Defending series champions, Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival from The Netherlands, were emphatic winners of the sixth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage 2011/2012 series at Mechelen in Belgium yesterday. © FEI/Dirk Caremans
As winner of the 2010/2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage title, Cornelissen is already qualified for the 2011/2012 decider which will take place on her home soil at 's-Hertogenbosch next April, and is therefore not entitled to accumulate points in the current season. Kittel, meanwhile, looks likely to have three horses to choose from going to the final following a highly impressive run of form in recent months.
Germany's Nadine Capellmann slotted into third with Elvis, while Dutchman Hans Peter Minderhoud finished fourth with Withney van het Genthof. Best of the strong Belgian contingent was Jeroen Devroe who steered Apollo van het Vijvershof into fifth.
A total of 19 riders lined out for Tuesday's Grand Prix, and all of the seven home-side contenders qualified for Wednesday's Freestyle to Music. One of the most eye-catching of these was the nine-year-old Gribaldi mare, Vradin, ridden by the relatively unknown 27 year old Simon Missiaen. They forged an early lead with a score of 71.900 for a test that was filled with lightness and which was a pleasure to watch.
And, just before the judging break, there was another very satisfying result for fellow-Belgian Vicky Smits-Vanderhasselt, who put a score of 73.925 on the board. This was the first big outing for the wife of jumping rider Christophe Vanderhasselt since she gave birth to their son in July of this year. Vicky was riding the 12 year old bay mare Daianira van de Helle, who is part-owned by the Belgian stallion station at Van de Helle which is managed by equestrian press officer Edith de Reys.
But it was Belgium's Jeroen Devroe and Apollo van het Vijvershof who held sway at the halfway stage, when the pure energy and quality-of-movement of the 11-year-old bay gelding secured a mark of 75.300 to take the lead.
Third to go after the break, Cornelissen set the bar considerably higher as Parzival simply swaggered his way through a test that included great piaffe and wonderful canter pirouette. There was once a time when the intensity of the atmosphere in a ring like the Nekkerhal would have shredded the nerves of this big chestnut gelding, but it seems he has managed to slay all those dragons, and it was quite clear which horse would be wearing the winner's laurels at the end of the afternoon as Cornelissen leaned forward to kiss Parzival on the neck after a masterful display.
World Cup series leader Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic. They finished second in Mechelen. © FEI/Dirk Caremans
Her score of 76.950 gave her a single-point advantage over fourth-placed Hans Peter Minderhoud and the handsome stallion, Withney van het Genthof, for The Netherlands.
Cornelissen meanwhile has no worries about getting to the final to defend her title. "For me, this is really just the start of the season," explained the rider whose other successes this year have included winning double-gold, in the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle, at the FEI European Championships in Rotterdam as well as the Reem-Acra-sponsored FEI Athlete of the Year Award 2011.
"My main aim for 2012 of course is London (Olympic Games), but I will compete in Amsterdam and at the (Reem Acra) Final." Amsterdam provides the next port of call for the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage series in three weeks' time and the home crowd will, no doubt, throng to see their champion on her home turf.
Kittel meanwhile is targeting his home venue at Gothenburg, Sweden in February for his next outing with Watermill Scandic. And he has something up his sleeve. "I have a new Freestyle based on Billy Idol - it's very rocky, and very different and I think it's going to be great!" he warned.
The 2011 edition is the 31st anniversary of the horse show at the Nekkerhal in Mechelen, Belgium. This annual fixture is dedicated to the memory of the late Belgian rider Eric Wauters who, at the Olympic Games in Montreal, Canada in 1976, won team bronze in Jumping alongside Stanny Van Paesschen, Francois Mathy and Edgar-Henri Cuepper.
The panel of judges for yesterday's competition consisted of - At E: Wojtek Markowski (POL); At H: Isobel Wessels (GBR); At C: Mariette Withages (BEL); At M: Susanne Baarup (DEN) and At B: Jacques van Daele (BEL).
15 riders from 7 nations - Belgium, Australia, Ukraine, The Netherlands, Germany and Sweden - competed in the Freestyle Kur to Music.
The Nekkerhal arena was packed to capacity for the competition, with over 7000 seated spectators and additional numbers filling the non-seated area.
Standings after Round 6 at Mechelen, Belgium:
1. Patrik Kittel SWE - 65
2. Hans Peter Minderhoud NED - 59
3. Valentina Truppa ITA - 53
4. Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven SWE - 52
5. Isabell Werth GER - 43
6. Helen Langehanenberg GER - 42
7. Richard Davison GBR - 38
8. Jeroen Devroe BEL - 34
9. Monica Theodorescu GER - 32
10. Nadine Capellmann GER - 29
11. Catherine Haddad USA - 26
12. Marc Peter Spahn BEL - 24
13. Sebastien Duperdu FRA - 23
14. Christa Laarakers NED - 22
14. Siril Helljesen NOR - 22