Laura Bechtolsheimer led the cavalry-charge, as British riders sensationally claimed the top four places in the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2011/2012 qualifier at Olympia in London, Great Britain tonight. Riding Mistral Hojris, the horse with which she claimed three silver medals at the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games™ in Kentucky, USA last year, the 26 year old rider scored 83.975 to pip fellow-countrywoman Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro, while 2011 European silver medallist, Carl Hester, slotted into third with Uthopia. And, rounding up the host-nation whitewash, Richard Davison steered Hiscox Artemis into fourth.
"I'm thrilled", said Bechtolsheimer, "we won the Grand Prix here last year, but we have never won the Freestyle, and this is such a special show - the home crowd are great. It means everything to have won this competition!" she added.
On the Cards
A strong British result always looked on the cards following yesterday's Grand Prix in which Dujardin and Valegro headed another British rout.On that occasion, Bethtolsheimer and her 16 year old chestnut had to accept second-best as the young lady who swept to centre-stage of international Dressage at this summer's FEI European Championships was the only one of the 20 starters to break the 80% barrier when scoring 81.40 with her super-talented nine-year-old. Hester again finished third ahead of Davison, while Germany's Nadine Capellmann and Elvis VA were the first of the visitors in the line-up when finishing fifth. They slotted into the same spot again tonight.
As the competition reached the half-way stage this evening, it was Cathrine Rasmussen and Fernandez who were out in front with a score of 73.975, ahead of Norwegian team-mates Lillann Jebsen and Pro-Set. But there was even a British connection here, as Rasmussen's 11 year old gelding was formerly ridden by Dujardin, while Hester used to compete Jebsen's Dutch warmblood.
Re-Energised the Leaderboard
With just six horse-and-rider combinations left to go, Bechtolsheimer completely re-energised the leaderboard when finishing a full 10 marks ahead of Rasmussen's target after a Freestyle the judges clearly enjoyed. Talking about her ride, Bechtolsheimer said of Mistral Hojris, "he was awesome today, and we had no mistakes. I'm so happy to have that security with him again". Since Kentucky last year she has found it difficult to find similar form, but tonight has changed all that. "At Aachen and the Europeans (this year), as an individual they weren't my best performances. So I wanted to show that Alf (Mistral Hojris) and me aren't old news, and there's still more to come!" she pointed out.
Dujardin followed her into the ring, and with Valegro showing huge trot extensions and wonderful piaffe she scored 83.700 to slot into second place. "I was very pleased with my test, Valegro was a little bit hotter than yesterday" she pointed out. He went in with a bit of tension tonight, and I didn't make my halt at the beginning and made a mistake in my 'twos' and in my 'ones', but managed to repeat them" she explained. But she knows that she and her horse are still only at the early stages of a long learning curve - a fact that makes this partnership all-the-more exciting. It's only my second Kur with Valegro, and for a nine-year-old to go in and do that is incredible!" she added.
Next to go was Davison, whose 12 year old gelding, Hiscox Artemis, produced a smart routine despite a spook in the same corner of the ring to which he took a dislike at the same venue 12 months ago. But this is a man with a wealth of experience gleaned throughout his long and illustrious career, and it was clear his mark of 75.050 would keep him well in the frame. With just two to go, Hester - who like his protege Dujardin made a big impression at the Rotterdam Europeans in August - set off with the 10 year old stallion Uthopia, and the crowd held their breath as he produced lovely passage and piaffe and amazing extended trot for a score of 83.450. "I think my horse went the best he could today" Hester said. "When you are starting at the bottom with these horses, then degrees of difficulty have to be improved on - I didn't think there was much I could improve on tonight" he explained. And he added "I did want to beat these two (Bechtolsheimer and Dujardin) today, I want to be called their kid brother, not their grandad!" he joked.
Capellman was the final competitor, and with her 15 year old chestnut she showed some superb canter-changes to the rhythm of her Elvis-themed musical score for 74.600. But the night was all about the host-nation contenders, and the extraordinary future of British dressage. With the 2012 Olympic Games just around the corner, the rising tide of British talent could hardly be coming onstream at a more appropriate moment. There is a sense of anticipation like never before.
In the Past
"We have, in the past, had an incredible horse or two, but without back-up that doesn't make a great team. Now we have three great combinations, getting great scores and with no weaknesses" Hester pointed out ominously.
And Ground Jury President, Great Britain's Stephen Clarke, agreed. "This is all a dream come true from a national point of view" he said. "The riders tonight did a great job, congratulations to all three for such huge scores, it was a fantastic competition. It was just a half a point here and there. Laura's fantastic impulsion and no mistakes, a fantastic job, Charlotte with this elastic-band of a horse, unfortunately she had a couple of small mistakes - and Carl with his super-star that is still up-and-coming - he did a fantastic job with the horse tonight, he looked after him and gave him such a good ride but took less risk than the other two" he explained.
