Just when it seems that Anky van Grunsven and Keltec Salinero can’t get any better, they do.
The spectators in the sold-out Brabant-Hallen at ‘s-Hertogenbosch (the Netherlands) gave standing ovations to their idol, Anky van Grunsven, and her 12-year-old, Hanoverian gelding, Salinero. The reigning Olympic and World Cup champions from the Netherlands achieved an 87.92 percent–the highest percentage ever scored in an international Grand Prix freestyle.
Two judges gave them scores of 96 and 94 percent at the ‘s-Hertogenbosch CDI-W, held March 23-26.
“I have the feeling that the communication between Salinero and me gets better and better, and we can work now on the details,” com-mented van Grunsven.
In the hotly contested event–the last World Cup qualifier before the FEI World Cup Final in Amsterdam, the Netherlands–Edward Gal claimed second with the 13-year-old, Dutch Warmblood stallion Group 4 Securicor Lingh.
Just as he did when taking second to van Grunsven at the 2005 FEI World Cup Final, Gal used trance music for his freestyle. “It is at the moment my favorite music, and obviously the judges and the crowd liked it too,” he said.
Third place went to Isbell Werth and the 10-year-old, chestnut gelding Warum Nicht FRH, better known as “Hannes.” Their 81.72 percent was a personal record for the Hanoverian gelding and underlined Werth’s return to the top of the international dressage world.
Werth–the 1996 individual Olympic gold medalist and 2000 individual Olympic silver medalist–was pleased with the outcome of the Indoor Brabant show. “Hannes has shown an outstanding performance in the freestyle as well as in the Grand Prix. Over the indoor season he has got better and better with more experience. He is no longer unbalanced by the odd flower or shadow. He is so sporting, a real athlete,” Werth said.
Werth’s wins continued in the Grand Prix for the Special and the Grand Prix Special aboard Satchmo. “Overall, Satchmo was much more relaxed, and I have the feeling we are on the right track. Which of the two horses I will try to qualify for the German World Equestrian Games team, I do not know yet. Let’s see how the outdoor season goes,” said Werth.
But Werth’s wins don’t obscure the fact that Satchmo still is not very reliable in the piaffes, though she very skilfully kept him with her. Werth isn’t alone in her challenges. The historic score achieved by Salinero couldn’t hide the fact that his hind legs were very uneven in the passage.
In the past, although organizers of the Indoor Brabant show have fought for more openness and transparency in dressage, this year they only showed the single scores for each movement during the first riders in the Grand Prix of the Grand Prix Special tour. After that only the average percentage of a ride was shown, along with a comparison showing the average percentage the leading rider had had at that stage of the test.
From the German riders, Ellen Schulten-Baumer and Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff qualified for the World Cup Final. Linsenhoff rode Wahajama-Unicef to sixth in ‘s-Hertogenbosch’s World Cup freestyle with a very harmonic and expressive performance (76.52%).
From the Dutch side, four riders will compete in Amsterdam’s final. Besides van Grunsven as titleholder, Gal, Laurens van Lieren–who was fifth at ‘s-Hertogenbosch aboard Hexagon’s Ollright (78.12%)–and Imke Schellekens-Bartels have qualified.
Schellekens-Bartels–the daughter of the dressage World Cup initiator Joep Bartels–achieved a personal best with 80.50 percent to take fourth in only the fifth CDI-W outing for her mare.
She took over the ride on the 12-year-old, Hanoverian mare from her mother, Tineke Bartels-de Vries, when her Olympic mount Lancet was sold after the Athens Olympics to British rider Emma Hindle. Sunrise, who is still owned by her breeder, had two foals before she started training and was competed to Prix St. Georges by Imke’s mother three years ago.
Another Dutch combination to watch will be young Marlies van Baalen and the 15-year-old, Oldenburg stallion Relevant, the former ride of American Lisa Wilcox. She turned in very harmonic rides, with the stallion well at her aids and with highlights in the piaffes, passage and tempi changes.
The daughter of Coby van Baalen placed fourth in the Grand Prix and sixth in the Grand Prix Special.
With a purse of $131,087 for the four international Grand Prix classes, ‘s-Hertogenbosch has been the highest endowed indoor CDI besides the World Cup Final at Amsterdam, which will have a purse of approximately $157,790. And while the dressage events were well-attended by spectators, many missed the indoor World Cup driving usually held at ‘s-Hertogenbosch.
“The dressage attracts the spectators to the arena–that is why we decided to cancel the World Cup driving competition and to put the $30,650 we have saved by this decision into the dressage competitions,” said director Frank Kempermann.