Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival, the defending champions from The Netherlands, clinched the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage title for the second consecutive season when topping the Freestyle on home turf in 's-Hertogenbosch (NED) today. But Germany's Helen Langehanenberg really pressurised the dominant Dutch duo with a spectacular performance that left them a close second, while Italy's Valentina Truppa was a huge hit with the packed stadium of spectators when finishing third with Ermo del Castegno. As Ground Jury President, The Netherlands' Ghislain Fouarge, later confirmed, the level of competition at the Brabanthallen was much improved in today's decider compared to yesterday's Grand Prix. "Even the judges were a bit disappointed after yesterday's Grand Prix as most of the competitors were not at their best, but it was completely different today," he said.
A score of 86.250 clinched the title for Cornelissen, who went fourth from last in the field of 18 starters, and that put her just over a single point ahead of runner-up Langehanenberg.
As a matter of fact, expectations rose as Isabell Werth entered the arena with El Santo FRH. It is 20 years since the 42-year-old rider and mother won her first FEI World Cup™ Dressage title showing Fabienne, which she followed with a second 15 years later showing 'Hannes'. With her usual competitive attitude she made her entry into the arena and missed nothing to express her goal. Riding half passes is one of her forces and the music accompanied the cheerful image of the pair. The only weaknesses still were the piaffes, however the score of 79% set the target and gave the competition a boost!
Werth and El Santo remained out in front after the break until Langehanenberg turned the competition on its head with a fabulous ride. Her 12-year-old stallion, Damon Hill, won the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Western European League qualifier at Neumunster (GER) and was runner-up in Amsterdam (NED) on the road to this weekend's seasonal finale. The stunningly good-looking horse was on the button all the way today, with lovely piaffe, passage and pirouette racking up high scores for a strong lead with a personal best mark of 85.214!
Helen Langehanenberg was very happy with her performance, although she sadly missed her teamcoach Holger Schmezer whom she believed to be her personal mentor as well as he always had a strong belief in her performances, she said afterwards. Helen relies on her husband Sebastian Langehanenberg at shows, who always accompanies her to the lessons from trainer Balkenhol. During the WC Final her trainer Klaus Balkenhol was there in person as he was training British Laura Bechtolsheimer in Great-Britain while he also kept an eye on his daughter Annabel who has her first start in the outdoor season next week in Hagen.
Last to go, Italy's Valentina Truppa and Eremo del Castegno brought the competition to a perfect conclusion with a test so full of life that the spectators roared with delight as she saluted the judges for the final time.
Nessun Dorma for the walk, the song 'Marina' for passage, as Truppa said herself afterwards, "people were singing to some of the songs - this type of music is happy and good for the public - it's a combination of an Italian rider, an Italian horse and Italian music!". Truppa became the third rider to score above 80 percent, putting 81.232 on the board for third place.
So it was Cornelissen who had the style to record the 12th Dutch victory in the 27-year history of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage series which now goes forward into its third year of sponsorship by New York fashion designer, Reem Acra, in 2012/2013.
For Poland's Katarzyna Milczarek there was deep disappointment however when chair judge Mr Fouarge stopped the test to tell her that her horse had blood on his flank, and was therefore eliminated. The Dutch judge explained afterwards that it's always sad to eliminate somebody, but it's in the rules. The skin of grey horses is more thin and sensitive for little problems caused by the spurs than skins of other colours, Fouarge explained. The 'blood rule' is still under discussion with the FEI due to the elimination of Cornelissen at WEG Kentucky 2010 when blood occurred at Parzival's mouth for a little while, so in the future new chances to restart might occur.
For further information on the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final at 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands (18-22 April) visit website www.indoorbrabant.com
Images by Julia Rau and Paul Harding lewishardingimages.com - visit for more images of the World Cup Finals in Dressage and Jumping.