Laura Graves has been threatening the supremacy of German superstar, Isabell Werth, for some time, and at the opening competition of the 2018 FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Paris, the American rider and her lovely Verdades pulled out a personal best for 81.413% and victory in the Grand Prix.
Isabell and her defending champion, Weihegold, had an uncharacteristic blip in their canter work, and finished nearly three percentage points behind, on 78.261%.
A year ago, Laura and Verdades were runners-up to Isabell and Weihegold at the Finals in Omaha, and a few months later they beat the German duo on home turf in Aachen.
But the 30-year-old from Florida, who has owned her beloved ‘Diddy’ since he was a foal, is well aware that Isabell is not going to simply yield victory.
At the press conference, when asked how it feels to have Isabell sitting beside her in second place, she replied: ”it feels very scary, especially with such a fierce competitor because I know she’s going to ride even harder tomorrow!”
Isabell had to follow Laura into the ring in the Grand Prix, so the pressure was on, and although Weihegold’s piaffe and passage work was as spectacular as ever there was a lack of concentration and the mare didn’t respond to her rider’s leg aids as she normally would in canter. “It’s nothing serious, it happens and it makes it quite exciting! I didn’t plan it like this, but we will try to make it as hard as possible for Laura tomorrow!” says Isabell.
German riders Jessica von Bredow-Werndal with Unee BB and Dorothee Schneider with Sammy Davis Jr claimed third and fourth places, while Sweden’s Patrik Kittel finished fifth ahead of young Dane, Daniel Bachmann-Andersen, with Blue Hors Zack, in sixth.
Tomorrow’s freestyle, which will decide the fate of the 2018 title, looks set to be a fascinating clash between just two mighty forces – the rising American star who took team bronze and individual fourth place at the Rio Olympics, or the German legend who has won six Olympic, five World Championship and nine European gold medals, along with three World Cup Finals.
The full results can be found on this link