by Louise Parkes
Mary Hanna (63) claimed the single available qualifying spot for the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2018 Final in Paris (FRA) in April when coming out on top at the Pacific League Final at Boneo Park, Boneo (AUS) last Saturday. Riding the 11-year-old KWPN mare Calanta, the five-time Olympian, who has also competed at three FEI World Equestrian Games and three FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals, posted a strong Freestyle score of 75.390 to pin fellow-Australians Alex Hellyer (Bluefields Floreno) and Brett Parbery (DP Weltmieser) into second and third places.
Hanna’s campaign began when claiming first and second with Boogie Woogie and Sancette at Werribee almost 12 months ago, but she didn’t line out in Sydney last August where Judy Dierks steered Diamond Star into pole position ahead of Parbery and Weltmieser while Rozzie Ryan slotted into third with Harrah R. And when the action moved on to Boneo in October it was Parbery who reigned supreme ahead of New Zealand’s Julie Brougham (Vom Feinsten) while Dierks finished third.
Hanna once again dominated when returning to the arena for the fourth leg of the series in Werribee in December where Calanta scored 74.400 for the win ahead of her other ride, Boogie Woogie. But when it was Boogie Woogie that finished second to Parbery’s Weltmeiser in last weekend’s Grand Prix in which Hanna’s World Cup nominated ride Calanta had to settle for eighth place, it seemed the 2018 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final might not be on the cards for the seasoned veteran. It all changed on Freestyle day however, when a personal-best score booked her spot in spectacular style.
In the Central European League, riders qualify for the Final using a points system based on finishing places at the qualifying legs, and the two spots up for grabs went to Russia’s Inessa Merkulova (53) and Hanna Karasiova (33) from Belarus. The 11-leg series began in Minsk (BLR) last April where Russia’s Elena Shaivoroniskaya (Sandra) pipped Karasiova (Arlekino) and then moved on to Mariakalnok (HUN) where Spain’s Morgan Barbancon Mestre (Sir Donnerhall ll), Germany’s Banjamin Werndl (Der Hit) and Portugal’s Bonaventura Freire (Sai Baba Plus) filled the top three placings.
At Lipica (SLO), Switzerland’s Marcela Krinke Susmelj (Smeyers Molberg), Austria’s Belinda Weinbauer (Sohnlein Brilliant MJ) and Italy’s Valentina Truppa (Ranieri) filled the top three steps of the podium and then it was on to Nizhnly Novgorod (RUS) in June where Merkulova (Avans) pipped Karasiova (Arlekino). Later that month, Swedish star Patrik Kittel (Well Done de La Roche) claimed maximum points for his win in Brno (CZE) where Hungary’s Nikolett Szalai (Willy the Hit) finished second. Karasiova dominated at Taillinn (EST) in August where she steered Zodiak into pole position and Arlekino into third but it was Merkulova who stole the limelight in Moscow (RUS) in September when first with the fabulous Mister X and third with Avans, and following another win at the New Century venue in Moscow later that same month she cemented her position on the leaderboard. Merkulova has competed at three FEI European Championships, four FEI World Equestrian Games and the Rio 2016 Olympic Games. She has also lined out at six FEI World Cup™ Dressage Finals, and with Mister X has posted top-10 finishes in the last four editions.
Estonia’s Dina Ellermann (Landy’s Akvarel) pipped Karasiova for the top spot in Taillinn in October and Denmark’s Malene Kohlschmidt Ebbesen (Mira) won the tenth leg in Zakrzow (POL) before Karasiova concluded her impressive campaign with a first and third placing at the final Freestyle in Moscow in December which earned her the second berth for this region at the Paris Final.
Results and Standings here