Patrik Kittel and Toy Story won the third leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage series on their home turf in Stockholm, Sweden, yesterday. © FEI/Roland Thunholm
In a weekend full of interesting twists and turns, multiple champion Werth finished well down the line in seventh place in Saturday's Grand Prix won by Vilhelmson-Silfven. And, adding to the litany of surprises, was a very pleasant one for Norway's Siril Helljesen who steered her lovely mare, Dorina, into Grand Prix runner-up spot.
But Kittel's latest Freestyle victory underlines his great strength in depth. He has 13 Grand Prix-level horses now at his base in Münster, Germany which he has been operating for the last 15 years. "I'm very lucky to have so many right at the moment," he said. "Toy Story does not have a great amount of experience but he is very talented and he really took me by surprise today!" he said.
"I must say I'm impressed by Toy Story," Kittel said. He says he still needs to build up the strength of this horse whom he has had for the last two years, but he believes Toy Story has huge potential and plenty of room for improvement.
Toy Story is owned by Kittel's wife, Australian Olympic dressage hopeful Lyndal Oatley, "But he is a bit big for her and so he is for sale," Kittel said.
"In the meantime I'm riding him and happy about that. I won the Grand Prix at Falsterbo with him but after that I had to concentrate on Scandic so Toy Story has not done a whole lot this year. I came to Stockholm with no great expectations at all - I hoped maybe to get in the top five, but it all went perfectly for us today," he said.
It is not often that double FEI World Cup Dressage champion Isabell Werth finds herself competing amongst the first section of riders in a Freestyle class, but she stormed into the lead when last to go before the half-time break with her beloved "Hannes" when scoring 78.475%.
"He was much better today," she said of Warum Nicht. "Yesterday in the Grand Prix he was stopping in the corner like a little pony! It was better today and he is in better shape than ever, so I'm quite sad that we couldn't show that," she said. Warum Nicht spooked during the Grand Prix, but, typically determined, Werth was in no mood for dithering yesterday afternoon and the chestnut was forward and elevated throughout.
Lying second as the final group of riders got under way was Sweden's Cecilia Dorselius whose pleasing test with Lennox had earned a mark of 71.09% - so there was a big gap to be filled between herself and Werth as the competition progressed. Finland's Mikaela Lindh quickly stepped in with a charming ride on Skovlunds Mas Guapo. Everything about their test was forward and full of confidence - they were a picture of team-work and pleasing to the eye as they registered a score of 75.475. And the race to match Werth's score was ratcheted up another notch when Denmark's Sidsel Johansen squeezed in with 75.500 showing on the scoreboard after an equally attractive performance from Schianto, whose overall rhythm and fabulous extended trot drew enthusiastic applause from the 7290 spectators.
The gap was closing even further when, two horses later, Helen Langehanenberg and Responsible earned 76.200 for an accurate if conservative performance, while Helljesen continued to impress when putting 75.175 on the board. She took all her chances with the nine year old mare Dorina with which she placed third at Falsterbo, Sweden and eighth in Hickstead, Great Britain earlier this year, and it paid off admirably. Trained by British coach, Paul Fielder, this partnership is putting Norway firmly on the dressage map.
But, third-last into the arena, it was Vilhelmson-Silfven who was the first to seriously challenge Werth's supremacy, overtaking her for the lead when registering 79.375 with Don Auriello to confirm the very reason she is the leading rider on the Western European League leaderboard. The five-time Olympian showed her wealth of experience with a flowing, extravagant test that featured some seamless directional changes in half-pass and a wonderful final extended trot. The question now was - could the last two riders do better than that?
Sole Dutch representative Christa Laarakkers steered Divoza Horseworld Ovation to a score of 75.900 to leave only Kittel between Vilhelmson-Silfven and success. And, to his own amazement, he produced the best performance of his horse's life. Starting out with big passage, Toy Story demonstrated high-quality movement throughout to return with 79.475 - a fractional advantage over his fellow-Swede.
Runner-up Vilhelmson-Silfven said she was "super-happy" with Don Auriello. "We had a couple of mistakes but this is the first time he is in an arena like Ericsson Globen and he took it well". She now plans to take Don Auriello, Favourit and Divertimento to Florida, USA in the new year - but her big target is the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage final in 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands next April.
And that is Kittel's target, too. "I'm going to Frankfurt and after that I will take Scandic to Mechelen and Gothenburg - my main goal right now is the World Cup Final," he said. But, for now, he can simply bask in the glory of a surprise win on home territory which leaves him second on the series leaderboard and well on the way to achieving that goal.
Stockholm presented the third of 9 qualifying rounds in the 2011/2012 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage series.
Riders from 7 nations - Sweden, Belgium, Germany, Denmark, Finland, Norway and The Netherlands - competed.
The venue was the Ericsson Globen Arena.
The series final will take place at 's-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands 18-22 April 2012.
The judges of the Grand Prix Freestyle were - At E: Maria Collander, At H: Gustaf Svalling, At C: Ghislain Fouarge (President), At M: Katrina Wust, At B: Annette Fransen-Iacobaeus).
Sweden's Tinne Wilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello won Saturday's Grand Prix with a score of 74.77%.
This is the second year of sponsorship from Reem Acra for FEI World Cup Dressage.
Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage 2011/2012 - Standings after Round 3 in Stockholm:
1. Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén, SWE 53
2. Patrik Kittel, SWE 41
3. Valentina Truppa, ITA 33
4. Isabell Werth, GER 32
4. Hans Peter Minderhoud, NED 32
6. Helen Langehanenberg, GER 30
7. Catherine Haddad, USA 26
8. Richard Davison, GBR 25
9. Marc Peter Spahn, BEL 24
10. Sebastian Duperdu, FRA 23
11. Siril Helljesen, NOR 22
12. Aat van Essen, NED 21
12. Rose Mathisen, SWE 21
14. Ulla Salzgeber, GER 20
15 Peter Gmoser, AUT 17
15 Mary Hanna, AUS 17
17 Monica Theodorescu, GER 15
17 Nars Gottme, NED 15
19 Ulrike Prunthaller AUT 13
20 Daniela Groenke GER 12
20 Lone Jörgensen DEN 12
20 Jenny Schreven NED 12