Fans were not disappointed, as some exemplary Grand Prix tests were performed, and the scoring was tight until the very end.
Every one of the competitors on Friday qualified for Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle. At the interim break, Kasey Perry-Glass of the United States was in the lead on a score of 77.267 percent, after a tidy program that showed off Goerklintgaards Dublet’s gorgeous passage and great activity.
For all but a few pairs, the halt and rein back at C was a major sticking point. And of course, it being the first day in the enormous stadium meant a few spooks had to be worked out and nerves about the thousands of spectators calmed.
Riding second after the pause, Isabell Werth showed the audience why she and Weihegold won the championship last season.
Her test was at once immaculate and expressive. Weihegold’s changes, which may well have lost Werth the Grand Prix last year to Laura Graves, were much improved, and overall the 14-year-old mare looked supple and completely in sync with her rider.
When Werth’s score of 81.755 percent was posted, everyone following her in the arena knew that would be the one to beat. There were some exceptional tests, as one by one, the competitors tried to top the German champ’s marks.
Adrienne Lyle of the USA gave it a good effort. With Salvino’s beautiful extended trot and textbook uphill half passes, her score of 75.326 percent wasn’t quite enough to take the lead, but it put her in a nice position for Saturday’s Freestyle.
Up next, Daniel Bachmann Andersen had a few bobbles, including an anticipatory early change before K. But an otherwise neat and active test saved him, earning the duo a score of 78.152 percent.
Laura enters the arena...
Laura Graves was eager to repeat her gold medal performance in last year’s Day 1 Grand Prix. Harnessing the awesome power of Verdades well and allowing his springy piaffe and huge tempi to shine through, Graves’ score was nearly neck and neck with Werth’s up to the end.
At 80.109 percent, Graves couldn’t beat Werth, but will be the penultimate ride on Saturday, giving her rival good chase.
Likewise, Patrik Kittel of Sweden, a favourite with the home fans, kept Delaunay OLD nicely in frame during his test and walked away with a 76.304 percent score, also placing him at the end of Saturday’s programme. A showman who is known for his crowd-pleasing freestyles, Kittel may well wind up on the podium.
At the end of the Grand Prix, Perry-Glass finished in fourth place, with fifth going to Helen Langehanenberg of Germany (76.957). Following sixth-place Kittel, Emmelie Scholtens (75.745) and Hans Peter Minderhoud (75.326) of the Netherlands, Adrienne Lyle (75.326), and Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén of Sweden (73.882) rounded out the top 10.