Australia's Rachael Sanna earned a place at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2011/2012 Final at 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands next April with a convincing victory in the Asia/Pacific FEI World Cup™ Dressage League which concluded at Werribee, Australia last month. The series embraced six rounds of competition, all on Australian soil, and kicked off at Boneo in March 2011 before moving on to Werribee and Melbourne. Sydney hosted two legs before the Final returned to the National Equestrian Centre at Werribee, Victoria in December. A strong favourite from the outset, the Australian National Champion, Sanna, dominated throughout.
The 39 year old Sydney native steered Jaybee Alabaster to win the opening Grand Prix with a score of 71.128% and, the following day, Ground Jury judges Mary Seefried (AUS), Helen Hughes-Keen (NZL), Katrina Wuest (GER), Susan Hoevenaars (AUS) and Alison Pauline King (HKG) awarded the winning mark of 75.125% in the Grand Prix Freestyle which was the FEI World Cup™ qualifying class. The pair subsequently also went on to top the Grand Prix Special with a score of 71.000% to underpin a superb weekend.
Runner-up at the Werribee Final was fellow-Australian Heath Ryan riding Regardez Moi while the lone visitor from New Zealand, Louisa Hill who competed at the Olympic Games in Athens in 2004, steered Bates Antonello into third. A total of nine riders competed at the Asia-Pacific Final.
Sanna, currently 80th in the FEI World Rankings, plans to bring Jaybee Alabaster to Europe soon to prepare for both the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Final and the 2012 Olympic Games. The horse's proud owner and breeder, Beverley Edwards, is looking forward to attending the closing stages of another FEI World Cup™ event. She previously had the pleasure of watching her stallion, Vivant, finish seventh at the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Jumping Final in Geneva two years ago, with Chris Chugg on board.
Central European Series
Meanwhile in Central Europe, competitors are still battling it out for a starting spot at 's-Hertogenbosch. Sviatlana Loika from Belarus won the league series which attracted 36 competitors from seven countries - Belarus, Poland, Russia, Hungary, Ukraine, Czech Republic and Turkey. The qualifying rounds visited Lipica (SLO), Nizhniy Novgorod (RUS), Brno (CZE), Moscow (RUS), Wroclaw (POL), Minsk (BLR), Kaposvar (HUN) and Zhashkiv (UKR), and the series Final will take place in Warsaw, Poland on 22-23 March.
Points from the Western European League legs are also included in calculating the standings in this regional contest, but only two riders from the Central European series competed at these events. Poland's Katarzyna Milczarek lined out at Odense (DEN) last October, but failed to add to her scoreline and finished fifth on the league table, while the Ukraine's Inna Logutenkova collected four points at the Belgian fixture in Mechelen just after Christmas to slot into equal-11th position.
Loika, who holds 122nd place in the current FEI World Rankings list, has enjoyed a successful year. With her top ride, Gulbis, the 30 year old won the Grand Prix Special at Zhashkiv in the Ukraine last April and then earned her first FEI World Cup™ Dressage qualifying points of the 2011/2012 season with a good result at Nizhniy Novgorod in Russia in June. She followed that with another strong outing in Moscow in early September before registering a double-victory in both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle on her home turf at Minsk later that month.
She topped the Central European League leaderboard with a total of 48 points which gave her a three-point advantage over runner-up Michal Rapcewicz from Poland who, at 29 years of age, is already an Olympic and FEI World Equestrian Games™ veteran. Russia's Anna Pyrkina finished third ahead of Hungary's Robert Acs in fourth, but at the Final all competitors start on level-pegging once again so the result at Warsaw will be critical.
Meanwhile the Western European League of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2011/2012 series resumes this Saturday in Amsterdam, The Netherlands where the star-studded line-up includes defending champion Adelinde Cornelissen and her Dutch colleagues Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud. With just three qualifiers let to go, Sweden's Patrik Kittel continues to head the standings ahead of Minderhoud in second and Italy's Valentina Truppa in third.