Quick Notes on the 2023 World Cup Finals Grand Prix

Wed, 04/05/2023 - 20:02
2023 World Cup Finals
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Dalera BB win the Grand Prix at the 2023 World Cup Finals in Omaha :: Photos © Stefan Lafrentz

- Text  © Eurodressage (this article expresses Eurodressage's' view and opinion on the competition) - Photos © Stefan Lafrentz

The 2023 World Cup Finals have returned to Omaha, Nebraska (USA) for the second time. In 2017 the city in the most central point of the U.S.A did a brilliant job at hosting this winter highlight event and six years later the CHI Health Center has opened its door again for the dressage and show jumping lovers from across the globe.

Will Von Bredow-Werndl Renew her Title?

The 2022-2023 World Cup show circuit ran smoothly after an interrupted flow with two cancelled World Cup finals due to two covid years in 2020 and 2021. Last year reigning Olympic and European champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl grabbed the 2022 World Cup title in Leipzig (GER), finishing off a stellar ten-month competition run in which she grabbed all major titles to be won.

Von Bredow-Werndl, however, did not (yet) achieve the most unique title an equestrian athlete can earn in his/her career: the triple crown: winning the European, World and Olympic champion's title in a row. Instead of competing at the 2022 World Championships in Herning, Von Bredow opted to fill her book of life by welcoming her second child to her family last August. 

The German returned to competition in October 2022 in Lyon, France, and won the six successive tests she has ridden. The big duel between World Champion Charlotte Fry and Von Bredow-Werndl is not happening though. While Fry and Glamourdale qualified for the Finals by winning London and Den Bosch, they declined to go to Omaha as Glamourdale has a full book as a breeding stallion this spring. The duel is most likely for Aachen or Riesenbeck this summer. 

With World Championship bronze medal winner Dinja van Liere on the scene in Omaha, Werndl is expected to get the most rivalry from her, although several other huge names, such as Isabell Werth (Quantaz), Nanna Skoberg Merrald (Blue Hors Zepter) and Ingrid Klimke (Franziskus) are there too, not discrediting the other Finalists who have put in brave efforts and good scores this season to make it to Omaha

Quick Notes

The 2023 World Cup Finals contestants
Eurodressage will be providing quick notes of all sixteen competitors as the Grand Prix progresses. Reload this page regularly to see the latest updates.

The first to go is Dutch Thamar Zweistra on the 10-year old NRPS stallion Hexagon's Ich Weiss (by Rubiquil x Negro). The pair had a very busy season in 2022 and the grey stallion was the horse that finally took young professional Zweistra on the senior team after a successful junior-young riders - U25 career. The grey is a powerful horse, maybe is not built in the most streamlined way in the topline, but wants to work and do the job. In the trot work he is engaged but could show more bending in the body in the corners. A slight back-stepping with the left hind and a swooshing tail in the first two piaffes. Passage is springy and regular. The horse is consistent in the contact and head position. Smooth two and one tempi changes; solid in the zig zag and pirouettes. Final halt not square. 73.261.

Morgan Barbancon on Sir Donnerhall
French Morgan Barbançon had a short(er) flight to Omaha as she has been wintering and competing in Florida. Only her horse Sir Donnerhall II, a 17-year old Oldenburg stallion by Sandro Hit x Donnerhall, had to make the trip all the way from Geneva, Switzerland, where he had stayed home in training with Morgan's assistant.  Very smooth, elegant trot extensions without pushing the pedal to the metal. Slight hesitation in the first piaffe. Nice relaxation and marching in the extended walk, gets a bit tense with a flapping lower lip in the collected walk but does not lose the clarity of rhythm. Second passage lacks a bit of power and collection which results in a small second piaffe. Overall the horse has improved a lot in the frame, staying more consistently up in the bridle and less like a rocking horse. Canter work shows much routine, first change in the two's was short behind, left pirouette a hint too big. Unfortunately loses steam on the final centerline and stalls in the piaffe at X. 67.376%

Looking round at the seats, the arena is not even half full with spectators. A pity. 

