Riding the crest of the wave that saw them take Freestyle bronze at the FEI European Championships in Aachen, Germany two months ago, Spainâs Beatriz Ferrer-Salat and Delgado registered a convincing victory at the second leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cupâ¢ Dressage 2015/2016 Western European League at Lyon, France this afternoon. They sent a warning shot across the bows of their rivals when topping yesterdayâs Grand Prix with a personal-best mark of 79.250, and today all five members of the Ground Jury were in complete agreement when awarding them the winning Freestyle score of 82.875.
However the spectators held their breath after a spectacular performance from Patrik Kittel who was last to go in todayâs thrilling contest. If there had been extra marks on offer for pure excitement, then the Swedish rider would definitely have had it in the bag because, with the willing assistance of his lovely mare Deja, he threw down a test that was nothing short of funky. The crowd couldnât resist moving to the sound of his Stevie Wonder-themed musical score, but his final mark of 81.175 left him in second spot ahead of Germanyâs Fabienne Lutkemeier and DâAgostino in third. Switzerlandâs Marcel Krinke Susmelj lined up fourth with Smeyers Molberg, Irelandâs Judy Reynolds finished fifth with Vancouver K and the sole French representative, Pierre Volla, claimed sixth spot with his young mare Badinda Altena.
High standard of competition
There was a high standard throughout the entire competition today. As Judge at C, Isabelle Judet from France, commented afterwards, âon paper you had one group at the very top who were clearly at a high level, but even the performances of those in the second group were of a very good standard – it was a great competition to judgeâ, she said. The Ground Jury, which also included The Netherlandsâ Ghislain Fouarge, Belgiumâs Jacques van Daele, Luxembourgâs Christof Umbach and Germanyâs Katrina Wuest, had the 72.125 earned by Denmarkâs Rikke Svane and the eye-catching black stallion Finckenstein TSF as their leading score at the halfway stage.
However, much to the delight of the home crowd, Pierre Volla and his charming chestnut mare, one of three hugely promising nine-year-olds competing in todayâs class, bounced well into the lead with a mark of 74.150 when first into the arena after the break. But Krinke Susmelj raised the target all the way up to 78 percent when Smeyers Molberg got into the swing, and Reynolds and Vancouver K slotted in behind the Swiss pair on a mark of 77.425 for temporary runner-up spot when next into the ring. It might not have been the winning score today, but there were big smiles all round in the Irish camp, as this is a new Irish Freestyle record, Reynolds also setting the previous one at Hagen, Germany in April.
Raised the bar
With three left to go, Germanyâs Fabienne Lutkemeier and DâAgostino raised the bar even higher, the big chestnutâs powerful and expressive movement complemented by great lightness as they marched out in front for a mark of 79.850. But the team gold medallists from the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Gamesâ¢ 2014 in Normandy (FRA) and the FEI European Championships 2013 in Herning, Denmark, were immediately relegated by the foot-perfect performance from Ferrer-Salat and Delgado.
This pair are a picture of symmetry, and as they easily worked through their floorplan in complete harmony with their music, it was clear a new lead would be established. Putting 82.875 on the board, it was now up to Kittel to dethrone the Spanish partnership when last to go. And the crowd watched with amazement as he gave it his very best shot, his 11-year-old mare, Deja, seemingly dancing with delight as the excitement built to a crescendo. The arena erupted when they drew to a halt, but the scoreboard showed 81.175 for second place. However Kittel now stands at the top of the Western European League leaderboard at this early stage of the series when adding todayâs 17 points to the maximum 20 he picked up when winning the Central European League qualifier at Kaposvar in Hungary two weeks ago.
First competition since Europeans
âThis was only our first competition since the Europeans, so Iâm very happy!â said winning rider Ferrer-Salat tonight. It has been quite a year for the 49-year-old who, during her highly-successful career with her former ride, Beauvalais, finished third at the FEI World Cupâ¢ Dressage Final in sâHertogenbosch (NED) in 2002, claimed individual silver at the FEI World Equestrian Games on home turf in Jerez (ESP), and won individual bronze at the 2004 Olympic Games in Athens (GRE).
Her partnership with Delgado has been beset by injury problems for the horse over the last eight years, but somehow she kept faith with to the 14-year-old gelding and that faith has being repaid handsomely over the last nine months. The pair re-emerged onto the international stage in March and had just two competitions under their belt before taking that bronze medal in Aachen in August where she also helped her country qualify for the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. Together they present a beautifully balanced, forward-going picture. She said this evening, âwith him it is always very harmonious, there is an understanding between us, I know how he is feeling and he knows me very well also.â Asked to compare Delgado to Beauvalais she said, âDelgado is better in piaffe, but they are both special because they give me everything they can. What they have in common is that they are both very good in their heads and they have big hearts, always wanting to go forward, always wanting to be with me and thatâs a very wonderful feeling for any riderâ, she said. Ferrer-Salat plans to compete at the next leg of the Reem Acra series in Stuttgart, Germany in three weeksâ time.
Kittel meanwhile recognised that this had been an afternoon of great sport, and complimented the Lyon organisers on opening the doors to the public free-of-charge this afternoon. âThe more of the general public we have in the audience the better if we want our sport to progress. The crowd were great, they really enjoyed the competition and supported us all, and the horses were fine in the prize-giving even though the spectators were really noisy. It was a lot of fun!â he said.
The third leg will take place at Stuttgart (GER) on Saturday 21 November 2015. For details of the German fixture visit www.stuttgart-german-masters.de or contact Press Officer JÃ¶rg Klopfer, [email protected], +49 71195543128.
Result: 1, Delgado (Beatriz Ferrer-Salat) ESP 82.875; 2, Deja (Patrik Kittel) SWE 81.175; 3, DâAgostino (Fabienne Lutkemeier) GER 79.850; 4, Smeyers Molberg (Marcela Krinke Susmelj) SUI 78.000; 5, Vancouver K (Judy Reynolds) IRL 77.425; 6, Badinda Altena (Pierre Volla) FRA 74.150; 7, Batuta (Goncalo Carvalho) POR 74.125; 8, Finckenstein TSF (Rikke Svane) DEN 72.125; 9, Spirit of the Age OLD (Bernadette Brune) GER 72.075; 10, Dandy de la Roche CMF (Antonella Joannou) SUI 71.300; 11, Raffaelo v. Bene (Anna-Mengia Aerne) SUI 71.075; 12, Beckham (Marina Mattsson) SWE 69.600; 13, Santurion de Massa (Daniel Pinto) POR 68.625; 14, Sal (Silvia Rizzo) ITA 64.975; 15, Sunny Boy (Juan Antonio Jiminez) ESP 64.775.
Detailed result here