US rider Tina Konyot will be first into the arena when the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage Final gets under way at the Eurexpo Arena in Lyon, France, this afternoon.
The Grand Prix is the first of the two competitions that will decide the 2013/2014 title, and while defending champions, Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg and Damon Hill NRW, go seventh of the 18 starters, their greatest rivals Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro have a much better draw when second-last to go.
The draw was conducted by Lyon’s Dressage manager Georg Fincke while Technical Delegate Maya Stukelj and Ground Jury President Jean Michel Roudier pulled the names and numbers out of the hat.
Denmark’s Nanna Skodberg Merrald is listed second for the competition which will begin at 3pm local time, but her 13-year-old gelding, Millibar, must first pass reinspection at 7am having been held over during Friday’s first veterinary check.
Despite holding the Olympic and European titles as well as all three world records in Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Freestyle, World No. 1 rider Dujardin still faces a significant challenge this weekend as she rides a brand new Freestyle test for the very first time on her Reem Acra FEI World Cup Final debut.
“This will be the first time for people to see it and we want to get it as good as we can and show Blueberry’s (Valegro’s) highlights and strengths. It’s a difficult task but it’s a lovely piece (of music) and Carl (her trainer and mentor Carl Hester) loves it!” Dujardin said.
She decided that Olympia in London last December would be the last performance of the floorplan that brought her Olympic and European gold, but it has been hard work putting the new programme together.
Tom Hunt has created the new musical score. “Carl decided on the floorplan and I’ve been working with Tom on the music. I’ve worked harder on this new piece and I’ve been phoning and emailing him every day to get it where I want it,” Dujardin explained.
If Dujardin and Valegro win the 2014 title they will be the first British partnership to do so in the history of the event. The only British rider ever to come close to winning this title was Christopher Bartle who finished second with Wily Trout, behind the inaugural champion Anne-Grethe Jensen and Marzog from Denmark at ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands in 1986.
Langehanenberg meanwhile is staying cool as a cucumber about any threat to the title she secured last year. Looking back on how things have gone for her since she lifted the Reem Acra title in Gothenburg last April, the German rider said: “I only had it in my hand that one time, but what a year it has been since then! Now every time I compete with Dami I go ‘wow that was perfect’ and he just keeps coming up with better and better scores!
“We are going to enjoy it and give our best, we can’t force it – we will try to keep the lightness and we will be fighting every inch of the way!”
Helen Langehenenberg interview In German
Riders have gathered from all around the globe for this year’s Final, and for Mary Hanna who travelled all the way from Australia it hasn’t been the easiest of passages. Her 13-year-old gelding, Sancette, lost a shoe during his flight to Europe and stood on one of the nails which became embedded in his foot. Fortunately Hanna’s groom, Carol Newby, noticed it almost right away and with the nail withdrawn quickly there was no time for infection to set in.
“But he was lame for almost two weeks after we arrived and it was a worrying time,” the Australian rider said. Based with Sweden’s Patrik Kittel in Germany during her European visit she has been working hard to get Sancette back in shape. “Fortunately he’s fine now and going really well again,” said Hanna, who is drawn in 11th place and whose goal this weekend is a personal best score.
Mary Hanna interview
The Netherlands’ Edward Gal, FEI World Cup Dressage champion in 2010 with Totilas, will be sixth into the ring with Glock’s Undercover. He is relishing the opportunity to demonstrate the ever-increasing potential of this 13-year-old gelding who has really grown in confidence and capability in recent months. “He just keeps getting better every time he competes and I just hope he does his job and continues to improve here again this weekend,” Gal said.
Edward Gal interview
The fabulous line-up promises a fascinating few days of top sport. FEI Director of Dressage Trond Asmyr said: “I’m convinced this will be the best Final we’ve ever had. The level of sport is better than ever and we have all the best horses and riders here and ready to go!”
The order of go for the first leg is:
1. Tina Konyot / Calecto V (USA)
2. Nanna Skodberg Merrald / Millibar (DEN)
3. Marcela Krinke Susmelj / Smeyers Lazander (SUI)
4. Inessa Merkulova / Mister X (RUS)
5. Danielle Heijkoop / Kingsley Siro (NED)
6. Edward Gal / Glock’s Undercover (NED)
7. Helen Langehanenberg / Damon Hill NRW (GER)
8. Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven / Don Auriello (SWE)
9. Isabell Werth / El Santo (GER)
10. Marc Boblet / Noble Dream Concept Sol (FRA)
11. Mary Hanna / Sancette (AUS)
12. Elena Sidneva / Romeo Star (RUS)
13. Hans Peter Minderhoud / Glock’s Johnson TN (NED)
14. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl / Unee BB (GER)
15. Cesar Parra / Van the Man (USA)
16. Dong Seon-Kim / Dibowski (KOR)
17. Charlotte Dujardin / Valegro (GBR)
18. Mikala Gundersen / My Lady (DEN)