Anky van Grunsven won an unprecented seventh World Cup dressage title in Las Vegas last night, scoring 86.675% and achieving four individual scores in the 90s for artistic impression.

Her fluid test, to a medley of French chansons, was not entirely flawless by Anky’s own exacting standards — Salinero made an awkward canter transition at K in the early stages of her kur and she seemed to dwell when setting up for a long canter section.

Axel Steiner, judging at the B marker, thought the test was only good enough for third. But the whole was simply sensational, beating compatriot Edward Gal — who with Geldnet Lingh had vanquished the reigning champion in the opening day’s grand prix — into second by more than a percentage point.

Van Gunsven said: “It is the most special win for me as I am not only proud of my own horse but also of Edward and Lingh. It’s very special to have two Dutch riders at the top here.”

The home crowd’s favourite, Debbie McDonald and Brentina, earned a tornado of applause and scored highly to lead in the latter stages of the class on 83.225, but with the two Dutch still to come it was inevitable she would be overhauled into third place. Veteran American Robert Dover, here on a wild card, was fourth with FBW Kennedy on 80.1.

Britain’s Carl Hester finished 10th, possibly anchored by being first to go. By his own admission, the freestyle has not been his number one priority and he tactfully combined a competitive test with giving Escapado priceless experience in this cavernous stadium.

Judge at ‘C’ Uwe Mechlem said: “The level was unbelievably high, each rider would come in and we’d think that test could not be beaten, but it kept getting higher. It was a hard job to find the winner for us, especially when the public anticipated, and we had to try hard not to be influenced by that, but we were so busy giving our marks.”

After the public appeared to expect Gal to emerge victor, Mechlem explained: “Anky has the most fascinating choice of music for her freestyle. I awarded a 10 for her music as I can’t imagine it could be better. Edward showed an example of effortless and elegant dressage — the rider always together with his horse — but for me the choice of music was slightly heavy for this horse.”

FEI Dressage Committee Chairman Mariette Withages said: “That was the best ever FEI World Cup Dressage Final. To have all the top riders score so high is unique.”

Earlier, Michael Whitaker and Nick Skelton were in the team which triumphed in a novelty competition, where European show jumpers took on the home side in their speciality discipline, the hunter jumper.

Despite the disappointment of faulting in the first two legs of the World Cup show jumping, Nick is confident that Arko, currently 13th, can figure in the placings in today (Sunday’s) finale. ”Two clear rounds is all we need — there’s all to play for,” he said.

FEI World Cup Dressage Final 2005 results

1. Keltec Salinero (A van Grunsven NED) 86.725;
2. Geldnet Lingh (E Gal NED) 85.225;
3. Brentina (D McDonald USA) 83.450;
4. FBW Kennedy (R Dover USA) 80.10;
5. Blue Hors Cavan (A Helgstrand DEN) 78.50;
6. Kingston (L Morse USA) 78.475;
7. Bjorsells Briar (J Brink SWE) 77.375;
8. Aramis (H Schmidt GER) 77.20;
9. Barclay II (S Rothenberger NED) 75.25;
10. Escapado (C Hester GBR) 73.475;
11. Hardthof’s Ludewig G (L Joergensen DEN) 72.275;
12. Aragon (G Seidel USA) 70.65.