As expected at the final of the World Cup, there were some amazing displays in the opening dressage event in Gothenburg, Sweden. It was the Netherlands’ Hans Peter Minderhoud who rode Glock’s Flirt to victory in the Grand Prix, but the host nation contenders were hot on the heels of the Dutch duo, with Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello just 0.371 percentage points behind in second place and Patrik Kittel just 0.1 point further back in third with the veteran Watermill Scandic.
Minderhoud knows he will have to do it all again in Sunday’s Freestyle if, at his sixth attempt, he is to take the coveted Reem Acra title at last. But it will be no easy task for the 42-year-old Dutchman and his 15-year-old gelding because, as today’s result clearly demonstrated, there is very little separating the leading combinations in the 18-strong field.
Denmark’s Agnete Kirk Thinggaard and Jojo AZ got the competition off to a great start with a test that earned 73.343, but it was Vilhelmson-Silfven who set the real target when, third to go with Don Auriello, she posted 76.500. The six-time Olympian and her 14-year-old gelding presented a picture of elegance as always, Don Auriello showing off his trademark extended trot and elevated passage and piaffe to great effect.
It wasn’t until Jessica von Bredow-Wendl and Unee BB, third-place finishers at the 2015 Final in Las Vegas, set off just after the judging break that anyone came close to that: this pair scored 75.257. But from the moment Minderhoud entered the arena with Glock’s Flirt it was clear they were going to produce something special. With calm concentration the chestnut horse set about his work to reset the target score at 76.871 and take command with just three more to follow him into the arena. The show was far from over, however.
When it comes to showmen there are few better than Sweden’s Patrik Kittel, and although the crowd went wild with excitement as he arrived into the arena, the 39-year-old and his 17-year-old horse – who were last to go – just took it all in their stride to post 76.400, which slotted them neatly into third place.
Kittel said afterwards that he wasn’t in the least bit bothered by the noise of the crowd, despite a little spook from Scandic before they began their test. “I love it, actually!” he said. “The excitement just makes for good sport – when people are happy that is great and we want the spectators to clap us – we are happy when they clap! But when I ride the test they stop and it is quiet again and I love that too. I would rather have all the noise and excitement because it makes for a great competition. And of course we have a top audience here and Gothenburg is a great show!” he added.
Second-placed Vilhelmson-Silfven said she was “super-happy” with Don Auriello today but admitted that she had a ‘shaky’ start! “He [Don Auriello] wouldn’t stand still in the halt and then he just cantered off, so that gives you something to think about! Am I preparing wrong or something? I was scared at first that I was not where I should be at the beginning but it all came together in the end.”
Kittel talked about Watermill Scandic who certainly belies his age and who continues to be as enthusiastic as ever. “He is in really good shape at 17 years old. I wonder will he quieten down, but he loves his work and he was like this when he was seven years old, so I don’t think he will ever change. I love him for that! I ride him a week to 10 days before a competition but he is like a professor, he knows what he has to do, I don’t have to tell him – he is really clever. He has done so many Grand Prix events in his life and it is a great feeling when he is like that. He has been like it since he was born!” the Swedish athlete pointed out.
Minderhoud meanwhile was reflecting this evening on his performance and on the possibility of making the Reem Acra title his own. “I know if I want to win then here is my chance,” he said. “I was very happy with my ride today, my horse was very good; super-concentrated. We had a small thing with a pirouette but I rode him as I wanted to ride him. However, Sunday is a new day and with the Swedish in the form they showed today, then I have to give everything to make it happen.”
1, Glock’s Flirt (Hans Peter Minderhoud) NED 76.871; 2, Don Auriello (Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven) SWE 76.500; 3, Watermill Scandic (Patrik Kittel) SWE 76.400; 4, Unee BB (Jessica von Bredow-Werndl) GER 75.257; 5, Donnperignon (Anna Kasprzak) DEN 74.729; 6, Mister X (Inessa Merkulova) RUS 73.957; 7, D’Agostino FRH (Fabienne Lutkemeier) GER 73.741; 8, Jojo AZ (Agnete Thinggaard) DEN 73.343; 9, Vancouver K (Judy Reynolds) IRL 73.000; 10, Smeyers Molberg (Marcela Krinke Susmelj) SUI 72.343; 11, Kastel’s Nintendo (Charlotte Jorst) USA 71.114; 12, Sandro Boy (Lyndal Oatley) AUS 70.943; 13, Rubicon D (Beata Stremler) POL 70.371; 14, Miata (Emilie Nyrerod) SWE 69.800; 14, Zero Gravity (Gunter Seidel) USA 69.800; 16, Umbro (Mary Hanna) AUS 67.929; 17, Axis TSF (Terhi Stegars) FIN 67.114; 18, Kartsevo Upperville) RUS 66.886.
The full results can be found on this link.