Germany’s Isabell Werth steered the 11-year-old mare, Weihegold OLD, to their second successive victory together at the penultimate leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2015/2016 Western European League on home ground in Neumünster (GER) today. Last time out in Amsterdam (NED) at the end of January the pair posted a great score of 83.450, and today they passed the 84 percent mark for another sparkling performance which has lifted Werth to the top of the League leaderboard by a considerable margin.
Runner-up was Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with Unee BB who scored 80.900, three percentage points less than their second-place score at the Dutch fixture last month. However this German duo were big favourites with the Neumünster crowd who had a significant influence on the sport all weekend. The proximity of the spectators to the field of play contributed to the intense atmosphere in the ring, and proved too much for some. In yesterday’s Grand Prix, Denmark’s Anna Kasprzak decided to retire when her 16-year-old horse Hoennerups Driver simply couldn’t cope with the excitement.
Even Werth admitted that she felt the tension. “I couldn’t have expected such a good result in this electric atmosphere!” said the multiple Olympian and two-time FEI World Cup™ Dressage champion who now has her sights firmly fixed on the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2016 Final in Gothenburg (SWE) next month.
Set the target
League leader, Patrik Kittel from Sweden, set the early target in today’s Freestyle when scoring 74.350 with the 10-year-old Delauney, and this was followed by 74.275 from Australia’s Kristy Oakley.
Kristy is a cousin of Kittel’s wife, Lyndal Oatley who was also in action today, finishing eleventh with Sandro Boy. Kristy’s father, Rainer Nist, was a German Young Rider champion and her grandfather, Robert Oatley, won the world-famous Admiral’s Cup yacht race in 2003, so the cousins come from a family filled with sporting genes.
The host nation contenders began to flex their not-inconsiderable muscle when Fabienne Lutkemeier went out in front when eleventh to go of the 15 starters. Her mark of 75.575 would only prove good enough for fifth place in the final analysis however, and her dominance was short-lived when von Bredow-Werndl followed her into the ring. The 30-year-old athlete, who finished third at the 2015 Reem Acra Final in Las Vegas (USA), wasn’t entirely satisfied with her leading mark of 80.900. “Unee was a little shy and introverted today, so he was not so expressive” von Bredow-Werndl said afterwards.
Poland’s Beata Stremier and Rubicon D then put an impressive 76.325 on the board before Werth blew the competition apart with her score of 84.600. And when 2012 Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage champions, The Netherlands’ Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival, were awarded 78.775 then she nudged Stremier down to fourth spot and Werth was the confirmed winner once again.
Confident of victory
Asked afterwards if she felt confident of victory going into today’s class, Werth replied, “I was hoping for a good score, but you never know until the end. My horse is in good shape but I was not expecting this electric atmosphere so I’m completely happy that she dealt with it. There was one mistake, but were were more with the music today, the whole thing had more shape to it and it was more experience for my mare. We are getting more confident with each other and with the music, and that was the whole thing basically. I’m very happy” she explained.
Second-placed von Bredow-Werndl said she couldn’t believe the reception she got from the spectators. “They were amazing, I live at other end of Germany, I’m from Bavaria so these are not people I know but I think they must love my horse!” she said. Talking about today’s performance she pointed out, “I felt in Amsterdam that Unee was in very, very good shape, athletic with lots of power, very supple and with me all the way. I’ve been having so much fun working with him and he has improved a lot over the last few weeks but it was not as good as Amsterdam today or yesterday, because the crowd is so close to the arena.
“Usually he loves that but this is a very special atmosphere here”, she continued. “There was no noise, but there is a lot of electricity so he didn’t show himself in the same way. I wanted him to be more self-confident and convinced. I wanted us to be at least as good as we were in Amsterdam, so I am a bit disappointed because of the bigger difference in points between Isabell and me. In Amsterdam there was only one point, today it was three percent, but I know what we can improve on that” she added.
Looking forward to the final
She is looking forward to the Final in Gothenburg now. “There are just four weeks left and that’s perfect. We will have one week of holiday (for Unee) and then start to train again” von Bredow-Werndl explained. Her next trip will be to Doha (QAT) with Zaire – “she’s also in the top 30 of the world rankings and she is my next superstar!” said the rider who also has the Rio 2016 Olympic Games in her line of sight.
“I will probably do Hagen (GER) as my first outdoor competition in April and the we will do the two official qualifiers for Rio, at Balve and Aachen” she explained. Asked if she felt confident of selection to represent her country in Brazil next August she replied, “you never know in Germany because we have so many strong combinations. All I can do is focus on my own performances and do my very best!”.
Werth also has her plans in place for the coming months, and is looking forward to the return of the mare, Bella Rose, who helped to clinch team gold for Germany at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Normanday (FRA) in 2014, and who she hopes to bring to Rio.
In work already
“Bella Rose is in work already and I will bring her out later in season. We are really focused, but it is step by step and fingers crossed” she said, referring to the horse’s return to the top level of the sport after a long injury break. “It will be a really slow build up for her, I don’t want to put pressure on her by bringing her out in a Freestyle, I want her to come back and relax. She has so much temperament, it would be crazy to bring her to an indoor and it was never the plan to put her in the World Cup anyway. She feels more free and relaxed outside, so that’s the plan”, Werth explained.
With Weihegold growing ever-more confident and Don Johnson also in flying form she may be spoiled for choice this summer. But first she will bid for another FEI World Cup™ Dressage title in Sweden next month.
It is 24 years since she first claimed the trophy with Fabienne at Gothenburg in 1992, and nine years since she stood top of the podium in Las Vegas after victory with Warum Nicht. Asked today if she thinks she could make it a hat-trick in a few weeks’ time she replied, “I’m so long in the sport that I know that the next show is a new day and a new situation. We will try our best, yes I am in a good situation, but nothing more. I will go to Dortmund in two weeks and then to den Bosch (s’Hertogenbosch, NED) with Don (Johnson) and then the Final. We will see…..” she concluded.
Photos: FEI/Stefan Lafrentz