Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro produced a performance close to perfection when winning the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2014/2015 Western European League qualifier at Olympia in London (GBR) with yet another world-record-breaking score. They set the previous record at the same venue 12 months ago when posting a mark of 93.975, but this evening earned 94.300 for an even more spell-binding display of harmony between horse and rider. And this latest triumph came just 24 hours after the dynamic duo beat their own world record in the Grand Prix in which The Netherlands‘ Edward Gal and Glock’s Undercover also had to settle for runner-up spot.
Dujardin admitted tonight that Valegro’s performance this evening almost brought her to tears. “When we were doing the last piaffe/passage I was welling up and I had to say to myself don’t cry, don’t cry!” she said. “He tries so hard to get it right, it’s an incredible feeling when you go in there in front of all those thousands of people and he just wants to perform and to give you his best”, she added.
A little history
There was a starting field of 14, and The Netherlands‘ Katja Gevers and Thriller took the early lead with a score of 72.276 before Irish national champion, Judy Reynolds, made a little history as the first rider from her country to qualify for the Freestyle at the prestigious British fixture, posting a creditable 70.000. Talented young German, Soenke Rothenberger, was out in front at the halfway stage with Favourit on a mark of 77.825, but that would only prove good enough for sixth place at the end of a magical night.
Gal gave it his best shot with Glock’s Undercover, but after a solid start the horse’s tension increased to leave them on a final score of 83.550, and Dujardin and the 12-year-old gelding she calls Blueberry just blew that away when following with a stunning test during which they picked up 25 maximum scores of 10. From the moment they set off, horse and rider were as one, gliding seamlessly from movement to movement and perfectly synchronised to their musical score from “How to train your dragon”. The first time they performed to it was last April when they added the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2013/2014 title to the staggering list of successes they have racked up during their relatively short career together. But tonight their musical interpretation was in a different league altogether.
Hit everything on time
“I felt that I got into the music and he got into the music, and it felt like everything seemed to flow and to fit, and I hit everything on time” Dujardin said afterwards. The crowd thought so too, rising to give the phenomenal partnership a standing ovation.
Ground Jury President, Great Britain’s Stephen Clarke, said “I didn’t honestly think we’d get that feeling again. In 2009 Edward (Gal) broke the world record here and it was the most magical evening I can ever remember, then Charlotte does it tonight and it’s just out of this world! I don’t know what it is about this show, but the horses are incredible here!” he pointed out.
He teased Dujardin about her spectacular performance. “The walk tonight wasn’t quite as relaxed…and there was 9.5 for paces, 10 for harmony, 10 for choreography, 9.5 for difficulty and 10 for the music. Charlotte you’d better sharpen up a bit!” he said.
Runner-up, Gal who was 2010 series champion with the great Totilas, joked that he needs to “practice a little bit more – I’m just 10% behind!”, while Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, whose third-place finish tonight with Unee BB leaves her sharing the lead on the Western European League table with fellow-countrywoman Fabienne Lutkemeier, said “I haven’t had a world record breaking feeling yet, but I’m working on it!”
The Netherlands’ Danielle Heijkoop steered Siro NOP into fourth ahead of Dujardin’s great friend and mentor Carl Hester whose 10-year-old gelding, Nip Tuck, was the youngest horse in the competition.
Dressed as a chicken
Dujardin first appeared under the spotlights at Olympia back in 1996 when taking part in the traditional Christmas finale – dressed as a chicken. She cut a rather more elegant figure tonight sitting on the fabulous 12-year-old gelding who has more than realised all her dreams.
“When I first started Grand Prix I had three goals” the 29-year-old rider explained, “to ride at Olympia, be on a team with Carl (Hester) and to get to London (2012 Olympic Games). The first year I got here I won and I couldn’t believe it. Last year I broke my final world record here, and this year to break two in one show is absolutely outstanding!” she added.
Asked if she thought she could achieve an even higher score that the one she laid down tonight, the Olympic, World and European champion replied “I don’t know, I just keep doing these tests and things just get better and better….my confidence and his confidence are just growing and growing and it makes you be able to ride more and more and go for more, I get braver as a rider and he gets more confident as a horse”. And asked if she thought it possible to earn a maximum 100% some time in the future she laughed and said, “it’s not far off now, I’m getting there!!”
Photos: FEI/Kit Houghton