German superstar, Isabell Werth, produced a personal-best Freestyle score of 90.09 to win today’s second leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2016/2017 Western European League at Lyon in France. The 47-year-old rider and her 11-year-old mare simply blew the competition away with an outstanding performance that seemed to take even this multi-medalled athlete by surprise.
The pair who claimed team gold and individual silver at the Rio 2016 Olympic Games were always favourites, especially after winning yesterday’s preliminary Grand Prix. But the scale of today’s victory was exceptional. “I was expecting she could do a super job, but to get more than 90 percent, now that was a amazing! She has really improved since Rio!” Werth said of her talented horse.
Britain’s Carl Hester and his Olympic ride Nip Tuck finished second with a big score of 85.02, while defending FEI World Cup™ Dressage champion, The Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud, slotted into third with Glock’s Johnson on a mark of 80.22. In an all-German battle for fourth it was Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Zaire-E who edged out birthday girl Fabienne Lutkemeier and D’Agostino FRH by just 0.01 marks when posting 79.63, while Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and Deja filled sixth place on 77.97.
Kittel led the world-class 15-strong field at the halfway stage, but once Werth set sail with four left to go, the result never seemed in any doubt, Weihegold’s confidence and self-carriage complimenting delightful passage, piaffe and pirouette. In essence it all seemed effortless, and as she left the arena the six-time Olympic gold medallist had the broadest of smiles.
“Since Rio my mare has even more power and more muscle, and I know we can be even better. I need a few more competitions to make it really come together but it’s so exciting!” said the athlete who secured the first of her two FEI World Cup™ Dressage titles in 1992 and who has the 2017 Final at Omaha (USA) firmly in her sights.
Hester has the same target, and joked today that he felt he had a great chance now that his proteges, the world-beating partnership of Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, are retiring. “I thought this season might be my opportunity, but now that Isabell is getting so much better it’s going to be a tougher fight!” he said.
The nine-leg series now moves to Stuttgart in Germany next month.
Photo: Pierre Costabadie/FEI