A close competition was promised and the riders did not disappoint but it was Patrik Kittel and Delaunay OLD (Dude) (80.560%) that rocked the auditorium with a strong, rhythmic and faultless routine to win the FEI World Cup™ Freestyle to Music, supported by Horse & Hound at Olympia, The London International Horse Show.
The Swedish combination displayed a high degree of difficulty in the programme set to a medley by the rock group Guns and Roses, that opened with a zig-zag of passage and piaffe, showed controlled double pirouettes to tempi changes and was on the beat throughout.
“The sport was really good and the standard was amazing tonight so I am just really happy to secure this win,” said Kittel, whose previous visit to Olympia was 13 years ago – when he then came last.
“I just loved how easy Dude found this test which has a high degree of difficulty – he just felt like he was cruising.”
The win takes Kittel to the top of the Western European World Cup™ League and he now looks certain for a place in the FEI World Cup™ final in Paris in April.
“I really love Paris and Dude is now qualified for the final so I hope nothing stops me going,” said Kittel.
It might have seemed a hard act to follow for British rider Emile Faurie and his new ride Delatio (80.405%) but the final combination of the night put in an impressive performance in their first competitive freestyle that made the most of the 13-year-old’s expressive paces, to come within a whisker - 0.155% - of the winner's score. He is now just the fourth British rider to score over 80% at this venue.
“I just feel so lucky that after so many years without a really top horse, I now have a whole string,” said Emile who is now based part-time in Germany.
“Delatio does not have a lot of competitive experience but he is an awesome horse, such a trier and his ability to concentrate incredible.”
Grand Prix winners Edward Gal and Glock’s Zonik (79.340%) were close behind in third place. The Dutch Olympian was third last year and has been in the top three here on no less than four occasions since his last win at Olympia in 2009.
“We made a few mistakes tonight and Zonik was a little tense as he is not used to such a crowd, and you don’t get this atmosphere anywhere else but the crowd really appreciate the riders and it was good experience for Zonik,” said Gal.
British riders Lara Butler (Rubin Al Asad), Hayley Watson-Greaves (Rubins Nite) and Richard Davison (Bubblingh) all put in strong performances to finish in 5th, 6th and 7th place respectively and within 1.33% of each other.
The next qualifying round for the FEI World Cup™ Dressage will be in Amsterdam on the 26th January.
The World's best Dressage riders were out in force on the opening night of Olympia, The London International Horse Show, where Edward Gal (NED) was crowned winner of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Grand Prix supported by Horse & Hound.
In addition to the top-class competition, Charlotte Dujardin and Carl Hester took centre stage to give a dressage masterclass showcasing the training routine of a champion.
Charlotte Dujardin took to the Olympia Grand Hall for the first time since the retirement of her triple Olympic gold medal winning partner, Valegro, this time last year. Riding Mount St John Freestyle, Charlotte was put through her paces by mentor and Olympic team mate, Carl Hester, to display the key attributes and training methods for producing a champion.
Mount St John Freestyle, an eight-year-old Hanoverian mare, nick-named "Mrs Valegro" by Carl during the demonstration, is looking to step up to Grand Prix level next year, with the 2018 FEI World Equestrian Games as the target. The composed performance showcased the exceptional talents of both horse and rider, who have already attained several titles together, including the recent Future Elite Championship and the Summer British Dressage National Championship.
Popular Dutch dressage rider Edward Gal and the young stallion Glock’s Zonik (76.68%) claimed the FEI World CupTM Dressage Grand Prix supported by Horse & Hound at Olympia, The London International Horse Show.
The win made a cold, slow journey from The Netherlands, that was beset by delays caused by the wintery weather, worthwhile. It was also an impressive display of horsemanship from Gal and talent from the expressive and elegant nine-year-old Glock’s Zonik, who was competing in just his third ever Grand Prix, and now has two wins and a second place on his CV. Highlights of the test include ground covering half-passes and particularly impressive elastic piaffe and passage.
“The journey here was really no fun at all,” said Gal, a winner of the FEI World CupTM qualifier at Olympia in 2009 with the record breaking Totilas, before going on to win the FEI World CupTM Final later that season. “We left home at 6am on Sunday and finally arrived in London at 6pm on Monday evening, but this win makes up for all that. I was really happy with Zonik especially as it was his first time in such a big atmospheric arena – this is really promising for the future.”
Swedish Olympian Patrik Kittel, who also endured a marathon journey to London, came a close second with the Oldenburg gelding Delaunay (75.10%). The pair performed a well presented and confident error free test. “I am very happy to be here for the second time,” said Kittel. “London is such a great show.”
Olympia debutant Madeleine Witte-Vrees from The Netherlands was third with the bright chestnut Cennin (73.72%), with whom she made her senior championship team debut in this year’s Europeans, while Emile Faurie and Delatio (72.86%) were the highest placed British combination. It was an impressive competitive Grand Prix debut for the pair, who have only been together for two months.
“Tonight’s Grand Prix was quite a challenge for the judges,” said Stephen Clarke President of the Ground Jury. “They were many good combinations, some exciting expressive horses and scores that were close together.”
Fifteen combinations will go forward to tomorrow night’s FEI World CupTM Dressage Freestyle to Music supported by Horse & Hound, one of the highlights of the British Dressage calendar.