Two Olympic gold medal-winning combinations battled it out for the top slot in Maastricht at the weekend with Hubertus Schmidt and Wansuela Suerte narrowly snatching victory over his compatriot Heike Kemmer and Bonaparte.

Schmidt and his talented mare Wansuela Suerte, who was competing for the first time since Athens, took command in the grand prix and the freestyle with impressive work in the pirouettes, piaffe passage and half passes. “I was very, very happy with the grand prix, but Wansuela felt a little tired for the freestyle”, said Schmidt.

Kemmer and Bonaparte’s freestyle made a single mistake in the one-tempi changes, but their dramatic extended canter down the centre line earned a maximum score of 10 from judge Volker Moritz at H.

“In [the 2004 World Cup Final in] Dusseldorf I took a little too much risk in this movement, and Bonaparte changed legs at the end. This time it was perfect so I think that was why Dr Moritz gave us the top mark”, said Kemmer. “Bonaparte gave me a really good feeling today.”

In third was Switzerland’s Silvia Ikle, who was delighted with the performance of her 10-year-old Sinclair gelding Salieri CH. A member of the five strong Swiss elite squad for next year, Ikle said: “Salieri can be hot and used to be nervous, but today he was so concentrated on me, and felt so forward and light, I had a wonderful ride.”

Carl Hester was delighted when Escapado (pictured) produced a confident test of sufficient quality for fourth place. “Escapado just felt unbelievable” said Hester, who was the highest placed British rider in Athens. “I am totally excited. He gave me such a lovely feeling. There is so much more to come.”

Judge Volker Moritz was also pleased to see Escapado continuing to grow in confidence: “I was very happy to see Carl Hester’s Escapado show a smooth test with a lot of elasticity and great harmony. There was a little misunderstanding but as this was between movements it did not need to lose marks.

“It was a very close competition with no clear winner. Wansuela Suerte was best in the pirouettes, piaffe passage and half passes. While perhaps Bonaparte’s freestyle could have shown a higher degree of difficulty, he showed excellent gaits. Silvia Ikle’s Salieri showed very good piaffe and passage, but was not so brilliant in the walk or extended trot. The standard was very good at the top.”

The next qualifier takes place at Olympia during tomorrow and Wednesday (14-15 December). Riders competing in this leg will include Germany’s Isabell Werth, Heiki Kemmer and Ann Katrin Linsenhof as well as Spain’s Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and Finland’s Kyra Kyrklund. A strong contingent of British riders will also be in action. For more details visit www.olympiahorseshow.co.uk

FEI World Cup freestyle qualifier results

1. Wansuela Suerte (Hubertus Schmidt) GER 78.55;
2. Bonaparte (Heike Kemmer) GER 78.475;
3. Salieri CH (Silvia Ikle) SUI 77.05;
4. Escapado (Carl Hester) GBR 75.50;
5. Punto Blanco’s Madorijke (Madeleine Vrees) NED 75.40;
6. Gribaldi (Edward Gal) NED 74.60;
7. Just Mickey (Tinne Vilhelmson) SWE 73.30;
8. Barclay II (Sven Rothenberger) NED 73.05;
9. Guinness (Louise Nathhorst) SWE 72.52;
10. Ludewig G (Lone Jorgensen) DEN 72.30.