The new Danish partnership of Andreas Helgstrand and Blue Hors Cavan triumphed in Aarhus on Sunday at the first of eight FEI World Cup Western European League qualifiers.

The home side made the most of the opportunity to compete at Aarhus, after the event was cancelled last year. Helgstrand and Cavan, who was formerly ridden by Danish team medallist Lars Pedersen, performed an excellent test to finish at 79.47% — 4% ahead of runners-up Ann-Katrin Linsenhoff and Wajahama-UNICEF.

“[Helgstrand and Cavan performed] a powerful, expressive test, which also looked fun. They were both having a good time, which is how dressage should be,” said ground jury president Stephen Clarke.

Newly-wed Linsenhoff, from Germany, was at her first show since July and had some difficult moments in the grand prix. But she and Wahajama Unicef put together an impressive test in the kür, producing a 75.44% result and gaining second place.

“Wahajama-UNICEF was a little nervous in the grand prix,” Linsenhoff said. “Today [Sunday, 31 October], though, she was just wonderful — we were really together and it was such fun to ride her.”

Linsenhoff is hoping to qualify for the World Cup final, which will take place in Las Vegas from 20 to 23 April 2005. “We are one step nearer!” she said.

The third spot went to Dutch Olympic member Sven Rothenberger with his Olympic mount, Barclay II. “We had a very very good show,” Rothenberger said.

He thought the Aarhus performance was better than the one he gave in Athens. “Now I feel Barclay II is more settled, has less pressure mentally and he has got stronger physically.”

British-based Finn Kyra Kyrklund was ninth on Max while the only Briton to perform in the kür, Wayne Channon, was 14th with Lorenzo. The other British rider who competed at Aarhus, Fiona Bigwood on Habana 3, didn’t make it past the grand prix.

Aarhus also proved a bit of a disappointment for the competition’s hot favourite, Jan Brink. The Swedish rider had to withdraw his mount, Bjorsell’s Briar, before the grand prix.

Overall, the show was a success with strong performances by many riders. “The standard was very good, producing a 79% winner, and, with the top horses on 75-74%, it was an above average class,” said Clarke.

The next FEI World Cup Qualifier will take place in Stockholm from November 21 to 26.

FEI World Cup qualifier kür results

1. Blue Hors Cavan (Andreas Helgstrand, DEN) 79.47
2. Wahajama-UNICEF (Ann-Katrin Linsenhoff, GER) 75.44
3. Barclay II (Sven Rothenberger, NED) 75.38
4. Esprit de Valdemar (Jon D. Petersen, DEN) 74.78
5. Lesotho (Ellen Schulten-Baumer, GER) 74.13
6. Max (Kyra Kyrklund, FIN) 74.01
7. Regent (Christian Plaege, SUI) 72.44
8. Guinness (Louise Nathhorst, SWE) 72.07
9. Galliano (Maria Ericksson, SWE) 70.93
10. Joy (Patricia Callaghan, NED) 70.60