Johanna Due Boje on Mazy Klovenhoj
Swedish Johanna Due Boje is a World Cup Finals' new comer with the 15-year old Swedish warmblood mare Mazy Klovenhoj (by Bocelli x National Zenith xx). Good first trot lengthening, but I like to see more flexion in the corners (not just with this pair, but also with the others). The left half pass is more elastic and smoother in the rhythm. At times her trot mechanics get a bit passagey. The passage itself is lovely: very elegant, engaged, lightfooted. smooth transition in and out of piaffe. The collected walk is a bit fragile in the rhythm, close to losing the 4-beat rhythm. In piaffe the mare is engaged behind and rhythmical, but she could sit more instead of leaning on the shoulders. The zig zag was ok, the ones could cover more ground. The canter was better in the right pirouette as she had a double beat in the left. In the third trot extension, the mare bounces off the ground, but there is only a minimum of overtrack. Very nice and steady in the rhythm in the piaffe and passage on the final centerline.  69.876

Singaporean Caroline Chew also came down from Florida with her 19-year old Norwegian warmblood Tribiani (by Solos Landtinus x Landadel). The chestnut has been an amazing schoolmaster for the British based rider, taking her to the 2018 World Equestrian Games, 2021 Olympics (as the first Singaporean equestrian athlete in history) and the 2022 World Championships. This routinier is starting to show his mileage a bit in the trot extensions, not entirely crisp in the rhythm and in passage the left hindleg could engage a bit more, but he's a steady eddy nonetheless. Gets a bit unstable in the bridle contact in the canter work with the curb rein more on than the snaffle. Gapes in the zig zag. Very easy and straight one tempi changes. Pirouettes look easy. Clean final centerline. 

The 28-year old Belgian Jorinde Verwimp is the youngest competitor in Omaha, same age as Anna Buffini but born later in the year. Verwimp was the lucky one who got invited as several Western European League qualificants dropped out. Jorinde trains with her father Wim Verwimp, as well as with Anky van Grunsven, and in Omaha with Rieky Young. She rides the 11-year old Oldenburg bred Charmer (by Charmeur x Quattro B). The gelding was a bit strong and frozen in the contact, especially in the trot extensions. Nice, ground covering trot half passes. Could tuck the hindlegs more under the body in passage and piaffe. Good relaxation in the extended walk but not the biggest overtrack. Tempi changes could be straighter in the hindquarters. Nice extended canter, pirouettes were well ridden. Jorinde seems to have got the most out of what the horse gave her today. 

Dutch Marieke van der Putten and the Lemmens' couple's 11-year old Danish bred Torveslettens Titanium (by Totilas x Stedinger) are on an upward trajectory since the 2022 World Championships in Herning. They definitely made their mark in Mechelen and Den Bosch, so let's see what happens in Omaha. Trainer Marion Schreuder flew directly from Aachen to Omaha to coach her student, who got schooled in her riding and training by Edward Gal and Hans Peter Minderhoud, for whom she worked as an assistant rider for years. Now the head rider for Lemmens' RS2 Dressage, Marieke is one to watch. Again no bending nor flexion in the corners. Her horse as well as some others move through the corners like a straight board. Breaks into canter in the first extended trot. Half passes show good crossing, but not the flow and elasticity for a top score. Second extension is just lots of leg flicking in front, only instep in the overtrack and there was a milli second of a loss in the rhythm. The passage is bouncy, although Titanium never truly reaches the hindlegs under the body. Very smooth rhythm in the first piaffe. Extended walk does not have the greatest overtrack but is clear and regular. Second passage is nicely on the spot, but he dives behind the vertical and the right hind moves a bit out behind. Two tempi changes were correct but quite short, would like to see the horse open more in the throat latch. Good energy in the canter extension, Ones are very short and there was a mistake at the onset. Marieke cranks up the score a with decent pirouettes but the final trot extension is tense and mediocre. The horse loudly grinds its teeth. The rhythm and energy in the final centerline were good, but today Titanium did not give the relaxation and elasticity in the top line needed for a score to make an impact. 

The first American to enter the arena for the World Cup Finals on home turf is Alice Tarjan on the American bred Hanoverian Serenade MF (by Sir Donnerhall x Don Principe). The elegant mare has typical Sir Donnerhall hindlegs. Lots of crossing of the legs in the half passes, but Tarjan loses the bending and hindquarters in the ones to the left. Rein back crooked. Big bouncy trot extensions. The mare interestingly seems to move the right hind leg out from under the body and often gets crooked in the hindquarers (to the right).  A loss of communication in the first piaffe in which she comes to a halt, twice. Tarjan rides the mare in a curb with very long levers and the curb contact is quite strong, which makes Serenade open the mouth regularly. Collected walk not collected enough. In the second piaffe the mare travels forward but keeps the rhythm going this time. Serenade is a really gorgeous mare, so feminine looking, elegant, a ballerina. In the ones the right hind didn't come through in one change. Very nice right pirouette. The mare has a lot of energy and spring in the final passage but the collection and regularity are not always there. Wonderful horse with so much promise, but the basics need a bit of polishing. 

