Amid the dazzling glare of lavish casinos and spinning slot machines, flamingo feathers and sequinned dancers, there is one show girl who is talk of the town. That would be BT Sport’s Action Woman of the Year, Charlotte Dujardin, whose double act with a horse called Valegro continued to reign supreme at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final in Las Vegas this week when she lifted the title for the second year running.
“I’m living the dream,” said the 29-year-old from rural Gloucestershire, who has had to get used to seeing her picture on huge billboards all over town advertising the event.
Transporting Valegro, an equine star worth millions, to a place like Vegas involves some performance. There’s over 24 hours of travelling followed by two days of quarantine. Add to that a different time zone and scorching temperatures and it could be a recipe for disaster for the unbeatable duo. But Dujardin - drawn by the bright lights of Sin City - was prepared to take the gamble in order to defend the World Cup title she won in Lyon last year. “I’m so excited to come here - this place is insane. It’s everything I expected it to be, just so spectacular.”
Dujardin mesmerised the crowd in Vegas (Image: Arnd Bronkhorst Fotografie)
The gamble paid off. Whilst Dujardin explained her horse was definitely affected by the travel and the heat, his performance in the Grand Prix was still good enough to win the first leg which took place on Thursday with a score of 85.414%.
Valegro was fully functioning by Saturday’s freestyle to music competition and the pair produced a display to mesmerise an enthusiastic audience who had flocked from all corners of the globe - New Zealand, Scotland, even Alaska - to see the formidable duo win the Freestyle with 94.196. The score was nearly 10% ahead of 2nd placed Dutchman Edward Gal and less than 0.1% shy of her world record score of 94.3 set in London last year.
The ‘Dujardin effect’ was at large, with fans seen queueing for more than two hours earlier that day just to get an autograph with their idol. The lady at the front was seen to burst into tears when the moment arrived.
The event in Vegas, which also hosts the World Cup show jumping, is the finale of the winter season and attracts the world’s greatest riders with its lucrative prize pot and lavish sponsors.
This place is insane. It’s everything I expected it to be, just so spectacular."
There are parties, fashion shows and the stadium is glittered with high profile individuals and the very wealthy. But despite rubbing shoulders with the sons and daughters of billionaires, Dujardin does not herald from this world.
Born in Enfield, she rode from the age of two and her mother Jane describes her as “a most determined child who would cry as a toddler if she was removed from the back of a pony.” It was Jane who helped Dujardin buy her first dressage horse with the small money she inherited from her own mother “I owe my family so much as I know they went without but mum wanted to give me that opportunity,” said Dujardin.
Dujardin couldn’t wait to let her hair down in Vegas. Straight after the final she was whisked off to a fashion show by the title sponsor and New York Fashion Designer Reem Acra. “I will be drinking lots of champagne tonight and then tomorrow I want to see a show whilst I’m out and I’ve definitely got some shopping lined up.”
Dujardin is the only rider in history to hold titles in Olympic, World, European and World Cup Championships simultaneously and she is now onset to do the whole thing again.
And then what does the future hold for this extraordinary duo? “There will never be another Valegro but we will probably retire him after Rio. He’s done everything for me but it’s like, how much more do you keep going? I want him to finish at his best- while he’s still enjoying it,” said Dujardin.
Dujardin plans to retire Valegro after the Rio Olympics (Image: Arnd Bronkhorst Fotografie)
After the London Olympics, Dujardin nearly lost the ride on the horse which she does not own. A rumoured six million was offered for Valegro but she confirms that he will never be sold. “We have huge offers all the time but he will never be sold - it’s such a relief to know he is secure with me forever.”
“My biggest aim now is to show everyone I can do it on another horse - it wasn’t just Valegro.”
Whilst Dujardin and her dance partner jet-set around the world to glamourous places, fiancée Dean has got used to playing second fiddle to a horse.
“Poor Dean was left at home but he’ll be watching on telly,” said Dujardin.
So when will she finally marry the man who stands in the shadows and cooks her dinner after a long day at the stables?
“I’m definitely getting married next year and after Rio I’ll probably have a baby.” she said. “Dean is desperate to start a family. In fact if I had him here now he’d be going ‘yes let’s get married, let’s have kids’!”
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