The Netherlands' Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas swept to victory in the seventh leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage series in Amsterdam this afternoon to rocket up to the top of the series leaderboard. Once again thrilling both judges and spectators alike, the dynamic Dutch duo recorded a score of 87.70% as they high-stepped their way to success with their unique sparkle and panache. But the most remarkable thing about today's competition was the exceptionally high level of performance throughout the entire class. The sport of dressage has raised its game in dramatic fashion over the past 12 months, and horses and riders are meeting the challenge head-on.
Today, Great Britain's Laura Bechtolsheimer produced a wonderful test from Mistral Hojris to slot into second place with a score that was only just over four points behind the spectacular winners while Holland's Imke Schellekens-Bartels and Hunter Douglas Sunrise, double-winners already this season, finished third. The host country's Anky Van Grunsven and Painted Black were fourth ahead of Germany's Isabell Werth and Warum Nicht FRH in fifth, and Bartels now jointly-shares top spot on the league table with Gal.
It was Hans Peter Minderhoud who held the lead going into the second-half of the competition following a bright and happy test from Exquis Nadine. The 15 year old chestnut mare executed her extended trot and passage with lady-like delicacy and precision, and her forward-moving canter was perfectly balanced by her Dutch rider's sensitive and sympathetic hand to achieve a mark of 76.70%.
This would only be good enough for sixth place in the final analysis however, and the first to better that score was multiple champion Isabell Werth from Germany. Quickly back in harness after the birth of her baby son Frederick last October the 40 year old rider has lost none of her competitive edge, but despite excellent pirouettes and canter-changes there was a loss of rhythm several times so the score of 79.80% from Warum Nicht might easily have been improved upon. Next to go, and fourth-last into the arena, was Bechtolsheimer and the chestnut gelding Mistral Hojris whose confidence and character seem to have grown in leaps and bounds since claiming team silver and individual bronze for Great Britain at the Alltech FEI European Dressage Championships in Windsor last summer. They showed exuberant half-pass, piaffe and extended trot that oozed quality while Bechtolsheimer's ear for her musical score ensured their timing was impeccable. Taking the lead with 82.30% on the board, they were always going to finish strongly.
But Moorlands Totilas had the edge once more, although his rider has clearly learned the weight of the expectations now placed upon his able shoulders. Every time this partnership go in the ring now they are expected to break yet another world record, which is not altogether surprising since they have done so three times over the past 12 months. At Olympia in London just before Christmas they wowed the crowd with a breath-taking performance that achieved a spectacular score of 92.30% to finish a full 10 marks ahead of their nearest challengers, fellow-Dutch team members Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival. Today's test was not of the same calibre - but it was still awesome and in a class of its own.
"Totilas felt a bit tense today" Gal admitted afterwards, "but he is an amazing horse to ride and he exceeds my expectations time and time again. I want to ride better next time" he said, but added, "people have high expectations though. When I was in Stuttgart I scored 79% and I was receiving text messages in which people were asking me - "Oh, didn't it go well?!" - and I would be like, well Yes, it did, but I can't score really high every time!".
Second-last to go was Van Grunsven who understands all too well the situation in which Gal now finds himself. The reigning Olympic champion has won more titles than most people would ever dream of and was an almost-untouchable force in the sport for many years, but the arrival of a whole new generation of contenders has changed everything. She demonstrated her determination to stay in the game today however with a great test from Painted Black which slotted her into fourth behind last-to-go Schellekens-Bartels who produced a lovely performance from Sunrise for third place today, and level-pegging with Gal at the top of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage leaderboard.
And with just two more qualifying legs remaining - at Neumunster (Ger) and Goteborg (Swe) next month - before the final at 's-Hertogenbosch (Ned) in March that is a good place to be.....
