Showdown for USA & Germany at Home as Nations Get Ready to Compete at Aachen
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
AACHEN, Germany, July 17, 2018—This week is crunch time for the United States, Denmark and other nations with a shot at being on the World Equestrian Games medals podium as they compete head-to-head in the Nations Cup while host Germany displays the depth of its lineup by being able to shuffle starting combinations.
At what amounts to a mini-WEG, the CDIO5* Nations Cup and companion CDI4* are the last chances for horses and riders from several nations to win selection for their countries’ teams at WEG.
For the U.S. this is the third of three selection events in Europe for eight horses and riders chosen for the short list from which the team of four combinations will be named for the Tryon WEG beginning Sept. 11.
The powerful American group may even be able to do what has occurred previously only three times in history—challenge the home side for victory in the Nations Cup. Only the Netherlands has beaten Germany here in the past 41 years of Nations Cups—in 2005, 2009 and 2010.
The USA has Laura Graves and Verdades, No. 2 in the world and the only pair to beat the No. 1 combination of Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD since the 2016 Olympics—which they did twice, in the CDIO5* Grand Prix Special here a year ago and the Grand Prix at the World Cup Final in Paris in April.
“Of course, we travel everywhere with the aim of winning,” Laura told a reporter from the Aachen organization. “That is also what I hope to do in Aachen. We actually managed to do that in one competition last year and we had a good result at the World Cup Final in Paris.
“Verdades is in very good form, there is no reason why we couldn’t pull it off again in Aachen.”
And, of course, she would love to do it in the Freestyle on Sunday, her 31st birthday. After all, she pulled off the Grand Prix Special victory over Isabell here on her 30th birthday.
Laura on Verdades has not yet competed against Isabell on Emilio in the almost three years of Big Tour the two combinations have been in top sport.
However, Emilio, third in the world, was beaten twice by Denmark’s Cathrine Dufour on Cassidy, in the Grand Prix and Freestyle at Gothenburg, Sweden in February.
Cathrine has a strong team mate in Olympic and European Championship pairs Daniel Bachmann Andersen on Blue Hors Zack, coached by top international competitor and trainer Lars Petersen, based in Florida who now rides for the United States instead of his native Denmark.
Competition begins Wednesday with the CDI4* Grand Prix, Prix St. Georges and the first leg of the Under-25.
The Nations Cup is scheduled to start with the Grand Prix Thursday.
For The Dutta Corp USA team are 2012 Olympic rider Adrienne Lyle on Salvino, the second highest ranked American partnership at No. 20 in the world; 2016 Olympic team bronze medal combination of Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet, and America’s most experienced and successful rider for most of the past quarter-centruy, Steffen Peters on Rosamunde.
Steffen, a four-time Olympian and one of only two Americans to win the Deutsche Bank Prize, which he did in 2009 on Ravel three months after capturing the World Cup in Las Vegas. The prize is the most prestigious dressage honor at Aachen, created in 1955, before any of the riders here were born. The other American was Patricia “Trish” Galvin on Rath Patrick in 1959.
Weihegold isn’t the only horse to be shuffled to the side at this show as Germany looks ahead to repeating as WEG champions, which they were in 2014 in Normandy.
Sönke Rothenberger and Cosmo, a partnership widely viewed as a future No. 1, came off the Aachen start list when the horse developed an infection that likely won’t affect the pair’s appearance at Tryon. The 2012 and 2016 Olympic duo of Kristina Broring-Sprehe and Desperados FRH, former No. 1 in the world, didn’t recover enough from an injury that had kept pair out of competition.
Dorothee Schneider, who has masterfully developed many top horses, will ride Sammy Davis Jr. for the team and her 2016 Olympic team gold medal mount Showtime in the CDI4*.
Helen Langehanenberg of Damon Hill Olympic, WEG, World Cup and European Championship fame will compete Damsey FRH for the team, the rider’s first show since the birth last month of her second child. And, incidentally, the trainer of Suppenkasper that Steffen will compete in the CDI4*.
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl will be the fourth rider with the relatively inexperienced TSF Dalera BB.
In addition to all the U.S. team horses owned by Americans, Helen’s mount, Damsey FRH, is owned by Louise Leatherdale of Long Lake, Minnesota with Susanne Meyer.
Mane Stream Belstaff ridden by Betina Jæger of Denmark in the CDI4* is also American-owned, by Rowan O’Riley.
The Nations Cup has become so convoluted since the Netherlands succeeded in having the rules changed after losing to the United States on their home turf in 2017 that it is difficult for even the media to follow, let alone spectators.
The 8,000 spectators who pack Aachen’s Deutsche Bank stadium are so knowledgeable, though, they appreciate the quality of the sport perhaps more than anywhere else in the world and will likely be more focused on individual performances.
A memorable scene witnessed by this correspondent was in 2011 when the crowd—overwhelmingly German—made it known to the judges in jeers and boos that they erred in awarding first place in the Deutsche Bank Freestyle to their countryman, Matthias Alexander Rath on Totilas over Steffen Peters on Ravel. The official show news releases reported the incident straightforward and accurately, not hiding behind bland public relations phrases or nationalistic bias.