Defending series champions, Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival from The Netherlands, scored an emphatic victory on their seasonal debut at the sixth leg of the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2011/2012 series in Mechelen, Belgium today. With a performance that oozed class and confidence, they threw down a score of 85.325 that left them more than five points clear of the runner-up partnership of Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic. But it was the Swedish rider who took maximum points to rocket even further ahead at the top of the leaderboard with just three more legs left to go.
As winner of the 2010/2011 Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage title, Cornelissen is already qualified for the 2011/2012 decider which will take place on her home soil at 's-Hertogenbosch next April, and is therefore not entitled to accumulate points in the current season. Kittel, meanwhile, looks likely to have three horses to choose from going to the final following a highly impressive run of form in recent months.
Germany's Nadine Capellmann slotted into third today with Elvis, while Dutchman Hans Peter Minderhoud finished fourth with Withney van het Genthof. Best of the strong Belgian contingent was Jeroen Devroe who steered Apollo van het Vijvershof into fifth.
A total of 19 riders lined out for yesterday's Grand Prix, and all of the seven home-side contenders qualified for today's Freestyle to Music. One of the most eye-catching of these was the nine-year-old Gribaldi mare, Vradin, ridden by the relatively unknown 27 year old Simon Missiaen who forged an early lead with a score of 71.900 for a test that was filled with lightness and which was a pleasure to watch. And, just before the judging break, there was another very satisfying result for fellow-Belgian Vicky Smits-Vanderhasselt, who put a score of 73.925 on the board. This was the first big outing for the wife of Jumping rider Christophe Vanderhasselt since she gave birth to their son in July of this year. Vicky was riding the 12 year old bay mare Daianira van de Helle which is part-owned by the Belgian stallion station at Van de Helle which is managed by one of the most popular and sought-after press officers on the international equestrian circuit, Edith de Reys.
However it was Belgium's Jeroen Devroe and Apollo van het Vijvershof who held sway at the halfway stage, when the pure energy and quality-of-movement of the 11-year-old bay gelding secured a mark of 75.300 to take the lead.
Third to go after the break, Cornelissen set the bar considerably higher as Parzival simply swaggered his way through a test that included great piaffe and wonderful canter pirouette. There was once a time when the intensity of the atmosphere in a ring like the Nekkerhal would have shredded the nerves of this big chestnut gelding, but it seems he has managed to slay all those dragons, and it was quite clear which horse would be wearing the winner's laurels at the end of the afternoon as Cornelissen leaned forward to kiss Parzival on the neck after a masterful display. It may well have been the noise-level of the arena that prevented runner-up Kittel from picking up a few more marks however. “I had some real highlights in my test, but Scandic was a bit hot in the walk and in canter” the Swedish rider explained afterwards.
Last into the ring was Germany's Nadine Capellmann who has a spot at the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final next spring in her sights. But she knows she faces powerful opposition in the battle for one of just three places available to each country. She did her chances no harm today however with another convincing performance from the 15 year old Elvis who seems to really enjoy working in time to the music created for The King himself. “He did a good test” she said, talking about her horse, “and he feels really good. A few seasons ago he just didn't feel so great, but now he feels like he has come back again to his very best” she pointed out.
Her score of 76.950 gave her a single-point advantage over fourth-placed Hans Peter Minderhoud and the handsome stallion, Withney van het Genthof, for The Netherlands.
Cornelissen meanwhile has no worries about getting to the final to defend her title. “For me, this is really just the start of the season” explained the rider whose other successes this year have included winning double-gold, in the Grand Prix Special and Freestyle, at the FEI European Championships in Rotterdam as well as the Reem-Acra-sponsored FEI Athlete of the Year Award 2011. “My main aim for 2012 of course is London (Olympic Games), but I will compete in Amsterdam and at the (Reem Acra) Final. Parzival felt very good today” she added. Amsterdam provides the next port of call for the Reem Acra FEI World Cup™ Dressage series in three weeks' time and the home crowd will, no doubt, throng to see their champion on her home turf.
Kittel meanwhile is targeting his home venue at Gothenburg, Sweden in February for his next outing with Watermill Scandic. And he has something up his sleeve. “I have a new Freestyle based on Billy Idol – it’s very rocky, and very different and I think it’s going to be great!” he warned.