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March 7, 2008

Werth Will Be Ready After Winning At Neumünster

She and Warum Nicht FRH win the last World Cup qualifier on their way to the FEI World Cup Dressage Final.

The battle for supremacy at the FEI World Cup Dressage Final is shaping up to be a colossal one. 

Isabell Werth used a win at the final qualifier at the Neumünster CDI-W, Germany, on Feb. 14-17 to make it clear she’ll be ready to defend her 2007 World Cup Final title.  Werth’s biggest challenger will be Anky van Grunsven and IPS Salinero, the World Cup Final champions in 2004, 2005 and 2006.  Van Grunsven sat out the 2007 World Cup Final because she was pregnant.  But she and Salinero have also won two qualifiers this season.

Werth and Warum Nicht FRH earned their third victory in the current World Cup season with a score of 82.75 percent. “I am super satisfied and happy with how ‘Hannes’ has performed today,” Werth said. “The piaffe-passage tour has matured throughout the winter work, and I am happy that we could show this today.”

For the final, Werth does not plan to come up with a new freestyle. “This would appear to me to be too daredevil for the final. In any case, the current one suits Hannes very well, and I cannot accept that there should be a compulsion to present a new freestyle every two years,” Werth said. “Nevertheless, I do have ideas for a new one. I guess in autumn, I will present a new choreography for the next World Cup season.”

While the battle royale should be between Werth and van Grunsven, Jan Brink has proved his readiness to compete as well.  Second place in the CDI-W freestyles at Neumünster and the preceding show, Odense (Denmark), earned him top World Cup points.  Werth—as the defending champion—does not collect World Cup points.  So, Brink now stands tied with van Grunsven at the top of the Western European League.

Brink plans to have a new program for the World Cup Final freestyle. Sweden’s 2003 and 2005 European Championships individual bronze medalists, Brink and the 17-year-old chestnut stallion Björsells Briar showed significantly improvement over their Grand Prix performance, in which they had placed only fifth.

In the freestyle test they presented a harmonic, but expressive performance, with highlights in the piaffe-passage tour as well as the canter tour, with remarkable self-carriage. For the artistic score they received once a 9.0 and twice an 8.9.  With 78.50 percent, the top Swedish combination staked their claim.

But Denmark’s Andreas Helgstrand was close on his heels with another talented young horse.  Helgstrand made legions of fans with his individual silver in the freestyle at the 2006 World Equestrian Games aboard the mesmerizing Blue Hors Matine.  Matine sat out 2007 after an injury sustained while shipping to the 2007 World Cup Final (Nev.). Helgstrand looks to have an able new youngster, however, in Gredstedgard’s Casmir.

Just 9, Casmir and Helgstrand earned a 78.30 percent for third in what Helgstrand said was the best freestyle performance he has done so far in his young career.  His rock music included Pink Floyd’s “Another Brick In The Wall,” music that suited the elegant, dark brown gelding well. For higher marks, Casmir has to become more technically mature and more balanced, especially in the piaffe-passage tour. But, scores above 80 percent seem to be in reach.
Tidbits

The 10-year-old Swedish stallion Okeanos is a full brother to Jan Brink’s Briar.  Brink rode Okeanos to top placings in the Intermediaire and Prix St. Georges classes at Neumünster and plans to move him up to Grand Prix in the fall.  An injury in his 3-year-old year prevented Okeanos from being broken until he was 5.

Kyra Kyrklund, who rode Max to fourth in the CDI-W freestyle at Neumünster, trains both Brink and Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgestein. Digby, ridden by zu Sayn-Wittgestein, took third in the Grand Prix (70.08%) and fifth in the freestyle (74.05%). Zu Sayn-Wittgestein’s mother bred Digby, a Danish stallion by Donnerhall.

While Helgstrand competed Casmir in the 2007 European Championships, his top-call horses are still Don Schufro and Matine. Both horses are recovering from injury, but Helgstrand intends to bring them back for the outdoor season.

For the first time in the history of the FEI World Cup Dressage Final, five of the eight finalists qualified in the Western European League are coming from Scandinavian countries with Brink of Sweden, Anders Dahl of Denmark, Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein of Denmark, Kyra Kyrklund of Finland and Andreas Helgstrand of Denmark.

Two Dutch riders–Anky van Grunsven and Laurens van Lieren–and Belgium’s Jeroen Devroe will join them. Werth will be the sole representative from Germany.

For almost two decades, German riders dominated the World Cup qualifying. Werth was the only German competitor in the 2007 Final in Las Vegas, Nev.

But, the argument that the German riders would not like to go overseas to compete at Las Vegas does not count this year, with the final to be held at ’s-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.

Where are the German riders? What causes this lack of the world’s leading dressage nation in the World Cup, which has certainly become one of the strongest advertisements for dressage?

For Germany’s dressage coach Holger Schmezer the significance of the World Cup has changed. “The German riders have established other priorities. To compete in the indoor and outdoor season  with the same horse appears to be too much for them for one horse. This must be respected,” he said. “The sale
of the German horses certainly plays a role as well; we had two leave this season.”

When the established riders do not take their chances, there is at least space for new faces, and this is good for the sport, certainly when they leave as good impressions as the British rider Camilla Sygall and the French rider Marc Boblet did.

The British rider qualified with a 10th place in the Grand Prix aboard the expressive, 12-year-old Oldenburg, gray gelding DJ. Unfortunately, in the freestyle, the D-Day son shied at the beginning of the test in one corner of the narrow arena and the combination finished only 12th. Nevertheless, potential could be seen.

For Boblet, 36, who runs a dressage barn near Paris and trains regularly with Monica Theodorescu, Neumünster was just his second international show. In the Grand Prix, he and Whitni Satr, a
9-year-old, Belgian-bred gelding, took 15th place.

In the freestyle, the talented, bay gelding appeared even more confident and was able to present even better his high quality for piaffe and passage. They are a combination to keep an eye on in the future.

Birgit Popp
 
Horse Sports