The reigning Olympic and European gold medalists, Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera BB, soared to victory on home ground in tonight’s Short Grand Prix at the FEI Dressage World Cup Final in Leipzig, Germany.
Last to go of the 17 starters, the pair were chasing the target set a few minutes earlier by Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour, who steered the 10-year-old Vamos Amigos to the first over-80% score of the competition when putting 80.01% on the board.
All seven judges were in complete agreement, however, when putting von Bredow-Werndl into pole position with a mark of 84.79%. The 36-year-old rider now goes into Saturday’s Grand Prix freestyle title-decider as firm favorite on the 15-year-old Trakehner mare (Easy Game—Dark Magic, Handryk), owned by Béatrice A. Buerchler-Keller.
“As you know I’m six months pregnant and I feel super fit and so does Dalera, but from a sporting point of view it’s a little bit sad because this is my last big competition before a break,” said von Bredow-Werndl, who has dominated her competitions over the past 10 months.
Dufour was elated with the result she achieved from her relatively young horse.
“I was surprised and super happy with his performance,” Dufour said. “He was really on fire in the ring, and the audience started clapping in the first extension and I thought ‘No!’ because he had legs everywhere! But he’s only done a few indoor shows so the fact that he kept his mind in the right place and performed like he did today that is really fantastic.”
Asked if her Olympic ride, Bohemian, might find himself in the shadow of this new young star, Dufour laughed and said, “No you don’t know how big Bohemian’s ego is! Of course Vamos has plenty of quality and there is way more in him, but Bohemian has more experience so far and I feel very lucky I have two horses that are currently ready for a team position—obviously with the World Championships coming up in Denmark.”
Defending World Cup champion Isabell Werth of Germany finished third with her three-time winner Weihegold OLD on a score of 79.75%. The 17-year-old mare will be retired after Saturday evening’s freestyle competition, and Werth couldn’t hold back the tears in her post-competition TV interview.
“She did a super job, just a little mistake—I think a one-tempi was a bit short in the beginning,” Werth said. “She was so focused, and especially the highlights were piaffe/passage and the pirouettes were really good. So I’m just happy and looking forward to Saturday, and it’s a pleasure for me to present her in that way.
“She’s done so many great competitions, from the beginning to the end she always tries to give her best and that makes her a very special horse,” she added.
Werth’s score of left her well clear of fourth-place Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Atterupgaards Orthilia of Denmark, who set the standard with a score of 75.75% when fifth into the arena.
Ashley Holzer and Havanna 145 are the top-placed U.S. pair, sitting ninth on 72.51%.
“I’m thrilled,” Holzer said. “I think for my mare to come and perform like this when she’s never been in an atmosphere like this…. She just went in there and tried her absolute hardest, and she was just amazing. The highlight for me was going clean. It’s such a short test and mistakes are incredibly costly because there’s no time to make it up. I really was focused on going clean.”
Holzer thanked her friend and stand-in coach Katherine Bateson-Chandler for her help this week, as the pair train consistently together at home in Florida.
“She’s amazing and she sees the mare train every day, so she knows how she goes and what we can do,” Holzer said of Bateson-Chandler. “She really knows when to push me and when to not push me and knows how much to push the mare or to not push her, and that really was a security blanket because she knows her so well.
“It’s been a long road to get here with this horse, and she’s really just surprised me more and more—I’m just thrilled for everyone involved.”
Anna Buffini and FRH Davinia La Douce, the other U.S. pair in the field, are 17th on 69.34% and eager to improve Saturday.
“I was happy with a lot of the ride,” Buffini said. “Something we wanted to prepare we executed on really well, and then there were some other things that were tight, and we had a few mistakes, so to come out with a positive feeling and a nice score with things to work on is always a good feeling.
“I’m looking forward to everything about Saturday,” she continued. “If I could only ride freestyles forever I would. She always kills, and I love it.”
Looking ahead to Saturday’s Freestyle, von Bredow-Werndl said she loves her current one, “and I think Dalera does too, she feels the rhythm, she knows it’s her music and maybe that gives her even more confidence.
“It still feels like she’s improving and always giving 100 percent and when there are mistakes it’s because of me,” she added. “She’s always on fire and always willing to do her very best”.
Dufour said she is “borrowing bits and pieces from Bohemian’s Olympic freestyle, and since I’ve only done two World Cups I haven’t had time to make one of his very own [for Vamos Amigos]. So I’ve stolen the music and played with the choreography. It’s a super high degree of difficulty and I think the music suits really well and it tells a story about my life at the moment. I feel like I’m living the dream back home and I just enjoy every day with the horses and I think the music sums it up really well.”
Werth meanwhile is determined that Weihegold will go out in style on Saturday night.
“I hope we can show a very good test like she deserves, and it will be pleasure to be here with a loud crowd in a competition. I think it’s just great to retire her not in an empty arena, she really deserves this atmosphere, so I’m really looking forward to it and I will try to enjoy it. And of course I have the pressure of showing her as best as possible, more than ever before because it is the last one!”
Saturday’s freestyle starts at 7:10 p.m. local time (1:10 p.m. EDT).
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