Battle of the titans: who will win this year’s Dressage World Cup Final?

  • Who will win this year’s FEI Dressage World Cup Final? It’s a question many are asking as the equestrian world gears up for the first World Cup Final since 2019, taking place from 6 to 10 April in Leipzig, Germany.

    A world-class field will line up for the dressage final, but all eyes will be on the two favourites for the title, both of whom are competing on home soil: defending champion Isabell Werth, who will ride her World Cup winner from the past three finals, Weihegold OLD, and the reigning Olympic and European champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, who will bring her top horse, TSF Dalera BB. So, which of these two German superstars is most likely to win this year’s Dressage World Cup Final?

    Isabell is, of course, the most decorated dressage rider of all time, and will be as hungry as ever to claim her fifth World Cup title, and what would be her fourth with this talented Don Schufro mare. This year’s final will be especially poignant for Isabell – it is set to be 17-year-old Weihegold OLD’s last competitive appearance before she is retired. And if they did come away with the spoils, they would also make yet more history together, as the first combination to win the title on four consecutive occasions.

    The World Cup result is decided solely on the grand prix freestyle, and Isabell is known for her stirring freestyle routines, eye-watering levels of difficulty in her floorplans and her pinpoint accuracy, which will stand her in good stead in Leipzig. Although Weihegold and Isabell uncharacteristically finished off the podium in the freestyle at the 2021 European Championships, they have broken the 90% barrier together a whopping six times. However, they have not done so in more than two years, since January 2020. Their best-ever freestyle score is 90.98%, achieved at the Europeans in August 2017.

    Jessica and the 15-year-old Easy Game mare Dalera, on the other hand, will arrive in Leipzig off the back of a dream season, when they scooped both team and individual gold medals at both the Tokyo Olympics and the European Championships. Dalera is unquestionably in the prime of her life – she and Jessica have remained unbeaten since before the Tokyo Olympics, and posted 90.55% to win their final World Cup qualifier, at s’Hertogenbosch, less than a month ago.

    Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera

    Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and TSF Dalera at the Tokyo Olympics in 2021

    “I don’t want to hide Dalera away just for the outdoor season,” Jessica told H&H earlier in 2022. “She wouldn’t like that, and I always think that I get better when I compete, and she loves it, so we should do it.”

    This is their first World Cup Final as a combination, although Jessica has finished third on three previous occasions, and seventh on another, riding Unee BB. She will be hungry for World Cup glory, and also knows it is likely her only shot at a major championship in 2022 – Jessica is currently pregnant with her second child due in August, ruling her out of the dressage World Championships.

    Jessica and Dalera have scored over 90% on five occasions internationally, with an all-time best score of 91.7% at the Olympics last July. In fact, the last time they posted under 90% in a grand prix freestyle was in January 2021.

    Of the two top German challengers, Jessica appears to be the most likely candidate to capture the World Cup title, but never underestimate Isabell Werth, who will be fighting hard to maintain her dominance, and to finish her great mare’s stellar career on a high.

    Dressage World Cup Final 2022: best of the rest

    Even dressage can be unpredictable, and the field for this year’s final is littered with talented combinations who could shake things up. One of those is Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour, riding at her first World Cup Final. Cathrine will not bring her European individual silver medallist from 2021, Bohemian, with whom she exceeded the 90% marker for the first time on their last outing, at Herning CDI5* in mid-March, but instead has campaigned the younger, relatively inexperienced Vamos Amigos at the World Cup circuit.

    Make no mistake, though, this Vitalis son, who is owned by Britain’s Sarah Pidgley, may only be 10 years old with just a handful of international shows under his belt, but he could definitely make a splash in Leipzig. The pair scored almost 87% to finish second to Jessica von Bredow-Werndl at their last qualifier, in Neumünster in February, and could be extremely competitive here.

    In fact, the entire Danish contingent could prove a threat. Three of the combinations who won team bronze at the Europeans will be in action in Leipzig – expect both Carina Cassøe Krüth (Heiline’s Danciera) and Nanna Skodberg Merrald (Atterupgaards Orthilia) to put in strong bids for the podium.

    Britain’s sole representative, Lottie Fry, is another in with a realistic shot at a top-three finish in Leipzig. She will ride Dark Legend, after qualifying for the final somewhat unexpectedly, and this 14-year-old Zucchero is another horse in the form of life right now. The pair posted an all-time best score as a combination at Aachen CDIO5* in 2021, of 83.68%, and they also scored 82.33% at their last show, the World Cup qualifier at s’Hertogenbosch.

    “Dark Legend has been going better than ever,” Lottie told H&H. “It’s always incredible to compete alongside the best riders in the world and we’re ready to do our best.”

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