Top-class dressage made its debut at the CHI Classics in Basel, Switzerland this weekend where, with all the flair, composure and grace that is their trademark, Germany’s Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and the elegant mare TSF Dalera BB danced to victory in the seventh leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2022/2023 Western European League this morning.
The 2022 series winners already showed they have lost none of their edge when winning the second leg of the new season at Lyon in France last October where they posted a score of 90.140. And today the pair, who are also Olympic and European champions, put 90.795 on the board to leave the result beyond doubt.
Von Bredow-Werndl’s compatriot and five-time FEI Dressage World Cup™ title-holder Isabell Werth finished second with the stallion DSP Quantaz while Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald lined up in third with her new ride Blue Hors Zepter.
And there was great emotion for the Werndl family when Jessica’s brother, Benjamin, announced the retirement of his great ride Daily Mirror after they finished fourth. The 19-year-old gelding was in sparkling form and seemed to be relishing every moment as he racked up a score of 83.995 to leave him ahead of The Netherlands’ Dinja van Liere in fifth and Sweden’s Patrik Kittel in sixth place.
One of the highlights of the first half of today’s competition was the charming performance of 29-year-old French athlete Corentin Pottier and her little 12-year-old Totilas gelding Gotilas du Feuillard who, in their first-ever World Cup Freestyle, produced fabulous two-tempi changes on their way to taking the early lead with a mark of 76.775.
However it was Kittel who held the advantage as the second group took their turn after scoring 81.220 for a great test with the 11-year-old mare Forever Young HRH who showed some lovely passage and canter in perfect harmony with the Swedish showman’s punchy musical score.
Third to go after the action resumed, Werth then seriously raised the bar as her 13-year-old stallion DSP Quantaz showed great elevation, suspension and power in a test filled with class, and the Swiss crowd showed their appreciation when this pair put the new leading score of 85.650 on the board. But, third-last into the arena, von Bredow-Werndl soared way out in front with the first and only over-90% score of the competition. “I think this might have been our best Freestyle ever! The very first half-pass wasn’t perfect but after that she was 100% with me,” she said.
The excitement wasn’t over yet however because, on their World Cup debut together, Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zepter gave a great account of themselves. The imposing 15-year-old chestnut, a gelding son of Blue Hors Zack who carried Skodborg Merrald to that historic team gold at last summer’s ECCO FEI World Championship on home ground in Herning, was previously ridden by both Denmark’s Daniel Bachmann Andersen and Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and makes a very nice match with his new partner, showing some lovely work on his way to posting 84.130 for third place.
“He’s new to me and I’m very happy about our first Freestyle together,” Skodborg Merrald said afterwards.
Second-placed Werth was also quite content. “Today was a great class and I am very happy. He improved so much in the past year,” the most medalled rider in equestrian sport said of DSP Qantaz who now looks so very established and confident in the ring.
Winning rider von Bredow-Werndl talked about the recipe for her success with Dalera. It’s about concentration and not getting in the mare’s way.
“She’s so smart and knows what’s next, so I need to use very little aids and I must be very exact. If I think of anything other than what we are doing there will be a mistake, when I’m in the “here and now” she is my mirror. She is so intelligent, willing and eager, and she always wants to put on a show.”
“Today her pirouettes were very good, she was waiting and carrying and uphill and the half-passes and the walk were much better. But when it comes to passage/piaffe there is nothing to add, she’s just doing her thing and she loves to do it!”
Post-competition there was much delight with the introduction of Basel to the FEI Dressage World Cup™ calendar. “It definitely has a nice future in the Dressage world,” von Bredow-Werndl said while Isabell Werth agreed.
“I have already ridden in Switzerland a few times when there was top dressage competitions in this country and it is great to be back! The infrastructure here is great and we are happy and thankful that we could have a World Cup here in Basel. The atmosphere was great and the horses liked it. It is a really nice show and we are looking forward to be back next year,” she said.
Event president Thomas Straumann said, “We are happy that we finally welcomed dressage in Basel – it was a great moment and was great sport!” while event director Andy Kistler said, “I have stars in my eyes!”
“I’m so happy that the public came to support dressage, the style of our show suits it very well, and I am just so happy and thankful right now and I’m looking forward to the future!” he added. He’s not the only one looking ahead.
A little closer in the future, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and her mare will be back to defend their title when the FEI Dressage World Cup™ 2022/2023 Final takes place in Omaha, USA next April.
“Dalera won’t do any more for now. I think I needed these three competitions (Lyon, Stockholm in November and today in Basel) to get back into all the details but after yesterday (in the Grand Prix) and today I now feel we are ready for the Final and we don’t have to change anything. Maybe she will have a little vacation and then some conditioning work before flying to Omaha. I’m lucky because she is super-easy about travelling and I’m feeling confident and really looking forward to it now!” she said.
Her only disappointment today was missing out on watching her brother, Benjamin, competing Daily Mirror 9 for that very last time. But he has plenty to celebrate too because his old friend has left him lying top of the Western European League table with just four legs left to go in this qualifying series. With 65 points on the board he will easily make the cut into the top nine riders who will earn tickets to the Final which will run from April 4 to 8, 2023.
Meanwhile next stop in the Western European League is Amsterdam in The Netherlands in two weeks’ time.