Isabell Werth has made the perfect start to her World Cup title defence, winning today’s grand prix aboard the 14-year-old mare Weihegold OLD at the Scandinavium in Gothenburg, Sweden.
The Don Schufro daughter performed a mistake-free test to score 81.75%, enough to secure their place at the top of the leaderboard ahead of the USA’s Laura Graves and Verdades.
At last year’s final, Laura upset the formbook by beating Isabell in the grand prix, but the American’s 80.1% was not quite enough for the win here.
Not every judge had Isabell in front, however, with her scores ranging from 78.1% to 83.8%. The Finnish judge at K, Maria Colliander, had Laura on top with her compatriot Kasey Perry-Glass in second, and Isabell in third.
“Weihe was fantastic today; she’s in really great shape at the moment and she felt really focused and motivated,” said Isabell, who won her first World Cup title here in Gothenburg in 1992. “Tomorrow is a new game though and you never know what will happen. The others are all fighting for it — I can feel the breath on my neck!”
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This is Laura and the 17-year-old Verdades’ fourth World Cup final and they have finished second to Isabell in the last two.
“He’s known for being sensitive to atmosphere but he felt rideable and relaxed in there today so that gives me a good idea of how to ride him tomorrow,” Laura said. “I’m incredibly hungry to get to the top of the podium.”
Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen also made his intentions for tomorrow known with a super test for third aboard the 15-year-old stallion Blue Hors Zack. He finished fractionally ahead of Kasey Perry-Glass and Goerklintgaards Dublet, who were fourth.
Germany’s Helen Langehananberg, competing at her first World Cup final since 2014, stood fifth with Damsey FRH, with Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and Delaunay OLD sixth.
Ireland’s Judy Reynolds finished 14th with Vancouver K on 69.8%, after tension and spookiness affected the Jazz gelding’s performance.
“I needed a bit of superglue at the beginning, but it was just unlucky timing with when people started clapping and where we were,” Judy told H&H. “He actually coped with it really well once we started, until the walk when he just bubbled over and it cost us about 10% at that point. But he came back to me and we got the score back up to just under 70% so in that respect I’m really happy.”
Today’s grand prix serves as a qualifier for tomorrow’s final, the grand prix freestyle, and it also determines the starting order. The class will get underway at 4pm (3pm UK time).
Don’t miss the 11 April issue of Horse & Hound for full coverage from the World Cup finals in Gothenburg.