The dream came true for the Netherlands' Adelinde Cornelissen tonight when the biggest Sugar Plum Fairy of them all, the magnificent Jerich Parzival, danced to victory in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ 2010/2011 Final at Leipzig, Germany. To the strains of Tchaikovsky's Nutcracker Suite the 14-year-old gelding produced another powerful performance in the hands of his 31-year-old rider who has endured plenty of disappointments over the last few years. But at last it was her turn to stand in the limelight she has so long deserved. The spotlight is not something Parzival revels in, as his post-presentation antics confirmed, but the partnership has now entered the equestrian history books as the 11th Dutch winners of the coveted title.
Repeating the result of yesterday's Grand Prix, Denmark's Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein and Digby finished second, while Germany's Ulla Salzgeber steered Herzruf's Erbe into third. The 2010 title-winner, Edward Gal (GER), finished fourth with a great performance from the ever-more-confident Sisther de Jeu, while Germany's Isabell Werth and Satchmo were fifth ahead of Sweden's Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic in sixth.
The spectators had strong opinions about what they saw in the Leipzig arena tonight and didn't hold back in expressing them, but they celebrated Cornelissen's win with all the enthusiasm a new champion deserves.
A pleasing performance from America's Jan Ebeling and Rafalca put them out in front at the halfway stage of the first group of riders, but Gal and his 12-year-old mare then re-set the standard with lovely passage and extended trot work during an impressive test that earned a mark of 77.393 to take over the lead. Their advantage looked threatened by the last partnership before the break however as Sweden's Patrik Kittel set the arena alight. His 12-year-old chestnut, Watermill Scandic, showed great synchronicity with the musical score, and his crispness of movement and ease in transitions created expectations of a change at the top, but it wasn't to be as the judges awarded 76.375 for temporary runner-up spot.
Germany's Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW dropped in behind Kittel with a score of 74.546 as the final group of five got underway, but Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein then exploded into the lead with Digby, who has really come into his own this week. The 14-year-old horse's balance and cadence saw him earn consistently high marks, and with 80.036 on the board he was always going to be a contender. However Jerich Parzival's piaffe and pirouettes are mesmerising and his rhythm in the canter-changes is superb. When 84.804 went up on the scoreboard for the Dutch duo there seemed little doubt the title was already in their grasp.
It's never over until it's over however, especially with two German riders still to go, and although Ulla Salzgeber and Herzruf's Erbe were well short of the target when awarded 78.821, her fellow-countrywoman Isabell Werth produced a stunning start to her test with Satchmo. The 17-year-old horse was hugely expressive in his opening extended trot and piaffe, but Werth once said that this gelding "verges between genius and madness", and just when it seemed he might be about to come up with a spectacular result he suddenly resorted to the latter when clipping the boards and running off in canter, and then kicking out with a hind-leg in the piaffe before coming up the centre-line for the final time. Only a competitor of Werth's experience and professionalism could have coped with the explosive naughtiness that was emerging from under her saddle, and the mark of 77.143 left her having to settle for fifth place.
All Girl Line-Up
It was an all-girl line-up in the post-competition press conference. Asked if this result made up for the series of mishaps that have dogged her career in recent times Cornelissen insisted that it did not, because she doesn't dwell on the past. "I never look back, I think about where I'm at now - disappointment is all part of this sport because there are always ups and downs", she insisted. And asked if she missed the intense competition she used to experience when team-mate Edward Gal was partnered with the stallion Totilas before the stallion's sale last year she said, "yes, I miss Totilas because when somebody is better than you it makes you work much harder - so I'd like to thank him actually!"
Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein could hardly believe that she had finished second tonight - "I'm still pinching myself and I have a big blue mark on my arm to prove it. My plan was to be in the top six, so to be second is beyond all expectations", she said.
New York fashion designer, Reem Acra, became title sponsor of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage last September and her representative, Lisa Wells, said tonight that "this first season could not have been better - it has been a fantastic experience for the Reem Acra brand to be part of this wonderful, beautiful sport". And that wonderful, beautiful sport now has a new, and highly popular World Cup champion in the shape of Adelinde Cornelissen and the bold Jerich Parzival.
Result: 1, Jerich Parzival (Adelinde Cornelissen) NED 84.804; 2, Digby (Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein) DEN 80.036; 3, Herzruf's Erbe (Ulla Salzgeber) GER 78.821; 4, Sisther de Jeu (Edward Gal) NED 77.393; 5, Satchmo (Isabell Werth) 77.143; 6, Watermill Scandic (Patrik Kittel) SWE 76.375; 7, Damon Hill NRW (Helen Langehanenberg) GER 74.946; 8, Exquis Nadine (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 74.321; 9, Apollo van het Vijverhof (Jeroen Devroe) BEL 73.768; 10, Artemis (Richard Davison) GBR 73.143; 11, Rafalca (Jan Ebeling) USA 72.589; 12, Winyamaro (Catherine Haddad-Staller) USA 70.161; 13, Edwador (Katarzyna Milczarek) POL 69.786; 14, Come On lll (Shawna Harding) USA 67.625; 15, Weinzauber (Robert Acs) HUN 65.429
Listen to the stars from today’s Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Final Dressage with audio links following today's competition:
Adelinde Cornelissen - http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/Reem_adelinde.mp3
Ulla Salzgeber - http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/Reem_ulla.mp3
Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein - http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/ReemAcra_Nat.mp3
Lisa Wells, Reem Acra - http://www.lloydbell.co.uk/access/client_zone/ReemAcra_wells.mp3
Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein talking about her horse, Digby - "he's the Emperor in my stable now!"
Ulla Salzgeber - "This was the first big Championship for Erbe and I'm very happy and pleased with him. This is his first indoor season and he's not used to the crowds and the atmosphere so I love him because he worked so well for me today!"
Katrina Wüst, President of the Ground Jury - "the quality of the Freestyle design, with a few exceptions, was very fitting to the ability of the horses. Dressage has taken a huge step forward here this weekend and not just for the top competitors."
Katrina Wüst, talking about Isabell Werth's test and marks - "I gave her nines for the half-pass but in the canter Satchmo got blocked in his back. Isabell is a great Freestyle rider but the music then didn't fit anymore."
Adelinde Cornelissen, talking about her plans for Parzival now "we have some qualifiers for the team coming up, but first he gets a little holiday."