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June 30, 2006

Werth Warms Up For The WEG

Germany's Isabell Werth and her World Equestrian Games hope Warum Nicht FRH proved they're ready to contend for a gold medal by topping the Grand Prix Special at the Wiesbaden CDI (Germany), June 2-5, with a score of 76.56 percent.

The 2006 FEI World Cup Final runners-up bested the Danish Grand Prix winners Andreas Helgstrand and Matine, who placed second with 73.56 percent. The Danish rider had won the Grand Prix Special the two previous years: in 2004 aboard Blue Hors Cavan and in 2005 aboard Don Schufro.

With Helgstrand's and Matine's outstanding victory of the Grand Prix for the Special, they had been considered as the favorites again for this year's Special victory. But the gray mare gave away the victory after spooking in the extended walk because of children playing outside the ring and lost more points in the same spot during the second canter pirouette. Both those movements are double co-efficient scores.

"I am not at all disappointed, but it is quite unlucky that the mistakes have slipped in due to an external influence. Matine is still young--she still has to get used to these things," Helgstrand said.

That's true also for the 10-year-old Warum Nicht FRH, who had similar problems the day before in the Grand Prix for the Special, in which he placed third. "Today, Warum Nicht was already much more focused than yesterday," Werth said after the Special. "We still have to practice a bit at home with flowers outside the ring," she said.

With a third place in the Grand Prix Special, the reigning European and World team champions Klaus Husenbeth and Piccolino (73.32%) underlined their claim for a place in the German team. The decision will not be made before the only official trial, at the German Championships at M�nster mid-July.

Despite his problems with Matine, Helgstrand finished in style on his veteran mount, Blue Hors Cavan, winning the Grand Prix freestyle in front of thousands of spectators under a floodlit dressage arena laid down in front of the picturesque Biebrich Palace. The Danish rider took victory with an enthusiastically applauded ride, scoring 80.15 percent. Blue Hors Cavan, now 16, belied his years with a very fresh and powerful performance.

Local hero Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff rode Wahajama-Unicef (75.40%) to second place, with third going to Ellen Schulten-Baumer and Lesotho (73.40%). For Helgstrand, Wiesbaden has always been a successful place. Two years ago there, his star began to rise, when he launched into the spotlight with his Grand Prix Special victory aboard Blue Hors Cavan, ahead of the international top stars. One year later he won again, this time aboard Don Schufro, with whom he is one of the medal favorites for the World Championships at Aachen this summer.

Helgstrand, 29, is the resident dressage trainer at the Blue Hors stud farm. His success of the last three years seems hard to believe for Helgstrand. "It is like a wonderful dream to be so successful with three horses. Even if it does not continue like this forever, what has been, nobody can take away from me," he said.

One star that looks to be ascending now is German-based American rider Catherine Haddad. The international dressage judge Dietrich Plewa, who acted as the commentator for the dressage radio, said about her Special ride: "This ride captivates with the discreet--almost invisible--aids of the rider and the obedience of the horse, the harmony of rider and horse, the ease, with which all movements are performed. This was a very fine test."

And, he would have given 8s for the second canter pirouette, which was in rhythm, balanced and settled. He found it very hard to explain why his colleagues at the judges' table scored Haddad low.

Another highlight of Haddad's test were the passages. In the end, Haddad and the May Sherif-son Maximus JSS finished in seventh place in the Grand Prix Special (67.72%).

In the Grand Prix for the Special, they had some mistakes but still placed 11th and qualified for the Special. Although the score of 67.45 percent from the Grand Prix isn't too far from her Special score, the two tests were quite different.

"I think Maximus was a bit tired here at Wiesbaden and did not show all the potential he has," said Haddad. "We had had quite a tour of shows, and I will give him three weekends off now."

Indeed it had been quite a successful tour of shows. In the Munich CDI (Germany), one weekend before Wiesbaden, the combination was third in the Grand Prix as well as in the Grand Prix freestyle, scoring 71.60 percent. In CDI Hansbeke (Belgium) they were only 12th in the Grand Prix but third in the Special. At the CDI Hagen (Germany), they placed fifth in the Grand Prix freestyle test.

And, Haddad has still further goals. "I will ask for a bye for the trials at Gladstone [N.J.] and hope I will be able to qualify for the U.S. team for the WEG through the European shows," she said.
 
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