Defending champions off to winning start at Dressage World Cup Final – despite ‘expensive hiccups’

  • The FEI Dressage World Cup Final kicked off this evening in Omaha, Nebraska, with the defending champion and reigning Olympic gold medallist, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl, opening her bid for back-to-back World Cup titles as she claimed the grand prix with TF Dalera BB.

    The pair scored 79.92% – on the low side for this pair and the first time they have posted less than 80% internationally since January 2021 – but it was enough to keep them ahead of fellow German combination, Isabell Werth and DSP Quantaz, who were second on 77.85%.

    Jessica and Dalera presented a characteristically light-footed, harmonious test, with numerous highlights including the piaffe-passage work. But the mare was hot, and mistakes crept in, with an immobile halt to start, and a short first change in their line of one-time changes, which Jessica described as “expensive hiccups”.

    “She was so on fire, I was lucky we had no major mistakes to be honest. She thought it wasn’t necessary to halt at the entrance for example,” said Jessica. “But I am super happy; she flew all the way here to America and is full of energy and wants to perform. She was just a bit too energised today; she was electric. But she is in super shape and she really tried to focus on me.”

    Having claimed the 2022 Dressage World Cup Final title in euphoric fashion, Jessica missed the World Dressage Championships last summer due to the birth of her second child, Ella Marie. She has enjoyed three winning outings with Dalera since her return to competition in the autumn, and the pair look on track to defend their World Cup title in Omaha.

    The World Cup is decided solely by the grand prix freestyle, which takes place on Friday, 7 April; the grand prix acts as a qualifier and determines the running order for the freestyle.

    Denmark’s Nanna Skodberg Merrald finished third in the grand prix behind Jessica and Isabell on 76.16% riding Blue Hors Zepter. The 15-year-old son of Blue Hors Zack – Nanna’s team gold medallist at the world championships in 2022 – is a relatively new ride for her, though he is no stranger to a World Cup Final, having finished eighth at the 2022 final with Patrik Kittel.

    One of the strongest contenders for the title, Dutch pair Dinja van Liere and Hermes NOP, withdrew from the grand prix, meaning they will not be eligible to compete in the freestyle – which determines the World Cup winner.

    No British combinations have made the trip to compete in Omaha – reigning world champions Lottie Fry and Glamourdale qualified, but opted not to compete due to the stallion’s breeding commitments.

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