RESULT: 1, Moorlands Totilas (Edward Gal) Ned 87.00%; 2, Mistral Hojris (Laura Bechtolsheimer) GBR 82.30%; 3, Hunter Douglas Sunrise (Imke Schellekens-Bartels) Ned 82.05%; 4, IPS Painted Black (Anky Van Grunsven) Ned 81.20%; 5, Warum Nicht FRH (Isabell Werth) Ger 79.80%; 6, Exquis Nadine (Hans Peter Minderhoud) Ned 76.70%; 7, Watermill Scandic HBC (Patrik Kittel) Swe 75.50%; 8, Nartan (Jeannette Haazen) Ned 74.75%; 9, Apollo Van het Vijverhof (Jeroen Devroe) Bel 74.40%; 10, Ovation (Christa Laarakkers) Ned 73.55%; 11, Premier (Aat Van Essen) Ned 72.70%; 12, Krawall (Jenny Schreven) Ned 72.40%; 13, Poko Loko (Manon Van Hylckama Vlieg) Ned 69.10%; 14, Randon (Michal Rapcewicz) Pol 68.25%; 15, Wito Corleone 2 (Alexandra Bimschas) Ger 67.40%.
2009/2010 FEI WORLD CUP™ DRESSAGE - STANDINGS after Round 7 at Amsterdam (Ned) - Provisional
1.Edward Gal, Imke Schellekens-Bartels - 55
3.Jeannette Haazen - 48
4.Anky Van Grunsven - 47
5.Adelinde Cornelissen, Monica Theodorescu - 41
7.Aat Van Essen - 38
8.Patrik Kittel - 36
9.Mathias Alexander Rath - 35
10.Laura Bechtolsheimer - 32
Full standings at http://www.scg-nl.nl/
FACTS AND FIGURES:
This was the seventh of the nine qualifying rounds before the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final takes place at s'Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands 25-27 March.
The oldest horse in today's competition was the dark bay KWPN gelding Karwall ridden by Jenny Schreven of The Netherlands. Krawall is 18 years old and just 7 years younger than his 25 year old rider. This partnership made their Grand Prix debut in 2009, and the elevation in Krawall's movement today belied his advanced years.
A capacity audience of 6,000 spectators enjoyed today's competition in Amsterdam.
Today's judges were - At E: Leif Tornblad (Den), At H: Adriaan Hamoen) Ned, At C: Wim Emes (Ned), At M Jean-Michel Roudier (Fra), At B: Jacques van Daele (Bel).s
Edward Gal, today's winner - '' It will be exciting to see how the final in Den Bosch goes. '
Imke Schellekens-Bartels - " I felt that my ride was very fluid and it went very well. My horse does not have the same movement as Totilas but she has amazing charisma and charm which is something I think shines through."
Wim Ernes (judge): "I am normally very calm and collected during judging, I have to be very concentrated. During this qualifier the riders really impressed me and the adrenaline started flowing."
Rogier van Iersel (sports director): "The organization of this years' event was fantastic. The competitions were very exciting and the visitors have really made the event complete. Without them it woulnd't have been the same."
Western European League Calendar 2009/2010:
1 Odense (DEN), 17 – 18 October
2 Lyon (FRA), 29 – 30 October
3 Stockholm (SWE), 28-29 November
4 London Olympia (GBR), 15-16 December
5 Frankfurt (GER), 19-20 December
6 Mechelen (BEL), 26-27 December
7 Amsterdam (NED), 22-23 January
8 Neumünster (GER), 20-21 February
9 Göteborg (SWE), 26-27 February
FINAL 's-Hertogenbosch (NED), 25-27 March
FEI World Cup™ Dressage, the only worldwide series in this discipline, has entered its 25th season. The series, created in 1985, comprises four leagues: Western European, Central European, North American (including Canada) and Pacific (Australia, New Zealand, Asia). Each FEI World Cup™ Dressage qualifier consists of a Grand Prix test, which in turn is a qualification for the Freestyle to music competition, where league points are accumulated towards places in the Final. Judged on both technical and artistic merit, the FEI World Cup™ Dressage combines art, sport and partnership between horse and rider at the highest level and consistently proves a winning formula with audiences all over the world.
Technical Note: The FEI World Cup Dressage™ Champion does not earn points in his/her starts but is automatically qualified to the next Final with two FEI World Cup™ Dressage qualifiers completed. Riders not belonging to the Western European League (WEL) or Central European League (CEL) cannot earn points in the WEL unless they have declared to compete in the WEL 2009/2010. These riders may however transfer the results from a maximum of three (3) WEL qualifiers to their own League. Points earned by CEL riders will be transferred to the CEL standings.
THE COMPLETE RULES CAN BE DOWNLOADED FROM www.feiworldcup.org