Touchdown lands the World Cup title for Sweden’s Kittel

Media updates
19 April 2024 Author: Louise Parkes

Patrik Kittel made history tonight as only the second Swedish rider to stand on the top step of the podium at the FEI Dressage World Cup™ Final 2024 in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.

Partnering the 12-year-old gelding Touchdown he was the very last athlete into the arena on a night when the sport had plenty of twists and turns. And he nailed it with the performance of a lifetime, pinning Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Don Olymbrio into second place and German superstar Isabell Werth into third with DSP Quantaz.

This was the ninth Final of his career and his first time on the podium. “I cannot believe it - seriously! My trainer Louise (Nathhorst) won it the first time for Sweden and I’ve won it for Sweden again. I just want to thank everyone for supporting us - I’m very overwhelmed!”, he said.

In the end the contest could hardly have been closer, with just 0.257 percentage points separating the top three in an almighty battle for the treasured trophy that was first won by Denmark’s Anne-Grethe Jensen and Marzog in 1986.

Took the lead

Seventh of the 15 starters, Germany’s Matthias Alexander Rath and Destacado FRH took the lead on a score of 77.850 and was still out in front with just four left to go. 

That final group of four was led by reigning World Champion, Great Britain’s Lottie Fry, and her Tokyo Olympic ride Everdale who, after winning Wednesday’s Grand Prix, looked set to do the double. But as the pair prepared to enter the arena, Ground Jury President, Denmark’s Hans Christian Matthiesen, drew the rider’s attention to an issue in the horse’s mouth. An FEI statement tonight explained…. 

British athlete Charlotte Fry and her horse Everdale were eliminated from the Grand Prix Freestyle competition today at the FEI Dressage World Cup Final in Riyadh (KSA).

A minor bleed originating from the front gum mucosa was found in the mouth of the horse by the Judge at C, and in accordance with Article 430.7.6 of the FEI Dressage Rules, this results in elimination.

Elimination under this rule does not imply there was any wrongdoing but the rules are in place to protect the welfare of all competing horses.

So suddenly the hot favourite was out of the picture and it was down to the last three to overtake Rath and push for a podium placing.

Fresh and feisty

Skodborg Merrald’s Blue Hors Don Olymbrio had been fresh and feisty in Wednesday’s Grand Prix, but tonight the 16-year-old stallion was much more focused and, to a brand new musical score, lifted the level of competition with the first over-80% result when putting 81.429 on the board - their flying changes and canter pirouettes proving particularly pleasing to the judges.

Second-last into the ring would be Werth, a longtime legend in her own lifetime who was chasing the sixth World Cup title of her sparkling career but whose stallion, DSP Quantaz, was edgy in the Grand Prix two days ago. When he entered the arena tonight the 14-year-old horse again found it very challenging as the seven-time Olympic gold medallist explained.

“It was very hard for him because he was really a bit scared about the advertising screens and also the people in the white clothes - it was really hard for him to concentrate! But he was really with me and he tried his best”, she said, after slotting in marginally behind Skodborg Merrald on a mark of 81.404.

Last to go

Now it was down to Kittel, last to go. He’s long been something of a Freestyle specialist, but as he pointed out tonight he’d never been last into the ring at a major event and it was a lonely feeling in the warm-up beforehand. He really came into his own this evening however.

His new James Bond themed music is a more gentle accompaniment than usual, and there was something special about his performance, Touchdown really rising to the occasion to put the biggest score on the board when just fractionally ahead of Skodborg Merrald at 81.661 to clinch it.

“I think this moment is something I will never forget!”, he said afterwards. 

He talked about watching his trainer, Louise Nathhorst, seal that only other Swedish World Cup victory as a young boy 24 years ago in Gothenburg and the inspiration it gave him. 

And reflecting on what he achieved tonight he said, “I cannot believe it - seriously! Touchdown just flew with me today. I had to try to control my nerves all day but he was just unbelievable! The power and the fighting spirit that he showed for me is the biggest win. The winning of the show is unbelievable but to go in with so much atmosphere - before I came in the audience was going crazy - but he just stayed with me and I cannot thank him enough!”, he added.


This was the second year in a row for Skodborg Merrald to finish as runner-up.

“It’s unbelievable finishing second for one more year”, she said, “but my horse felt so great in there and I’m super-thrilled being able to be second between those two super rounds (winner Kittel and Werth in third).”

As always, Werth simply relished the battle. “It’s such fun when you have three on the podium with 0.257 between them, it was very close and it was very exciting! Of course Quantaz was a bit affected by the atmosphere but I’m very happy with him.

“This is what I love to do, I’m a real competitor and I like it especially like this when it is so close, with so much energy and so many emotions, that’s what makes the sport really exciting. Today any one of the first three could win and that was what made it so great also for the public”, she pointed out.

For Kittel it was a lifetime goal realised, and he was filled with joy.

“To stand here as World Cup champion! You always hope, you always want to win, but to actually win??!! That’s just so awesome!!”, he said.