Gothenburg, Sweden—April 5
Isabell Werth is accustomed to winning. She’s won Olympic Games, World Games, European Championships and—so far—four FEI World Cup Dressage Finals. She put herself in position to win a fifth here in Gothenburg by topping today’s Grand Prix with Weihegold OLD on a score of 81.75 percent.
“ ‘Weihe’ was really fantastic today, really focused and motivated,” said the German rider. “I knew she’s in really great shape, but in the moment she’s really motivated—sometimes a little too much at home already. The only challenge and risk for me was that she’s a little too motivated, so that was a bit the question, but she was really fantastic yesterday in warming up and training, so I felt really confident. But you never know. It was a pleasure to ride her today, and it was already a great atmosphere with a lot of spectators.”
But the riders start over on a clean slate for tomorrow’s Grand Prix freestyle, so Werth will still have to defend her title there, and least one competitor will be breathing down her neck: top U.S. rider Laura Graves with Verdades, who finished second today (80.10%) and beat Werth in last year’s World Cup Grand Prix in Paris (before finishing second to her in the freestyle). The two are also currently sitting first and second on the FEI Dressage World Ranking List.
“I was super thrilled with my horse today,” said Graves. “He’s known for being sensitive to atmosphere, but he felt actually very rideable, quite relaxed, so hopefully that gives me a good idea of how to ride here. I am incredibly hungry to be back on top of the podium, so we’re going to give it our best.
“I know there’s a real chance,” she continued. “I believe in this horse, and he’s 17 this year, and I think he’s in the best form of his life. I think there’s always a chance, and we’re going to ride like there is no other chance than to win.”
The U.S. squad is three deep this year after earning an extra entry through the FEI ranking list, and Kasey Perry-Glass also slotted into the top set after placing fourth in the Grand Prix with Goerklintgaards Dublet (77.26%).
“It felt great,” she said. “I feel like it was a really good atmosphere, very friendly. He kind of went into it really confident, and he caught me off guard a little bit when he sucked back in the trot work, which I’m not used to—usually he gets a little bit lit—so my first piaffe was a little bit iffy. But we were able to get it back and make up a lot of points in our canter work.
“I felt like he was very rideable today and came out and made an impression and showed off his best work, so yeah, I’m very happy,” she added.
Adrienne Lyle and Salvino finished tied for eighth (with Hans Peter Minderhoud on Glock’s Dream Boy N.O.P.) in the Grand Prix today. It’s the first indoor championship for her mount.
“He’s a little bit wide-eyed,” said Lyle. “We had a little bit of a spook going on in one of the corners, but then he settled into it for the end. And I really couldn’t have asked for more from him in his first time in this environment. I think now he’s had a chance to get in there once and see all the venue. I think he’ll be a little more relaxed—it just backed him off a tiny bit. I think there’s still a little bit more power and energy that we can keep consistently when he’s a just a touch more relaxed, and I just really look forward to riding my first World Cup freestyle.”
And Stephen Clarke, who judged at C today, offered a prophecy for the Grand Prix freestyle.
“I should think the roof should come off the place,” he said, “so I hope you have your seatbelts on.”
You can also read more information about this year’s World Cup schedule and see all of the Chronicle’s coverage.