Britains sole contender, Carl Hester on Escapado, is safely through to his first World Cup Kur final in Las Vegas. The pair finished ninth in yesterday (Thursdays) qualifying Grand Prix on 71.667, from which the top 12 go through. Their consistent test was particularly liked by Britains Stephen Clarke, judging at B, who scored it 73.125.
It has been widely assumed that Anky van Grunsven is on form for a seventh title in this event, but the competition looks more open following her protégé Edward Gals breathtaking test on Geldnet Lingh, which brought spectators to their feet.
Gal was averaging 78 per cent from the early stages and wowed the 10,000 crowd with some tantalising pirouettes, one of which scored four nines. Applause was already mustering as he approached the final halt, and his final score of 78.625 overtook long time leader, the USAs Debbie MacDonald on Brentina.
Last to go, Anky and Salinero, initially looked good, but their early run of eights and nines were soon cancelled out by four and sixes, awarded for an uneasy collected walk and a juddery run of one-time changes they were among several who seemingly ran out of space in this tight arena, where the 60m boards are hard to the wall. They finished 0.625 per cent behind, leaving Anky with a steely determination to improve on Saturday and Gal buoyed by thoughts that things can only get better.
Everything about Las Vegas is big, so the irony of the small, cauldron-shaped arena was not lost on visitors. However, this is the first time the show jumping and dressage finals have been staged together, prompting Anky to applaud a much greater sense of event here than at any European final in recent years. A crowd of 10,000 watched the dressage Grand Prix.