It's an American back to back as 28-year old Anna Buffini entered the ring straight after Tarjan. She rides the 16-year old Hanoverian mare Davinia la Douce (by Don Frederico x A Jungle Prince). Yes, someone who rides her corners a bit more ! Hallelujah! The trot extension is powerful and balanced, the left trot half passes could have been smoother and the rein back was a bit abrupt. Davinia has a nice pep in her step in passage, but could also be more engaged from behind. In piaffe she stayed on the spot, but leaned on the forehand. In the extended walk the mare needed to stretch more into the contact. I'd liked to have seen a bit more uphill tendency in the two tempi changes. The ones were straight, a bit laboured. Pirouettes are ok. Buffini sits nice and quiet in the saddle, hands in the right place. Thought they looked sharper and more accurate at the final North American League qualifier in Wellington, but it was a more than decent ride. 

Peak Performance?

There is a twenty minute break now for ring maintenance.

First impression is that I have not yet seen a combination ride at the peak of its abilities. Of course the electric atmosphere in such a big indoor Championship always gives new, unexpected stimuli to the horses. Quite a bit of mistakes made, some horse tense and hot. Let's see what happens after the break.

Post Break

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on Dalera BB
The final block of riders starts with a bang: Jessica von Bredow-Werndl on Beatrice Buchler-Keller's 16-year old Trakehner mare Dalera BB (by Easy Game x Handryk). The drums of the Lakota Indians hummed through the stadium during the break, but it left Dalera unfased.  Woops, the mare does not stand still in the halt. Good first extension, tons of ground cover, smooth rhythm without getting quick. Dalera crosses the legs well in the half passes, very even in her striding, but looks a but less supple in the loin or sacro-illiac there. mega smooth transition from extension into passage. The first piaffe she creeps a bit forward and I would like to see that front leg more straight under the shoulder in the first piaffe, but the rhythm is immaculate. Big walk extension with good relaxation, but there could be a fraction more V. A little pause/halt in the collected walk, which becomes totally lateral in the corner before the passage onset, which seems a bit crooked. Very smooth in the second piaffe. The horse is always light and soft in the contact. two tempi changes were big and relaxed, but could flow a fraction more through the body. Early collection in the extended canter diagonal. Good zig zag with steep lateral work. First change in the one tempi diagonal was a double pump. The polish on those pirouettes, especially the right one, could be better but it still looks easy and effortless. Very soft footed and regular final centerline. Lovely, but there were some "chinks in the armor" of this pair as the FEI commentator poetically suggested. 

Ingrid Klimke on Franziskus
Ja ja, here we go.. When a big name rider does not have the expected ride, some of the judges seem to lose their magnetic north. Werndl's score between 76 and 82% She finished on 79.922 %, generous considering the mistakes.. even though this pair is such a pleasure to watch because of the lightness, softness, elegance.

Ingrid Klimke and Wilhelm Holkenbrink's 15-year old Hanoverian stallion Franziskus (by Fuidertanz x Alabaster). Tongue came out in front in the first trot extension. Second trot extension loss in the rhythm as he didn't really stay in front of Klimke's leg aid. In the extended walk the stallion not really relaxes and stretches over the back and in the topline, not real long marching. Stays clear in the 4-beat rhythm in the walk. Very nice, big two tempi changes. The flying change at the end of the extended canter line was a bit flat. It looks like the stallion is not really supple and letting go but rigid in the top line. Very nice left pirouette, right on ok. Not sure that I like the trot extensions today. He covers ground, but doesn't look entirely even in front. In the final piaffe he slightly creeps forward and the final passage lacks collection, the tongue comes peeping again.. Nah nah.. he was nicer in Herning IMHO.

Nanna Skodborg Merrald on Blue Hors Zepter
Danish Nanna Skodborg Merrald and the 15-year old Oldenburg bred Blue Hors Zepter (by Blue Hors Zack x Wolkentanz II) were the winners in Neumunster and are one of the favourites for a podium place. The big chestnut is such a cool, sympathetic dude. Like to see a bit more bending to the right in the corners. Good trot extensions. Zepter has a very engaged, active and powerful passage, first piaffe not too bad. nice on the spot, good sit.  Very nice marching in the extended walk, tons of overtrack, good relaxation. Correct collected walk. In the second piaffe he stays on the spot but like to see more sit so he bears the weight instead of just skipping in rhythm behind and leaning on the forehand. Aah, a mistake in the two tempi changes. Strong canter extension, but rider starts pulling the bit, mouth open. Of course it's a bit horse to steer, but would be nicer if he collected on the seat instead of the hand. Smooth zig zig. The ones are ok, but could be even bigger considering the frame of this horse. Nice centerline with the pirouettes. Very consistent and strong final centerline with the horse really working for his rider. 

