She’s 47 and formidable, an exquisite horsewoman and a long-time legend as the most medalled athlete in her sport. Despite a few glitches in her performance with the fabulous mare Weihegold today, Germany’s Isabell Werth won the opening Grand Prix at the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Omaha, Nebraska by a comfortable 2.5 mark margin when scoring 82.300.
“I’m completely happy, but I’ll have to calm my horse down before Saturday because she got so excited in the prizegiving!” “I was well prepared but you never know what to expect! It was my fault we made mistakes in the two-tempis but I always felt safe. It wasn’t easy at the start of my test though because the crowd went crazy when they announced Laura’s score!”.
Werth includes five Olympic and three World team golds amongst the massive medal haul she has accumulated during her amazing career. She also has two FEI World Cup™ titles under her belt, the first collected 25 years ago in Gothenburg (SWE) and the next in Las Vegas (USA) in 2007, and she’s hungry for a third.
But it isn’t going to be a walk-in-the-park because the home side’s Laura Graves (29) was breathing right down her neck today when posting the runner-up score of 79.800 with Verdades, and is bidding to become only the third American ever to take this prestigious title.
"I came here to win, and to finish second to Isabell today feels a lot like winning! It’s my second World Cup Final, we competed in Las Vegas (in 2015) and this has proved how much my horse has developed over the last two years, he felt very honest and I’m very excited about competing on Saturday!.
“I think anything is possible!” Graves replied confidently when asked if she thought she could beat Werth in Saturday’s medal-deciding Freestyle to Music competition, and she has to be taken seriously after finishing fourth at the Rio Olympics with this horse who was so difficult as a youngster that she almost gave up on him. .
Britain’s Carl Hester (49) finished third with Nip Tuck and will be another strong challenger on Saturday when just 14 of today’s 16 starters will line out. New Zealand’s Wendi Williamson and Dejavu MH were elminated when blood was found in the horse’s mouth post competition and Hanna Karasiova (BLR) and Arlekino failed to make the 60% cut-off mark..
“I always give my horse an easy ride in the Grand Prix so that he’s perfectly rideable for Saturday. I don’t expect to be too far behind on Saturday.”.
16 riders from 13 nations (Argentina, Australia, Belarus, Brazil, Denmark, Germany, Great Britain, Ireland, Netherlands, New Zealand, Russia, Switzerland and USA).
A total of 194 human and 215 equine athletes have competed in the four FEI World Cup™ Dressage Leagues, aiming to qualify for the Omaha Final.
The winning rider, Isabell Werth, is a multiple champion and two-time FEI World Cup™ Dressage title-holder.
There will be 16 participants in the FEI World Cup™ Final 2017. Title holder Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED) is not competing in Omaha as his horse Glock’s Flirt was lame on the day of departure (25 March). Jessica Von Bredow Werndl (GER) also withdrew from the Final after her horse Unee B developed colic at the airport in Amsterdam prior to departure.