s many sayings – this time found in the play Julius Caesar – might in fact be more relevant for the individuals riding in this weekend’s World Cup class: “It is not in the stars to hold our destiny but in ourselves.”