Denmark's number one Cathrine Dufour played first fiddle in the 5* Grand Prix at the 2022 CDIO Aachen in Germany. On Thursday 30 June 2022 she won her second, consecutive Grand Prix class in Aachen in two days time and was the only rider able to post a double 80% score for the victory.
Her first place in a field of 36 competitors as well as the strong riding from her three country mates (Kruth, Bachmann, Merrald) has given Team Denmark the overnight lead in the nations' cup competition, which consists of three rounds with a Special on Saturday and the Freestyle finale on Sunday 3 July 2022.
It seems highly likely that Dufour will repeat her feat of 2018 and become the Aachen Grand Champion once more this year.
The Stage is Set
Blessed with gorgeous summer weather and rain carefully waiting to fall from the sky right until after the prize giving ceremony, the stage was beautifully set for top level competition in the first leg of the FEI Nations Cup at the CDIO Aachen. The stadium was already 2/3rds filled on a week day and the highly empathic audience 'oohed', 'aahed', and 'owed' with every right and wrong step the top horse took on the silver grey sandy surface in the Deutsche Bank stadium.
The distinguished panel of judges for this exclusive 5* class consisted of Susanne Baarup (DEN), Christof Umbach (LUX), Mariette Sanders-van Gansewinkel (NED), Anne Gribbons (USA), and Elke Ebert (GER). With this Grand Prix class being the final team qualifier for nations such as Germany, Denmark, and Spain, the stakes were high and some combinations caved under the pressure, while others rose to unprecedented heights. Riders competing after the lunch break enjoyed a bit more optimistic scoring from the fed panel as points appeared more generous (or inflated) in the afternoon.
The exceptional quality of riding this year in Aachen stood out as the entire day was captivating; not once was there a dull moment or a lull that made you decide to leave your seat early to buy an overpriced bottle of water (4 euro), some Haribo candy for your sugar fix, or a super-size bretzel to maintain a salt and carb addiction.
Because Dufour competed her second Grand Prix horse, 10-year old Westfalian Vamos Amigos (by Vitalis x Hotline) in the Danish Championships a few weeks ago, he was nominated for the CDIO tour in Aachen, instead of number one in the barn, the 11-year old Westfalian Bohemian (by Bordeaux x Samarant), who won the 4* Grand Prix on Wednesday with 80.413%.
It is no surprise that in the absence of Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl (pregnant), the road has been cleared for Dufour to freewheel to the top this summer with gold at the 2022 World Championships in Herning shining at the horizon. Bohemian was her choice for the Olympics and Europeans, last year, whereas Vamos Amigos was her ride at the 2022 World Cup Finals. However, the fuse box of the bright bay gelding blew in Leipzig, where he was too hot to trot. In Aachen yesterday, the lid was kept on the cooker.
As fourth last rider to go in the 5* Grand Prix, Dufour presented the electric bright bay in a very elegant and focused way. The halt at entry was not entirely immobile, but still earned her 8.2 on average. The first trot extension was hurried, the other two were better and had good ground cover. There could have been more bending in the corners as Vamos stays too straight in the body on the curved lines. Tee rein back was tidy. Dufour rode the passage in a very secure rhythm but the piaffe is in principle not a piaffe, but just the passage on the spot. Vamos does not really sit behind, but instead opens the frontlegs wide and swings.. As the rhythm is spot on and transitions flawless, the movement still earns high points from the judges, but in principle is not (yet) executed correctly in the classical way. it still earns him 9s. On a side note, Bohemian started out like this too, but has grown into and matured much more in the piaffe. The extended walk was good in overtrack and rhythm, but the nose could be a bit more out, reaching forward. The two tempi changes were clean, in the zig zag the changes to the left were a bit tense and the ones were correct but short (7.7). The pirouettes were small. Overall, Vamos loses the 3-beat striding in canter and needs to seek the contact more instead of escaping it. The final halt was square and he stood like a statue as the crowd erupted in a roar.
