Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival recorded their fourth victory of the 2010-2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage season at Gothenburg, Sweden on Saturday night and jumped to the top of the Western European League leaderboard ahead of the final qualifier on their home turf at 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands in three weeks' time.
Adelinde Cornelissen and Parzival.
Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic.
Isabell Werth and Warum Nicht. © Roland Thunholm/FEI
The 32-year-old rider and her 14-year-old horse produced a more harmonious test than ever before, and Cornelissen declared herself delighted with the result. Sweden's Patrik Kittel
finished a close second with a personal-best result from his stallion Watermill Scandic HBC while Germany's Isabell Werth
and Warum Nicht FRH had to settle for third.
In a competition that was very much "a game of two halves", many of the early riders produced low scores. Ground Jury President, The Netherlands' Wim Ernes, said "tonight we saw some bad tests ... but the top riders did a good job". He added "we saw today in the first group, a lot of riders who did not have enough impulsion and so made a lot of mistakes".
Sweden's Rose Mathisen and Bocelli, fifth to go of the 15 starters, were the first to break the 70% barrier with a score of 70.225 which still held the lead at the halfway stage. And, as the competition resumed, they remained out in front when Belgium's Marc Peter Spahn and his Friesian stallion put 68.450 on the board. Next in was Denmark's Andreas Helgstrand, who raised the bar with a score of 72.525 riding the nine year old mare Polka Hit Nexen. This partnership impressed the Ground Jury - "this is a young horse and there were problems with temperament but there were also some real highlights - the scores ranged from 9's to low marks as a result," Ernes said.
Two horses later, Cornelissen and Parzival brought a whole new dimension to the competition with a score of 82.875. Despite the close proximity of the spectators, the big chestnut gelding who has so often been fazed by the crowds remained focused and free-moving to produce sparkling piaffe and pirouettes that were perfectly balanced and light. This was a test that oozed confidence, and as they executed their final movements you could hear the intake of breath from the audience who knew they were watching something special.
Kittel then put 81.025 on the board with a performance that surprised even himself. "I got a score of over 80.00 - it's something I've only ever dreamed about, and it's just amazing to do my personal best here in Gothenburg!" he said with a big smile. "The atmosphere was very intense and he was on his toes but I was super-happy with a lot of his stuff!" he added.
Kittel will not be attending the last qualifying leg at 's-Hertogenbosch, as his wife's sister is getting married in Australia around that time.
Dutch rider Jenny Schreven followed him into the arena for a mark of 72.900 and this proved good enough for fourth place in the final analysis. Wim Ernes was most impressed with the work the 25-year-old produced from the veteran, Krawall. "This is an old horse - I believe he is 19, and it's amazing that he can still perform like this - I think he is enjoying a second youth, and she (Jenny Schreven) is a real talent. She's young and its very nice to see her ride like this - she did a good job yesterday and today," he said.
US rider Catherine Haddad and Winyamaro scored 70.650 when second-last to go and now only Werth and Warum Nicht stood between Cornelissen and her fourth win of the season. Punished for some mistakes however, the German duo's mark of 79.775 would not present a major threat. Werth didn't seem disappointed afterwards.
"I was quite satisfied. We did better canter-work and my horse was more relaxed but we did have a little mistake in the half-pass," she said.
Cornelissen explained that her biggest battle was with her own health because she had been feeling ill since winning Friday night's Grand Prix. She was disappointed with the points she received for the test - "at the Europeans I scored 86.000 yet this was a better test and I only got 82.000 - maybe the judge can explain?" she said looking at Ernes. He replied that she had done "a very good test" but that "sometimes the horse was a little short in the neck - but it was a good total picture," he said.
Cornelissen now heads for the last qualifier in the 10-leg Western European League season at 's-Hertogenbosch at the end of March but is under no pressure ahead of the final in Leipzig, Germany having proven her form by adding the Gothenburg trophy to the ones she claimed earlier in the season at Stockholm, London and Amsterdam. She now tops the Western European League table with a three-point advantage over Germany's Ulla Salzgeber in second and has a six-point lead over third-placed Werth.
• The oldest rider in the competition was 74-year-old Ulla Hakanson from Sweden while the youngest rider was Norwegian 23-year-old Lillann Jebsen - an age difference of 51 years.