Germany’s Isabell Werth goes into Saturday’s FEI World Cup final in ’s-Hertogenbosch, Holland, with the winning edge, having stolen the lead from her long-standing Dutch rival Anky van Grunsven in today’s qualifying competition (27 March).
The competition was incredibly close. Anky went first to score 74.75% and throughout her test Isabell crept ahead and fell behind on marks by just a fraction.
Three times their scores were identical, including at the final halt. So it was collective marks that put Isabell ahead on 75.083.
Isabell said: “I was really happy with ‘Hannes’ today, he had a lot of power but was not as looky and spooky as he can be in a test. He was concentrating on me and had no big mistakes.”
Anky’s Keltec Salinero struggle more to relax in the arena, where the audience are seated close by. In the halts, for example, Warum Nicht stood, whereas Salinero failed to stand at the end of his test.
Anky said: “Salinero got a little nervous in the noisy arena. He got tense in the canter and I wanted to make sure he relaxed for the extended canter but we relaxed too much and he trotted for a stride. So we had little mistakes because he was unsettled and I hope he calms down in that arena by Saturday.”
Third place went to Anky’s pupil Imke Schellekens-Bartels of The Netherlands on Hunter Douglas Sunrise. Imke admitted she also had a few mistakes in her test because Sunrise was a little tense.
“Sunrise was in good shape today but she was a bit surprised and distracted by the audience at times,” she said.
Isabell took the World Cup title last year, while Anky was on maternity leave, but Anky has owned this competition for the past seven years and has the advantage on home soil.
No British riders have qualified for this year’s final.
Visit Horseandhound.co.uk over the weekend for further updates for the World Cup final, and don’t miss next week’s Horse & Hound for a in-depth report on how the competition was won and lost.