Isabell Werth finishes top of League table with last leg win at ’s-Hertogenbosch

By Louise Parkes

German dressage legend, Isabell Werth, posted her second victory of the season at the eleventh and last leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2023/2024 Western European League in ’s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands today.

Taking maximum points with Emilio on home ground in Stuttgart last November, she did it again when the pair were runners-up to compatriot Jessica von Bredow-Werndl in Basel in January because the 2023 series champion was not entitled to qualifying points at the Swiss fixture. 

Isabell Werth (GER) and DSP Quantaz winners of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ – ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) with Theo Ploegmakers (EEF President). Copyright ©FEI/www.sportfotos-lafrentz.de/Stefan Lafrentz

Today Werth topped up her points tally to a total of 77 when, partnering the 14-year-old stallion DSP Quantaz, she pinned reigning world champion, Great Britain’s Charlotte Fry into runner-up spot. 

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The German star completes the Western European League at the top of the leaderboard from which nine athletes will qualify for the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia next month. Third place went to The Netherlands’ Emmelie Scholtens and Indian Rock who won the ninth leg in Neumünster, Germany last month and the French duo of Pauline Basquin and Sertorius de Rima Z IFCE finished fourth.

Holding the lead

The Kiwi partnership of Melissa Galloway and Windermere J’Obei W were holding the lead at the halfway stage on a score of 75.970 but were overtaken by the remaining seven of the 15 starters to finally slot into eighth at the end of the day.

First to go after the break, The Netherlands’ Marieke van der Putten and Torveslettens Titanium RS2 NOP raised the game when putting 77.405 on the board only to be ever-so-fractionally overtaken by the French partnership of Morgan Barbançon and Sir Donnerhall ll OLD who scored 77.410.

Belgium’s Flore de Winn and Flynn FRH have been enjoying a fantastic run of form and were racking up good scores until the black stallion suddenly seemed to take fright, losing concentration and lots of marks before recovering well enough to finish their Freestyle but in a disappointing last place in the final analysis. 

Bianca Nowag-Aulenbrock followed with a lovely performance from the fabulous 12-year-old mare Florine OLD that earned the first over-80% score of the day – a total of 80.140 for the German pair. And Scholtens bettered that with a mark of 82.095 to raise the stakes even higher.

But the real clash was always going to come down to the next two into the ring, Fry with Everdale who posted wins at both round six in Mechelen, Belgium in December and round eight in Amsterdam, The Netherlands in January, and Werth and DSP Quantaz who pinned the British duo into runner-up spot in Thursday’s Grand Prix.

Fry was chasing a hat-trick of wins as she entered the arena, and putting 82.250 on the board she snatched the lead from Scholtens. But Werth and the 14-year-old gelding strutted their way to a mark of 85.250 which would settle the matter when Basquin and the elegant Sertorius, another pair enjoying a really exciting season, were awarded 80.550 for that fourth place.

Decision-time

It’s now decision-time for qualified riders ahead of the Final which takes place in Riyadh from 16 to 20 April. 

Werth has always intended to challenge for her sixth title, her first earned with Fabienne 32 years ago, in Gothenburg, Sweden in 1992. 

She has long been the doyenne of international dressage and her only decision is which horse to ride. Her first preference would be the 18-year-old Emilio –

“my dream is to go with Emilio and that he should have his last show there, he deserves it! But Quantaz is also qualified….so we will see!”

Isabell Werth GER

she said.

She enjoyed today’s victory, and the arena atmosphere created by the enthusiastic spectators. 

“They (the horses) grow immediately when they come in, but it’s great to see so many people and the crowd was so positive, supporting all the riders and combinations and nations so that makes it really exciting and I always enjoy coming to ’s-Hertogenbosch. It’s close to home and it’s exciting to see that each time there is something more. So many flowers, so many lovely details around, there is no other show like this and I thank Anky (van Grunsven) and the whole team for this because it makes this really extraordinary!”, Werth said.

She’s been competing at ’s-Hertogenbosch for a very long time and as she pointed out – “I remember this show when we were in the other arena, and when we arrived the cows left an hour before, so it’s a big difference now!” 

Electricity

Fry agreed about the electricity in the arena. “It’s always really exciting to ride in the World Cup shows, of course there’s a lot of excitement as you enter the ring and especially today as they were announcing Emmelie’s score – the public were kind of loving that! 

“Once we were over that bit I was really happy, he settled down and relaxed a lot faster than the last few shows and it really felt that we could show that he can relax in the ring”.

Charlotte Fry GBR

“I try to make it look easy and we had a really great time, we had a few mistakes today but I’m overall really happy. It’s such an amazing atmosphere to ride in there and it’s also really close to home for me and I felt a lot of support from the public which is really nice”, she explained.

Third-placed Scholtens was more than pleased too. She missed out on this home show last year because of a knee injury so it was great to be back. And Indian Rock more than rose to the occasion.

“He felt really super, I really love to ride him….he is so talented and such a gentleman, I just love him and I think he did really, really well. He’s still a young horse (11 years old) in the Grand Prix, and for me it felt amazing!”, she said. Both Fry and Scholtens now have to decide if they will make the trip to Saudi Arabia in five weeks time. 

The final standings in the Western European League show Werth at the head of affairs followed by Fry in second and longtime series leader Patrick Kittel from Sweden in third place. Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath is in fourth, Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald in fifth and Morgan Barbançon in sixth ahead of Raphael Netz from Germany in seventh, Scholtens in eighth and Spain’s Borja Carrascosa in ninth spot. 

Belgium’s de Winne and Austria’s Diana Porsche who finished twelfth today lie in equal-tenth place, just outside the qualification zone while French riders Basquin and Alexandre Ayache are next in line. 

The startlist for the 37th FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final will take shape very soon, so don’t miss a hoofbeat….


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