First off, I have a bit of bad news to share with Americans who hoped to use FEI TV to watch the World Cup from the comfort of your desks – or living rooms if you are that much of a technical wizard. I have received an unconfirmed report that it is not available to you. I am able to log into it here in Vegas, but my subscription was paid for with a Canadian credit card. I will check on that and get back, but it sounds like NBC has managed to shut out the FEI for broadcast rights. If this turns out to be the case and you, like many people, don’t get the specific NBC network that will broadcast the WC, you will just have to rely on this blog and other web media to keep you up to speed.

Once the action starts for real on Thursday, look for daily updates on what passes before my eyes and past my ears here at the WC Final. It will be interesting to rate the experience of this year’s Dressage final compared to 2005 (awesome) and 2007 (boring, and anticlimactic in the same way as a movie sequel). Here are a few predictions which I dare to share:

1. there will be more empty seats, partly due to the economy and partly due to the fact that too many people came to the previous two Finals and were disappointed by their experience at the second.

2. Isabell will win as long as Satchmo doesn’t do what he did in Hong Kong last summer. In fact, I watched her performance at one of the last qualifiers (yes, on FEI TV) and his piaffe looked better than I’ve ever seen it. But if he should decide to spice up his freestyle with some unchoreographed moves, I very much doubt that the jury will want to invoke the public’s wrath the way the HK crew did. And on the topic of judges (they do after all have all the power in their hands, don’t they?) I have no idea if they will consider letting Steffen be king, but he will surely be the hometown crowd fave. Adelinde seems like a contender, but I suspect her horse will be a wee bit edgy in the tight and noisy T & M. Remember too that the freestyle counts entirely. Anky and Painted pulled it out of the hat in Florida at the Masters, but I don’t think a rabbit that big will fit in the WC hat.

Regardless of the predictability of outcome (see 2), it will be a great competition with some really exciting horses and riders. I don’t want to play favourites, so I will refrain from listing those I think will be give us the most pleasure. I’m not being PC, just self-preservational. No, that’s not a word, but I’m using it anyway.

And the jumping? As I said last week, what the dressage lacks in surprises is sure to be made up for in that discipline.  The jumpers can always be counted on  to have everyone on the edges of their seats, including each other. The other department where they always shine is partying, something I am sure I’m not alone in seeking to achieve during this upcoming wonderful week of equestrian madness.