Reflections on the 2023 World Cup Finals' Grand Prix - Order of Go for the Freestyle

Thu, 04/06/2023 - 23:13
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 cards have been shuffled for a first time following the Grand Prix at the 2023 World Cup Finals in Omaha on Wednesday afternoon 6 April 2023. The favourites for a podium place were not able to bring their A-game to the table  - just yet - and for the first time chinks in the armor of Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl were seen.

The Grand Prix serves as a qualifier for the Freestyle and only that class counts to determine the winner and podium place getters. The Kur to Music will be on Friday evening in Omaha, which means that the European crowd will have to burn the midnight oil and get out of bed between 1 and 3 AM if they want to watch the event on live stream.

A Few Observations

After watching the full Grand Prix class a few interesting observations can be made. 


At major FEI championships, a panel of seven judges officiate and not five. In Omaha Maarten van der Heijden, Stephen Clarke, Magnus Ringmark, Katrina Wüst, Leif Törnblad, Janet Lee Foy, and Jean-Michel Roudier are on post. 

Ten years ago at the 2013 European Championship, for instance, if a judge was strikingly lower/higher with his score if was often considered temporary blindness, patriotism, or lack of knowledge/incompetence. In the past ten years the FEI has worked very hard at aligning their judges and strengthening the force, which had led to far better judging, especially at top level competitions. At lower level (youth classes, small tour) often more inexperienced judges are in the ground jury and that still leads to puzzling results. 

Blue Hors Zepter
The trend now with top sport judging is that the judge who sets himself apart from the team - either with considerably higher or lower marks - is often the brave one, who dares to score what he sees instead of being concerned with fitting the mould, it seems. Especially when it comes to "big name" riders, the judges often appear very generous and lenient in down-scoring mistakes; maybe it's the psychological effect of high marks doing well with the crowds and for the general image of the sport.

This seems to have happened in Omaha yesterday. Olympic champion Jessica von Bredow-Werndl made some atypical mistakes, which she explained because her mount was too sharp and on fire in the CHI Health Center stadium in Omaha. The judges, however, were lenient in down scoring those issues.  Dalera's halt - which was obviously not immobile - scored between a 5 and a 7. For the collected walk, in which the mare halted and then got lateral, no less than five of the seven judges gave a score between 5.0 and 7.0. The first change in the one tempi diagonal did not come through behind, and the line scored between 5.5 and 6.5. The two judges on the short side at A ended up being the high score (82.174 %) and the low score (76.739%). All seven judges had Dalera first unanimously though.

Blue Hors Zepter's scores ranged between 79.022 % and 71.957 %. Zepter had an issue in the two tempi changes and pirouette left. If you look at the breakdown of the score the lowest scoring judge was judge consistently a point or half point lower on all movements (maybe he put more weight in the balance concerning the bridle contact, we would need to ask him). The high scoring judge was always at an 7.5 or higher, except in two movements. This fraction of a difference, but in every movement creates a huge difference in the end result.

For most combinations the judges were in line, but for Anna Buffini there was also a low score 66.196% (Tornblad) compared to a high score of 72.065 % (Clarke).

Empty Seats

Lots of empty seats on Wednesday
It couldn't go unnoticed but there were so many empty seats in the CHI Health Center in Omaha for the World Cup Grand Prix. OK. it's a Wednesday afternoon, most people are at work, but it's a great pity for the sport that not more people were motivated to travel to Nebraska. 

On social media big discussions followed on the reasons why there is nobody there. Some claim that individual ticket prices were over $600 USD but a quick look online showed that you could still get tickets for 80$, albeit quite high up in the auditorium. Others stated that Omaha is not va va voom enough to turn into a little holiday. Most said that they would shell out the money for a plane ticket, entry ticket, food, and more if it were in hot Las Vegas, or even in Wellington, Florida, the heart of the American dressage community. 

I recall my trip to the 2017 World Cup Finals in Omaha and truly enjoyed the city, which I thought was manageable in size and had lovely little restaurants and boutiques. I did add four days in Chicago afterwards to make the long flight worth it, though. 

Order of Go

With the starters' list now down to 14 combinations, this is the order of go for the freestyle on Friday night. 

There is a 7-hour time difference with mainland Europe so the class starts at 1h15 past midnight. 


1. 212 Tribiani Caroline Chew SGP  
18.15 hrs chest / 19y. / G / NWB / Solos Landtinus / Landadel / 104TL84 / Owner: Melanie Chew, Tony Chew    
2. 207 Nabab Justina Vanagaite LTU  
18.24 hrs bay / 10y. / G / BWP / Sir Donovan / Krack C / 106UO70 / Owner: Justina Vanagaite    
3. 201 Charmer Jorinde Verwimp BEL  
18.34 hrs bay / 11y. / G / OLDBG / Charmeur / Quattro B / 107CB71 / Owner: Jorinde Verwimp    
4. 203 Sir Donnerhall II OLD Morgan Barbançon FRA  
18.43 hrs bay / 17y. / G / OLDBG / Sandro Hit / Donnerhall / 103RO36 / Owner: Morgan Barbançon, Marie Carmen Mestre Pons    
5. 216 Serenade MF Alice Tarjan USA  
18.53 hrs black / 10y. / M / AHS / Sir Donnerhall / Don Principe / 107DE72 / Owner: Alice Tarjan    
6. 200 Fiderdance Simone Pearce AUS  
19.02 hrs dches / 14y. / S / OLDBG / Fidertanz / Blue Hors Don Schufro / 106JF48 / Owner: Gestüt Bonhomme GmbH & Co.KG    
7. 211 Hexagon's Ich Weiss Thamar Zweistra NED  
19.12 hrs grey / 10y. / S / NRPS / Hexagon's Rubiquil / Negro / 106UA71 / Owner: Stal Hexagon B.V.    
8. 213 Mazy Klovenhoj Johanna Due Boje SWE  
19.21 hrs chest / 15y. / M / SWB / Bocelli / National Zenith XX / 106LX68 / Owner: Annette Karlsson    
9. 214 FRH Davinia la Douce Anna Buffini USA  
19.51 hrs dches / 16y. / M / HANN / Don Frederico / A Jungle Prince / 103VB39 / Owner: Anna Buffini    
10. 209 Torveslettens Titanium RS2 Marieke van der Putten NED  
20.00 hrs dbay / 11y. / G / DWB / Totilas / Stedinger / 106ME78 / Owner: Jacques Lemmens, Saskia Lemmens-Reijnen    
11. 206 DSP Quantaz Isabell Werth GER  
20.10 hrs bay / 13y. / G / DSP / Quaterback / Hohenstein / 106CM92 / Owner: Madeleine Winter-Schulze, Victoria Max-Theurer    
12. 205 TSF Dalera BB Jessica von Bredow-Werndl GER  
20.19 hrs dbay / 16y. / M / TRAK / Easy Game / Handryk / 105AH62 / Owner: Béatrice A. Buerchler-Keller    
    BREAK (Franziskus dropped out today)      
13. 215 Suppenkasper Steffen Peters USA  
20.38 hrs bay / 15y. / G / KWPN / Spielberg / Ips Krack C / 105DN05 / Owner: Akiko Yamazaki, Four Winds Farm    
14. 202 Blue Hors Zepter Nanna Skodborg Merrald DEN  
20.48 hrs chest / 15y. / G / OLDBG / Blue Hors Zack / Wolkentanz II / 105AK05 / Owner: Blue Hors Aps    

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