The Best We've Had
The standard of competition in tonight's latest leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2011/2012 series was described by FEI Director of Dressage, Trond Asmyr, as "the best we've had in any qualifier so far", and he added that "the three Brits at the top were so close to each other - I'm a judge myself and I wouldn't be able to split you, it was so good!"
And the next leg of the series which has provided tremendous competition so far this season is now only a few short days away. The fifth round of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ takes place in Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday morning, and tonight's result has boosted Richard Davison's position on the series leaderboard. The British veteran is now lying third, behind Sweden's Patrick Kittel in second spot and Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven at the top of the league table.
For further information on the fourth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage series at London, Olympia (GBR) check out website www.olympiahorseshow.com or contact Press Officer Jo Peck, Email firstname.lastname@example.org, Tel +44 1753 847 900. The next leg takes place in Frankfurt, Germany on Sunday 18 December. For details visit http://www.escon-marketing.de or contact Press Officer Niklas Droste, Email email@example.com, Tel: +49 4473 94110.
1, Mistral Hojris (Laura Bechtolsheimer) GBR 83.975; 2, Valegro (Charlotte Dujardin) GBR 83.700; 3, Uthopia (Carl Hester) GBR 83.450; 4, Hiscox Artemis (Richard Davison) GBR 75.050; 5, Elvis VA (Nadine Capellmann) GER 74.600; 6, Fernandez (Cathrine Rasmussen) NOR 73.975; 7, Divoza Horseworld Ovation (Christa Laarakkers-Larmoyeur) NED 72.950; 8, Pro-Set (Lillann Jebsen) NOR 72.750; 9, Krawall (Jenny Schreven) NED 71.825; 10, Lennox (Cecilia Dorselius) SWE 71.250; 11, Donnerfee (Claudia Fassaert) BEL 71.025; 12, World Performance Washington (Luis Principe) POR 70.750; 13, Karamel de Lauture (Claire Gosselin) FRA 69.125; 14, Le Mont d’Or (Anja Plonzke) GER 69.000; 15, Louis D’Or (Henriette Andersen) GBR 68.475.
Facts and Figures:
British riders took the top four places in tonight's fourth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage series at Olympia in London.
Three of the top four riders were members of Britain's gold medal winning team at the FEI European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam, The Netherlands last August - Laura Bechtolsheimer, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester.
15 horse-and-rider combinations competed - 5 from Great Britain, 2 each from Germany, The Netherlands and Norway, 1 from France, Belgium, Portugal and Sweden.
British riders also claimed the top four places in yesterday's (Tuesday 13 December) preliminary Grand Prix in which the winner, Charlotte Dujardin, produced a personal-best score when the only rider to break the 80% barrier with a mark of 81.40% riding Valegro.
The nine-year-old Valegro was the youngest horse in tonight's Grand Prix Freestyle to Music.
The 19 year old bay gelding Karawall, ridden by The Netherlands' Jenny Schreven, was the oldest.
The fifth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage series takes place in four days' time - on Sunday 18 December at Frankfurt, Germany.
Laura Bechtolsheimer, talking about Mistral Hojris’s unruly behaviour during the prize-giving presentation - “Alf is just one of those horses that hasn’t grown up! He’s now 16, but still finds certain things pretty terrifying. He loves the competing, but is not quite so fond of winning the prizes!”.
Laura Bechtolsheimer, when asked what she did with Mistral Hojris today - “I didn’t really do too much with him this morning. This evening I worked him in normally and that worked much better. You can’t tire out that ginger beast! I trusted him to do his job, and he did”.
Charlotte Dujardin - “it has been one of my dreams to come to Olympia - and I won yesterday! I did my first Grand Prix in January, won gold at the Europeans and won here - it couldn’t go much better!”
Talking about her former ride, Fernandez - “I’m so happy for Cathrine, she’s got a partnership with him and did a super Grand Prix yesterday and a really good Kur today. I’m really happy for her, it’s so nice to see it”.
Carl Hester, when asked if he preferred riding or coaching - “I still like winning best! but it gives me as much pleasure watching Charlotte riding as me riding”.
Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2011/2012 - Standings after Round 4 at Olympia, London:
1. Tinne Wilhelmsson Silfven SWE - 52
2. Patrick Kittel SWE - 41
3. Richard Davison GBR - 38
4. Valentina Truppa ITA - 33
5. Hans Peter Minderhoud NED, Isabell Werth GER - 32
7. Helen Langehanenberg GER - 30
8. Catherine Haddad USA - 26
9. Marc Peter Spahn BEL - 24
10. Sebastien Duperdu FRA - 23
11. Christa Laarakkers NED, Siril Helljesen NOR - 22
13. Rose Mathisen SWE, Aat Van Essen NED - 21
15. Laura Bechtolsheimer GBR, Jenny Schreven NED, Ulla Salzgeber GER - 20
18. Sidsel Johansen DEN, Mikaela Lindh FIN - 19
20. Peter Gmoser AUT, Mary Hanna AUS, Charlotte Dujardin GBR 17.
All Gallery Images Courtesy of Caroline Finch