The Netherlands' Adelinde Cornelissen moved ever-closer to taking the 2010/2011 title tonight when recording a convincing victory in the Grand Prix with Jerich Parzival at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage final in Leipzig, Germany. Hotly-tipped to scoop the honours following a spectacular indoor season, the Dutch rider and her powerful chestnut gelding produced a confident performance that put a score of 80.957 on the scoreboard. And as German contenders Ulla Salzgeber and Isabell Werth had to settle for third and fourth places respectively, it was the Danish Princess, Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein, who snatched runner-up spot with a personal-best result from Digby.
Nerves got in the way of the performances of some of the earliest contenders, but the second tranche of riders exploded into action with a lovely test from up-and-coming German star Helen Langehanenberg who steered Damon Hill NRW into a temporary lead with a mark of 73.480. However Cornelissen, drawn fifth from the end, broke completely new ground when Parzival earned 80.957. The strength of this partnership is now beyond any doubt, the rider super-confident and the horse long past the edgy moments that previously prevented him from showing his true potential. It is difficult to imagine that the Dutch partnership can be overtaken for the supreme award of this indoor international dressage season during which their class has been undeniable.
Germany's Isabell Werth and Satchmo started strongly but their score of 74.818 was never going to challenge for the lead and then Cornelissen's team-mate, Hans Peter Minderhoud, was two marks further in arrears with Exquis Nadine. But, second-last into the arena, former FEI World Cup™ Dressage champion Ulla Salzgeber was awarded 76.216 for her work with Herzruf's Erbe to move into runner-up spot only to be demoted by the last duo into the ring. Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby seemed to be thoroughly enjoying themselves and produced a quality of movement that took even this experienced rider by surprise. "I'm rather speechless actually" the Danish rider said. "If someone had told me four years ago that this little horse would, even once in his life, produce a score of 76 I would have said yes, well, really....but he tries his heart out and I'm really thankful to him for how hard he tries".
She feels he has improved at a rapid rate recently, "and in 's-Hertogenbosch he was really good in the Grand Prix" she pointed out. "There is now a lot of expression in his trot, this has developed over the winter months, and after Den Bosch I can ask more now in the arena and he gives it to me willingly" she explained. She talked about the challenge of managing her baby, born last year, along with her competitive career. "The child comes first of course but I have found a way to balance things between my child and the horses - I have fantastic girls and a fantastic husband so it is working very well" she added.
Judge, Ghislain Fouarge, talked about the difficulties faced by some of the early riders. He said the atmosphere got to a lot of the horses and so they didn't give of their best, but FEI Dressage Director, Trond Asmyr, pointed out that all of today's competitors had to achieve a qualifying score of 68% in two Freestyle qualifiers to make it to the final. "I stood there as they came out of the arena today and for most them it was just that they had a bad day - after all we are talking about horses here, they are not motorbikes, and so they do have bad days sometimes!" he pointed out.
Asked about the new Supervisory Panel which was in action, he explained during the post-competition press conference that the panel took an active part in proceedings. "They changed four marks - one mark for four different riders - and this information is not confidential in any way. We want to have the system completely open, so the riders will get a copy of their test sheet to show exactly what has been done and how the marks were altered".
Order-Of-Go For Saturdays Freestyle
The order-of-go for Saturday's Freestyle was then drawn and is as follows : 1, Winyamaro (Catherine Haddad-Staller) USA; 2, Come On III (Shawna Harding) USA; 3, Weinzauber (Robert Acs) HUN; 4, Artemis (Richard Davison) GBR; 5, Edwador (Katarzyna Milczarek) POL; 6, Rafalca (Jan Ebeling) USA; 7, Sisther de Jeu (Edward Gal) NED; 8, Exquis Nadine (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED; 9, Apollo van het Vijverhof (Jeroen Devroe) BEL; 10, Watermill Scandic HBC (Patrik Kittel) SWE; 11, Damon Hill NRW (Helen Langehanenberg) GER; 12, Digby (Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein) DEN; 13, Jerich Parzival (Adelinde Cornelissen) NED; 14, Herzruf's Erbe (Ulla Salzgeber) GER; 15, Satchmo 78 (Isabell Werth) GER.
Defending champion, Edward Gal, had a disappointing test today as he battled with his tense mare, but the signs all suggest that his Dutch compatriot Cornelissen will bring the glory home once again to The Netherlands this weekend. However as all those involved in equestrian sport are constantly reminded, the result is never secured until the lights have gone down and the applause has faded. The 2010/2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage title still hangs in the balance.
Audio links following today's competition:
Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein - http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/Reem_Natahalie.MP3
Richard Davison - http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/Reem_Davison_rd1.mp3
Catherine Haddad - http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/Reem_Haddad.MP3
1, Jerich Parzival (Adelinde Cornelissen) NED 80.957; 2, Digby (Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein) DEN 76.884; 3, Herzruf's Erbe (Ulla Salzgeber) GER 76.216; 4, Satchmo (Isabell Werth) GER 74.818; 5, Damon Hill NRW (Helen Langehanenberg) GER 73.480; 6, Exquis Nadine (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 72.660; 7, Watermill Scandic HBC (Patrik Kittel) SWE 70.410; 8, Sisther de Jeu (Edward Gal) NED 70.122; 9, Apollo van het Vijverhof (Jeroen Devroe) BEL 68.480; 10, Rafalca (Jan Ebeling) USA 68.191; 11, Winyamaro (Catherine Haddad-Staller) USA 67.340; 12, Edwador (Katarzyna Milczarek) POL 66.778; 13, Artemis (Richard Davison) GBR 66.611; 13, ; 14, Weinzauber (Robert Acs) HUN 64.767; 15, Come On lll (Shawna Harding) USA 64.696; 16, Leo Af Magnushoj (Nina Hoffmann) SWE 64.301; 17, Skovlunds Mas Guapo (Mikaela Lindh) FIN 62.903.