Reigning five-time series champion and World No. 1, Germany’s Isabell Werth, heads the sparkling start-list for the FEI Dressage World Cup™ qualifier in Salzburg, Austria this weekend.
She will partner Weihegold OLD, the 16-year-old mare with which she claimed the prestigious title at the last three Finals, in Omaha (USA) in 2017, Paris (FRA) in 2017 and Gothenburg (SWE) in 2019.
And the German challenge will be mighty one, as Werth is joined by compatriots Jessica von Bredow-Werndl who holds the World No. 3 spot and Olympians Dorothee Schneider and Helen Langehanenberg.
Only one other leg of the 2020/2021 Western European League qualifying series has taken place so far, at Aarhus in Denmark in October where the host nation’s Cathrine Dufour and Bohemian came out on top.
The Covid-19 pandemic has played havoc with the sporting calendar worldwide for almost a year now, but there is great excitement about the resumption of the prestigious FEI Dressage World Cup™ series that is now in its 36th season - the 35th cut short by effect of the virus.
A total of 14 athletes from 10 nations will compete this weekend including Swedish showman Patrick Kittel with Delaunay OLD, the 15-year-old gelding with which he finished sixth at the 2018/2019 Final on home ground in Gothenburg. And also flying the Swedish flag will be Antonia Ramel and Brother de Jeu who, alongside Kittel and Well Done de la Roche, helped claimed team bronze at the 2019 FEI European Dressage Championships in Rotterdam (NED).
Anna Merveldt and her 12-year-old Lusitano gelding Esporim went into the history books when helping Ireland to Olympic qualification in Dressage for the very first time at those Rotterdam Championships, and they come to Salzburg with some strong results. They were runners-up behind the French duo of Morgan Barbançon and the 15-year-old stallion Sir Donnerhall ll OLD in the Freestyle at Budapest-Fót (HUN) in October where the French pair, who will be back in the ring this weekend, also dominated the Grand Prix.
Germany’s von Bredow-Werndl brings the horse with which she holds the No. 3 spot in the World Rankings, the 14-year-old Trakehner mare TSF Dalera BB. Schneider will partner the 13-year-old gelding Faustus who won the CDI4* Grand Prix Special at Oldenburg (GER) in November and Langehanenberg will ride the 13-year-old mare Annabelle which won the CDI3* Grand Prix Special at Aarhus last October.
The Netherlands will be represented by Thamar Zweistra and the 13-year-old stallion Hexagon’s Double Dutch who finished third in the Grand Prix and Freestyle at the CDI-W fixtures in both Mariakalnok (HUN) last June and at Pilisjászfalu (HUN) in August 2020.
Italy’s Francesco Zaza (Wispering Romance), Denmark’s Carina Cassoe Kruth (Heiline’s Danciera), Belgium’s Simon Missiaen (Charlie), Australia’s Simone Pearce (Destano) and Austria’s Franziska Fries (Atomic) are also in the mix. So it is going to be a truly international cast that takes centre-stage at the Messezentrum Arena in the city so closely associated with both revered composer, Mozart, and the much-loved 1965 film “The Sound of Music”.
The FEI World Cup™ Dressage Grand Prix is scheduled for 08.00 local time on Saturday 23 January, while the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Freestyle will take place on Sunday 24 January starting at 11.00.