Defending champions Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival clinched the Reem Acra FEI World Cup Dressage title for the second consecutive season when topping the Freestyle on home turf in ‘s-Hertogenbosch in The Netherlands last night.
But Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg really pressured the dominant Dutch duo with a spectacular performance that left them a close second, while Italy’s Valentina Truppa was a huge hit with the packed stadium of spectators when finishing third with Ermo del Castegno.
As Ground Jury President, The Netherlands‘ Ghislain Fouarge, later confirmed, the level of competition at the Brabanthalle was much improved in the decider. “The judges were a bit disappointed after yesterday’s Grand Prix, and Adelinde was not at her best, but it was completely different today,” he said. A score of 86.250 clinched the title for Cornelissen, who went fourth from last in the field of 18 starters, and that put her just over a single point ahead of runner-up Langehanenberg.
Australia’s Rachael Sanna and Jaybee Alabaster set the standard with a score of 71.339 when first to go, but were immediately overtaken by Finland’s Mikaela Lindh and Skovlunds Mas Guapo who put 71.696 on the board. For Poland’s Katarzyna Milczarek there was deep disappointment when Fourage stopped the test to tell her that her horse had blood on his flank, and was therefore eliminated. The Dutch judge said afterwards that “it’s always sad to eliminate somebody, but no-one wants to see blood on the horse”.
Fourth to go was the USA’s Jan Ebeling who lifted the atmosphere again with a crowd-pleasing performance from Rafalca, but a mark of 69.875 would not challenge the leaders. Three horses later, Germany’s Isabell Werth and El Santo NRW certainly did. It is 20 years since the 42-year-old rider won her first FEI World Cup Dressage title, which she followed with a second 15 years later, and with her usual flourish she made her entry into the arena and set to work with conviction today.
This is a rider who is never afraid to give it everything she’s got, and the lady who has five Olympic and six World Championship medals stashed in her trophy cabinet made best use of her David Bowie musical score to steer her massive bay gelding through some powerful passage, extended trot and canter before finishing with a dramatic one-handed ride down the centre-line. But this partnership has been struggling with piaffe for some time now, and once again it let them down, pinning their score just under the 80 per cent line at 79.964.
They remained out in front after the break until Langehanenberg turned the competition on its head with a fabulous ride. Her 12-year-old stallion, Damon Hill, won the Western European League qualifier at Neumunster in Germany and was runner-up in Amsterdam on the road to this weekend’s seasonal finale, and the stunningly good-looking horse was on the button all the way, with lovely piaffe, passage and pirouette racking up high scores for a strong lead with a mark of 85.214.
Werth, and Denmark’s Lone Joergensen, were the only two riders to wear safety helmets instead of top hats in the final.
Judge at C Fouarge said afterwards, “Helen is a very elegant rider and can easily beat Adelinde at the moment if everything goes OK,” and Cornelissen admitted that, having seen the German rider’s performance, she realised she had to raise her game. But she thanked her rival for putting her under pressure. “I knew I had to really sharpen him (Jerich Parzival) up,” she said. And a “sharpened up” version of her extraordinary chestnut gelding is a formidable sight at the best of times.
With consummate ease the pair began their floor-plan and it was clear their score would be right up there as the horse drummed out the amazing passage and piaffe that have become his trademark to the beat of his now very familiar musical score. There was a tiny bit of indecision at the very end, but as Cornelissen explained afterwards, the horse took matters into his own hands – or hooves in his case. “After the piaffe/pirouette I was doubting a bit, so Parzival said what do you want me to to do? Make up your mind! – so he decided!” And as the judges awarded them 86.250 they surpassed Langehanenberg and put the result beyond doubt.
But the excitement wasn’t quite over yet. As show organiser Frank Kempermann pointed out later, the Brabanthalle was packed to capacity with 9500 people who were enjoying every moment of the Freestyle action. And, last to go, Italy’s Valentina Truppa and Eremo del Castegno brought the competition to a perfect conclusion with a test so full of life that the spectators roared with delight as she saluted the judges for the final time.
As Truppa said afterwards, “people were singing to some of the songs – this type of music is happy and good for the public – it’s a combination of an Italian rider, an Italian horse and Italian music!”, and they could hardly have brought the final to a better conclusion as Truppa became the third rider to score above 80 percent, putting 81.232 on the board for third place. Talking about the uniform she wears, Truppa said: “it is the uniform of the Carabinieri which is a gendarmerie, there is a sports team and I am a member of the dressage team … there are also riders in eventing and dressage”.
The judging panel comprised: At K, Stephen Clarke (GBR); E, Susie Hoevenaars (AUS); H, Leif Tornblad (DEN); C, Ghislain Fouarge NED) President; M, Katrina Wuest (GER); B, Isabelle Judet (FRA); and at F, Gary Rockwell (USA).
Reflecting on the performances of the top-three riders, Ghislain Fouarge said they all “did a top job, but with very different performances”, adding that, in his opinion, Langehanenberg could threaten Cornelissen even more if she increased the degree of technical difficulty in her test. “It should be higher,” he said. “Adelinde’s degree of difficulty is higher.”
But Cornelissen believes that Parzival has more improvement to come ahead of this summer’s Olympic Games in London. She intends to compete with him at the Dutch Championships in Hoofddorp and Rotterdam in preparation for that, but if Langehanenberg takes Fouarge’s advice then the German may well give the new double-champion a run for her money in three months’ time.
But it was Cornelissen who had the style to record the 12th Dutch victory in the 27-year history of the FEI World Cup Dressage series which now goes forward into its third year of sponsorship by New York fashion designer, Reem Acra, in 2012/2013.
1, Jerich Parzival (Adelinde Cornelissen) NED 86.250;
2, Damon Hill NRW (Helen Langehanenberg) GER 85.214;
3, Eremo del Castegno (Valentina Truppa) ITA 81.232;
4, El Santo NRW (Isabell Werth) GER 79.964;
5, Hiscox Artemis (Richard Davison) GBR 78.571;
6, Glock’s Tango (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 76.125;
7, Girasol (Nadine Capellmann) GER 75.625;
8, Toy Story (Patrik Kittel) SWE 75.482;
9, Don Auriello (Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven) SWE 74.393;
10, FBW de Vito (Lone Joergensen) DEN 73.589;
11, Krawall (Jenny Schreven) NED 73.464;
12, Dorina (Siril Helljesen) NOR 73.250;
13, Skovlunds Mas Guapo (Mikaela Lindh) FIN 71.696;
14, Jaybee Alabaster (Rachael Sanna) AUS 71.339;
15, Rafalca (Jan Ebeling) USA 69.875;
16, Come on III (Shawna Harding) USA 68.821;
17, Randon (Michal Rapcewicz) POL 65.804;
18, Edwador (Katarzyna Milczarek) POL Elim.