The judges rewarded this test with a winning 81.544% but they differed quite in opinion, with Luxembourg judge Umbach at 78.370% and Danish judge Baarup at 83.587%. While Vamos is fresher in his movements than Bohemian (especially in the extended trot), his elder stable mate is - in our humble opinion - the more correctly performing horse of the moment. The judges, however, seem to think differently.
German Frederic Wandres launched himself in Aachen as Germany's best scoring Grand Prix rider of the moment with his long-time partner, the 15-year old British Hanoverian Duke of Britain (by Dimaggio x Rubinstein). Bred by Sarah Pidgley, who happens to be the owner of Vamos Amigos, Duke of Britain has truly come of age this year with a new-found level of consistency in his performance.
Wandres and Hof Kasselmann's Duke of Britain followed in Dufour's wake and placed second. The pair is incredibly in tune with one another. Wandres knows how to ride the trot out of this horse, keeps the rhythm going, and in piaffe Duke is one of the most correct horses, sitting nicely and really finding a comfortable rhythm without too much flash. The extended walk was very good. In the passage the horse could be more powerful from behind and there was a small hesitation in the right pirouette, but overall the test was fault-free. The pair could hit even higher notes, if it all looked a tiny bit more effortless. Yesterday Wandres was working hard in the saddle to make things happen and Duke has quite a dry mouth, but the pair is extremely reliable and a clear answer to what a weakened German team needs right now in the lead-up to Herning.
The judges rewarded the test with 77.217% and all five were in unison.
Ruoste on the Rise
German based Finnish Olympian Henri Ruoste ranked third with his macho man Kontestro DB, a 12-year old Belgian warmblood by Contendro x Cassini II which the rider co-owns with business partner Jochen Arl.
The dynamic duo made their big break through at the 2021 European Championships in Hagen last September, enthusing the crowds with their Top Gun freestyle, which is now more current than ever with the reboot breaking records at the box office. They began their test with a halt that was stretched and not immobile (7.1). The right half pass was the better one. In the trot extensions the horse covers much ground. Kontestro DB has an ideosyncratic passage, really picking up the legs and almost touching his belly behind and with his knees figuratively up to his ears. The piaffes were on the spot, but could be a touch more relaxed. The extended walk had good overtrack, but in the collected he got tense. The tempi changes were mistake free and the pirouettes small.
Kontestro DB is a very talented horse, but seems to be a bit of an acquired taste. This shows in the judges's points: some love him (78.587%) and some are more critical about the tension (73.913%). Yesterday the pair finished on 76.783% which placed them third, a dream come true as Ruoste got to ride in the prize giving ceremony in Aachen, the most unique show in the world.
Fry on Fire
British Charlotte Fry is definitely the flavour of the judges and consistently puts big marks on the board. The petite rider, who is based at Van Olst Horses in The Netherlands, gets to ride this massive powerhouse breeding stallions and controls them in an impressive way.
With no less than five Grand Prix horses to campaign internationally this year, Fry is probably in the most comfortable position of all riders! Her Tokyo ride Everdale (by Lord Leatherdale x Negro) faces heavy competition from barn buddy Glamourdale (by Lord Leatherdale x Negro) and it will be interesting to see who the British team will pick for Herning. Lottie rode Glamourdale in Compiegne and brought the 13-year old Everdale to Aachen. The black stallion showed powerful trot extensions, big half passes and a huge canter extension, but throughout the test the horse stayed too tight in the neck and closed in the throat latch. In canter the stallion stays croup high, but he executed a good zig zag and small pirouettes. The extended walk had plenty of overtrack but the rhythm was not so clear (7.1). In passage he has much bounce, but in piaffe he sways too much as he is wide in front. The pair scored 76.500% to finish fourth. 75.543% was the low score (Sanders & Ebert), but Gribbons saw a 79.348% in it.
