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Isabell Werth was showing no signs of relinquishing her usual first place position aboard Emilio in the ninth and final leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage Western European League at 's-Hertogenbosch in the Netherlands.
In second place was Edward Gal and Glock’s Zonik, with Madeleine Witte-Vrees and Cennin in third. The competition was stiff with fifteen riders making their final bids to reach the upcoming World Cup Finals.
An unfortunate Emile Faurie was forced to withdraw after making it through to the GP freestyle, a turn of events which could very well result in him not making the cut for Paris in April.
At the halfway point it was Adelinde Cornelissen and Zephyr in third place. Britain’s sole representative Hayley Watson Greaves and Rubin’s Nite had just pipped them into second place.
The standout of the first half was former Dutch young rider champion Anne Meulendijks, who ended the first half of the event in style with a very expressive test on MDH Avanti to shoot right top of the leaderboard with a 78.235%, giving her a convincing lead.
With Werth, Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Gal still to come after the break though, there was still some stiff competition on the horizon though.
Hans Peter Minderhoud’s stallion Zanardi was perhaps one of the most eye-catching horses of the day and had some beautiful moments, but was visibly tense.
They were immediately followed by the very elegant Sandro Hit stallion Sir Donnerhall II and his Spanish rider Morgan Barbancon Mestre. At the age of only 12, the stallion showed promise but lacked power and engagement at times.
All eyes were on Werth and Emilio. The most successful dressage Olympian of all time and current world number one, Werth has already won two legs on her mare Weihegold.
Werth and Emilio received 10s for their piaffe, left the arena to a standing ovation and roaring applause and duly took her rightful place as leader with a colossal 87.2%.
Perhaps the surprise of the day was Apache and Emmelie Scholtens, who produced a very correctly ridden test and really pulled out all the stops to take fifth place with 80.3% against some incredibly tough competition.
With Paris only weeks away now, the fight is well and truly on. Werth will be feeling strong going into the final but will have to fight off the likes of Cathrine Dufour and Laura Graves if she wants to come home with the title.
Stay tuned to FEI TV for all the action coming up with the FEI World Cup™ Finals in Paris in April.
Text by Sophie Baker
Images by DigiShots