Isabell Werth, a double-winner so far this season, holds a slender lead as the 2010/2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Western European League series moves to the hugely popular Christmas Show at Olympia in London next week. However Werth's decision to skip the British fixture and to aim instead for the following leg on her home turf in Frankfurt four days later has left the door wide open for second-placed Catherine Haddad to forge ahead in the rankings.
The German-based American is only one point adrift of the leader, and with third-placed Ulla Salzgeber from Germany and fourth-placed Dutch rider Christa Larakkers also missing from the action, Haddad's nearest challenger is British veteran, Richard Davison, who lies fifth with 32 points and just eight points off Werth's total of 40.
The British Olympian won the opening leg of the Central European League in Lipica, Slovenia last May and was fifth in the Western European League qualifier at Lyon in France in October with Hiscox Artemis. Haddad collected points at the same two European venues, but owes her advantage to a very successful trip home to her native shores in October where she took the Grand Prix and Freestyle honours at Devon, Pennsylvania with her 10 year old gelding Winyamaro.
The London leg of the series has attracted 17 riders from seven countries - Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, USA, Great Britain and The Netherlands - and the star-studded line-up promises an intriguing contest. While Haddad will be hoping to capitalise on Werth's absence however, the main focus of attention is likely to be on the clash between Dutch stars Adelinde Cornelissen and Edward Gal and the host country's Laura Bechtolsheimer. Cornelissen had a heart-warming victory in Stockholm, Sweden last month with Jerich Parzival whose elimination after biting his tongue on his very first appearance at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky last September was a devastating blow for the 31 year old rider. She has put all that behind her now though, and will be a formidable opponent for the rest of the field.
Gal meanwhile is returning to the venue where, with the great Moorlands Totilas who subsequently claimed three gold medals in Kentucky, he set a new world record score in the Grand Prix Freestyle for the third time in a few short months when taking the Olympia honours last December. That partnership is now disbanded, and dressage supporters all around the world eagerly anticipate the first competitive appearance of the stallion with his new rider, Germany's Matthias Alexander Rath. But Gal's ride at next week's fixture is another exciting prospect - the 11 year old mare Sisther de Jeu who is by Gribaldi, the same sire as Totilas, and who has a charm all her own.
Further underlining the strength of the Dutch is another member of the 2010 world championship gold medal winning team Hans Peter Minderhoud, but the host nation boasts triple silver medallist Laura Bechtolsheimer amongst its seven-strong contingent and if Mistral Hojris is on form then she will be the one they all have to beat. Only Gal and Totilas could better this partnership in Kentucky.
The line-up also includes Belgium's Hans Meganck, Marc Peter Spahn and Fanny Verliefden along with Denmark's Princess Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein whose impressive score of 80.05% at the opening leg of the series in Odense earned her runner-up spot and leaves her in equal-15th on the leaderboard to date. Finland will be represented by Mikaela Lindh while Arnaud Serre competes for France and Henriette Andersen, Stephanie Croxford, Emile Faurie, Judith Harvey and Amy Stovold complete the British line-up.
The Grand Prix takes place next Tuesday, and the top-15 then go through to Wednesday night's Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Freestyle - the fourth of 10 qualifying opportunities on the road to the Final in Leipzig, Germany next April.
The next leg of the 2010/2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ series takes place at Olympia, London on 15 December. For all information on the British fixture go to website www.olympiahorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Kelly Smith, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +44 1753 847 900.
Facts and Figures:
FEI World Cup™ Dressage celebrates its 26th season this year.
Internationally renowned fashion designer Reem Acra has signed a three-year sponsorship for the
FEI World Cup™ Dressage series beginning with the 2010/2011 season.
A total of 10 qualifying rounds take place before the final at Leipzig, Germany which will be staged from 27 April to 1 May.
Germany's Isabell Werth won the first two legs of the current series - the opening leg in Odense, Denmark where she rode Satchmo to success and the second leg in Lyon, France a week later where she came out on top with Warum Nicht.
The Netherlands' Adelinde and Jerich Parzival won the third leg in Stockholm, Sweden 10 days ago.
Werth currently heads up the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ leaderboard but has only a single-point advantage over America's Catherine Haddad in second place while Germany's Ulla Salzgeber lies third, another two points further adrift.
Werth and Warum Nicht were crowned FEI World Cup™ Dressage Champions at Las Vegas in 2007 and the German rider also previously won the title with Fabienne in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1992.
Salzgeber recorded back-to-back series victories in Aarhus, Denmark in 2001 and 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands in 2002, each time riding Rusty.
STANDINGS in 2010/2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage series, after third leg in Stockholm (SWE):
1. Isabell Werth GER - 40
2. Catherine Haddad USA - 39
3. Ulla Salzgeber GER - 37
4. Christa Laarakkers NED - 33
5. Richard Davison GBR - 32
6. Nina Hofman SWE - 29
7. Hans Peter Minderhoud NED - 26
7. Aat Van Essen NED - 26
9. Helen Langehanenberg GER - 25
10. Ulrike Prunthaller AUT - 24
11. Adelinde Cornelissen NED - 23
12. Heike Kemmer GER - 21
12. Sylvia Zimmer GER - 21
14. Sune Hansen DEN - 19
15. Anky Van Grunsven NED - 17
15. Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein DEN - 17
15. Peter Gmoser AUT - 17
Western European League Calendar 2010/2011:
1 Odense (DEN), 21-24 October
2 Lyon (FRA), 27 October - 1 November
3 Stockholm (SWE), 26-28 November
4 London Olympia (GBR), 14-15 December
5 Frankfurt (GER), 15-19 December
6 Mechelen (BEL), 26-30 December
7 Amsterdam (NED), 20-23 January
8 Neumünster (GER), 17-20 February
9 Göteborg (SWE), 24-27 February
10 's-Hertogenbosch (NED), 24-27 March
FINAL Leipzig (GER), 27 April - 1 May