Werth's Quantaz Work in Progress
Isabell Werth has her hands full with Victoria Max-Theurer's 12-year old DSP stallion Quantaz (by Quaterback x Hohenstein). She has been competing the young stallion at GP level since 2019 but with the retirement of Bella Rose and Weihegold he now has big shoes to fill as the new number one in her barn.
The bay stallion with the gorgeous face is not yet up to the task and lately has been bickering with his rider in the bridle. In Compiegne the tongue came out and also in Aachen he flashed it briefly. Every test Werth ride is fascinating to watch. She never seems to put an argument on hold and when a ride does not turn out her way, she will make the most out of the moment and switch it into a training round. This is what seemed to have happened in the Grand Prix yesterday. Their halt at entry was not square (7.9 !) but the trot extensions were energetic and ground covering. The first passage had several double beats and in the first piaffe the tongue showed. The extended walk was poor: short-long in front and stiff in the back, which resulted in pacing. The judges rewarded that with an eye-brow raising 6.3. In the collected walk he almost stood still at H and it was very short, but it still got between 5 and 7. The benefits of having a big name rider in the saddle, I suppose? Isabell showed her skill in the canter and tried to get the most out of it. The extended was ground covering (but croup high), the one tempi changes were straight and the zig zag was ok, but laboured. Quantaz lost the canter in the left pirouette. The final trot extension had plenty of pezzazz but was a slalom instead of a straight diagonal. The pair dropped a few more stitches on the final centerline in which the rhythm got lost in the piaffe at X and the end halt was two meters before the marker (scores between 8 and 9). Interesting for sure. Work in progress.
Isabell scored 76.413% for that ride to place fifth. The low score was 75.652 (Baarup) and the high score 77.065% (Umbach).
Swedish Patrik Kittel landed sixth place aboard his own and the Skeppstrand family's 10-year old Swedish bred gelding Touchdown (by Quaterback x Sack). The Sack-look-a-like has taken over the number one spot in the barn from Well Done de la Roche, who has not been shown in a year and whose FEI registration was not renewed for 2022. The young gelding is a cute and sympathetic horse to watch with impressive shoulder freedom. Their halt at entry was not immobile, for which they scored 7.0 (remember Dufour got 8.2 for an immobile halt). The trot and canter extensions are huge and the horse has ground covering and expressive tempi changes, but in passage he does not really carry himself from behind (it's more a slowed down trot) and in piaffe he gets a bit wide behind. They scored 75.587%
American Steffen Peters and Akiko Yamazaki's 14-year old KWPN gelding Suppenkasper (by Spielberg x Krack C) placed seventh. The horse looked fresh in trot, produced big extensions and delivered a very good zig zag and two tempi changes. The passage was a bit insecure yesterday and he broke into canter after the first piaffe. Overall Suppenkasper needs to stay more straight in the body and in his footfall in piaffe and passage. He posted 75.261%.
Benjamin Werndl and Flora Keller's 13-year old Oldenburg gelding Famoso (by Farewell III x Welt Hit II) were 8th. The compact bay is quite slow behind and his trot gets too passagey, but the horse worked in an honest and harmonious way and produced lovely passage work, even though the piaffes stayed quite small. In canter the horse could lower the croup a bit more, but he was very much with his rider and made no big mistakes. They were 8th with 74.869%.
Holland's new sweetheart, the crowd pleasing Dinja van Liere, brought her second ride Hartsuijker to Aachen. Named after a famous Dutch landscape painter, the 10-year old KWPN stallion Hartsuijker is by Johnson x Scandic and owned by Dutch entrepreneur Jan Pieter Dalsem. The liver chestnut seemed to be on red bull; it reminded me of listening to a whatsapp voice message at speed 1.5x. Everything was fast and rushed, even though the pair showed lovely bits, like straight two tempi changes and small pirouettes. The passage was nice but too electric. The extended walk showed good marching. They received 74.739% for a 9th place.