Long-time no see for me of Steffen Peters and Akiko Yamazaki's 15-year old KWPN gelding Suppenkasper (by Spielberg x Krack C) as the pair stayed in California this year and got their qualification for Omaha there. They began with a clean but conservative extended trot, nice trot half passes. Mopsie drags his feet in the rein back. The second extended trot was much more expressive. First passage is quite regular, but the horse's head could be more steady.. flicks his lower lip a bit (usually sign of tension). In the extended walk Suppenkasper could march more. The side view of the piaffe is lovely and soft in the rhythm, but the horse's head bounces a bit too much to my taste.  In the zig zag they go very sideways but lose a bit the uphill tendency. Solid ones, could be more up in the poll.  The horse has a lovely silhouette in the pirouette but both were quite big. Wonderful third trot extension. In passage he still gets wide in the front legs, also in piaffe but the rhythm is regular. 74.581%

Lithuanian Justina Vanagaite and the 10-year old Belgian warmblood Nabab (by Sir Donovan x Krack C) are the winners of the Central European League and have been competing at Grand Prix level relentlessly since 2021. They did twelve CDI's in 2022 and Omaha is their fourth in 2023. Vanagaite began with very nice half passes but the horse needs to stay more up in the poll. Good trot extensions, but I like to see the nose come out a bit more. In piaffe he doesn't take the weight but moves the hindlegs out from under the body and leans completely on the forehand (as it shows in the lack of lift in the forehand). Very nice extended walk with a clear V-moment in the rhythm. Very smooth and uphill two tempi changes. Lovely canter extension. Lovely left pirouette, the right a bit laboured at the end. Unfortunately the rider gives too much aid in the third trot extension and Nabab breaks into canter. You can hear him breathing heavily. Wonderful, willing horse with lots of quality in the canter work. 

Isabell Werth on Quantaz
And then the Queen: Isabell Werth on Victoria Max-Theurer and Madeleine Winter-Schulze's 13-year old DSP stallion Quantaz (by Quaterback x Hohenstein). She went full throttle in the first extended trot. Quantaz floats in the half passes. Halt for rein back not square. Tons of overtrack in the extended trots; they are impressive. In the first passage the hindlegs could engage more towards the point of gravity. Takes a big step out of the first piaffe. Extended walk, not 100% even in front with the left front seemingly shorter and also the clarity of rhythm is not ideal. The collected walk was so so, I feel myself frowning my brow when I see it. Second piaffe a bit too forward and the forehand as Quantaz sneezes through them. The two tempi changes are big but could be straighter. I miss a bit of finesse in this ride. Isabell really needs to pull her tools out of the box to pilot this stallion instead of making it look easy and effortless. Swings in the saddle in some of the flying changes. Very nice one tempi changes. Still plenty of bounce and energy in the passage on the final centerline, sneezes and steps forward again in the piaffe at X. 77.485%

Oh nooooo, Dinja van Liere and Joop van Uytert and Jan Anker's KWPN bred Hermes (by Easy Game x Flemmingh) just scratched! The unconfirmed news is that the horse was not level in the warm-up. The Dutch equestrian federation just confirmed the horse was "not fit to compete."

Australian Simone Pearce and Gestut Bonhomme's 14-year old Oldenburg stallion Fiderdance (by Fidertanz x Blue Hors Don Schufro) are the last to go. The liver chestnut stallion has a lot of reach and shoulder freedom in front. Expressive trot extensions and half passes. The extended walk was active but the horse could have stretched a bit more. In piaffe the stallion leans too much on the forehand, the passage is elegant. A mistake in the two tempi changes, good extended canter. Like to see the horse ridden more off the curb rein so the nose can come out a bit more. The one tempi changes were correct but could cover more ground. Very controlled and small pirouettes. 71.320%

So now only fifteen riders are let to compete in the Freestyle Finals on Friday. 

Related Link
Eurodressage Coverage of the 2023 World Cup Qualifiers and Finals