Denmark's Carina Cassoe Kruth and the 11-year old Danish mare Heiline's Danciera (by Furstenball x De Niro) completed the top 10 with 74.500%. Her halt was also not immobile (6 - 7.5) , but the elegant mare showcased lovely trot extensions. At times the trot work was too passagey, but the passage itself was very springy and lightfooted. In piaffe the mare struggles, dropping on the forehand while crossing behind or side-skipping to the right. The extended walk had big overtrack.
All eyes were on Daniel Bachmann and 10-year old Danish gelding Marshall Bell (by Don Romantic x Michellino) who got sold to Austrian U25 rider Nicole Ahorner and ruled out of Danish team selection, until a benevolent Ahorner decided to give the ride back to Daniel for the summer. The turmoil of the last few weeks, with the horse moving to the Austrian Alps and then returning to the Danish flats did cause some vibration in the partnership between rider and horse. With a ton of pressure on Daniel's shoulders to secure his slot on the Danish team, their Grand Prix test was not at the top of their game, but Bachmann showed such amazing skill, staying calm even though there were some minor communication errors with his horse. Marshall Bell is mega engaged from behind in passage and is slowly learning to sit more in piaffe, but there was a little jog in the collected walk, a hiccup in the two tempi changes and overall the contact was not light, but the pair produced amazing one tempi changes and an expressive final centerline. They scored 73.696% for an 11th place.
The PRE's are Back
As a concluding note I want to mention that the PRE breed is back in business after a lull of several years. The last big PRE stars on the Grand Prix dancefloor were Grandioso and Norte Lovera and since then, there were some supporting actors on the show scene. In Aachen two "Andalusian" bred horses stole the show.
London and Rio Olympic team rider Jose Daniel Martin Dockx is back in business with the 12-year old PRE stallion Malagueno LXXXIII (by Joyero XXIV x Dominante XVI), owned by Francisco Santiago Ruiz. Last year the pair already tried for the Spanish Olympic team for Tokyo but that date came too soon for the young dark bay stallion who needed some more maturing. Although he still shows signs of tension with a nervous nose wiggle, the horse seems much more comfortable with the Grand Prix work. Dockx rides him a bit too tight and short in the neck to my taste, but Malagueno has a superb piaffe which only gets too hectic when he's tense. Also the extended walk was good, which is not a given for a PRE. The temp changes are straight but could be more ground covering. Nonetheless, this is a horse to watch. He scored 72.848 for 14th place.
And there is also a Cinderella story this year in Aachen. The 29-year old Alejandro Sanchez del Barco has his Aachen debut in his first year at international Grand Prix and only his second CDI ever in his career outside the Spanish border! His first foreign CDI at Grand Prix level was straight away in Aachen and what a debut he had. Aboard Jose Luis Martin Loca's 11-year old PRE stallion Quincallo de Indalo (by Esbelto VII x Bandolero LXVII) he placed 19th with 71.935%. The grey stallion is cute as a button and had a lovely silhouette in trot. The extensions were a bit hurried and in piaffe he crosses behind, but Alejandro was calm and collected in the saddle and rode a very focused test. The second piaffe-passage tour was lovely, the two tempi well executed and the ones were straight. Overall it would be nice to see the horse a bit more off the (horizontal) baby curb, but overall he was steady and consistent in the frame and delivered a calm and soft test.
Text and Photos © Astrid Appels - NO REPRODUCTION ALLOWED
Eurodressage photographed all riders competing at the 2022 CDIO Aachen. If you are interested in our photos for social media or prints, email us.
Scores: 2022 CDIO Aachen
Dufour and Bohemian Set the Tone for the Summer, Wins 4* Grand Prix at 2022 CDIO Aachen
Dufour Wins 5* Grand Prix at 2022 CDIO Aachen, Denmark in the Lead in Nations' Cup