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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
HAGEN, Germany, April 28–Totilas performed the best Grand Prix since Matthias Alexander Rath began competing the black stallion a year ago to claim victory at the Horses & Dreams meets Great Britain CDI4* Saturday, and scoring a scant 0.276 per cent within the world record set by Edward Gal on Totilas in 2009.
The 12-year-old KWPN stallion (Gribaldi x Lominka x Glendale) with a beaming Matthias aboard displayed all the extravagant gaits that were trademarks of performances by the Dutch rider before Totilas was sold to Germany after the 2010 World Equestrian Games.
The score of 83.809 per cent was a personal best and included 14 marks of 10 from the five-member jury, all but one for piaffe and passage, the sole exception being for the final halt that brought thunderous applause from the 5,500 spectators who packed the stadium for the first competition for the pair since the European Championships eight months ago. The world record score in the Grand Prix is 84.085 per cent set by Edward Gal on Totilas at the 2009 European Championships. The pair hold the records for all three Grand Prix levels.
Not far behind was Great Britain’s Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris, the third ranked combination in the world, one slot ahead of Matthias and Totilas, on 82.745 per cent despite a mistake in the two-tempis. The 26-year-old German star Kristina Sprehe on Desperados 11 was third on 81.651 per cent, also a pesonal best but they have been competing on the senior tour with Desperados only since last August.
The top three places in this Grand Prix that was a qualification for the Freestyle to be held Sunday were filled by riders under 30 years of age–Matthias is 28, Laura 27 and Kristina 26, while Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin who won the Grand Prix for the Special a day ago is also aged 27.
And review by dressage-news.com of official results did not find any other major competition or championships where the top three places scored above 80 per cent.
However, the lineup at this show in this year of the Olympics to be held in London in three months included numerous hopefuls from 16 nations, several of them medal prospects.
The performance by Matthias and Totilas and Kristina and Desperados may also have changed the Olympic equation as Germany may now be able to send a squd to London to match the British team over the two tests that will decide team medals–the Grand Prix and the specially created Olympic Grand Prix Special.
Other nations have emerged as serious medal prospects based on the results of this and other recent competitions–more than a half-dozen Danish combinations capable of scoring in the mid to high 70 per cent range and Sweden.
The score for Matthias and Totilas also dispelled the rumors and gossip–much of it in reaction to a public relation campaign launched by the owners of Totilas and directed at television and mass circulation newspapers–that the horse was suffering from various maladies and that Matthias was incapable of replicating the results of Edward Gal.
Matthias, who has competed Totilas at only four CDIs, the first at Munich last June, said “relieved” was not the right word to describe his feelings over Saturday’s result.
“I’m not really relieved,” he said. “The result was great. I wasn’t surprised because we have been training well and we got what we expected. I’m happy to start the season like this.”
He denied adopting training methods usually applied to the Dutch–rollkur, of which there are many photos circulating on the Internet of Totilas with his mouth on his chest–but admitted to changes in training over the winter to optimize the horse’s movements.
“Of course, it’s a matter of getting to know the horse better,” he said. “We have changed a few things, and he is better in front of the leg, there is more submissiveness.”
Matthias will ride to a new freestyle based on Michael Jackson music in Sunday’s competition.
Laura Bechtolsheimer is one of the prospects for both team and individual medals on Mistral Hojris, the 17-year-old Danish warmblood gelding (Michellino x Virginia x Ibsen) that she has been aiming for the Games at home for several years.
Although “Alf,” as she calls Mistral Hojris, is 17 years old, he is “so fit and light…maybe it has to do with the English water.”
“He is still fit and well because the Olympics have been my main goal for a long time, so for the last several year we have entered him in shows with that in view. At home, he does a lot of just gymnastic work and not drilling of movements.
“Alf and I are exactly where I want to be. He felt fantastic to ride. I couldn’t be happier.
“It’s fantastic to have team mates who can get over 80 per cent and is great for our confidence ahead of the big competition on our home soil.”
She joked, however, she will try harder to win the freestyle Sunday to get a first place show blankets adorned with the Union Jack that Charlotte Dujardin was given when she won the Grand Prix for the Special.
Kristina Sprehe and Desperados, an 11-year-old black Hanoverian stallion that she competed in the Under-25 division last year, confirmed their reputation as a German star.
“We have been improving from show to show and this is our personal best score so far,” she said. “Some minor things can and will change. It would be great to go to the Olympics. But we will take it as it comes.”
Grand Prix de Dressage CDI4*
E: Isobel Wessels (GBR) H: Katrina Wüst (GER)
C: Ghislain Fouarge (NED)
M: Dr. Evi Eisenhardt (GER)
B: Dr. Jean-Michel Roudier (FRA)
Matthias Alexander Rath
H / KWPN / R / 2000 / Gribaldi / / NED08021 / B: Linsenhoff u.Paul Schockemöhle, Ann / Z: ZG Schuil, J.K. u.Visser,A.
W / DK / F / 1995 / Michellino / Ibsen / DEN02686 / B: Bechtolsheimer,Laura
RUFG Falkenberg e.V.
H / Hann / R / 2001 / De Niro 6 / Wolkenstein 6 / GER45347 / B: Gestüt Sprehe GmbH / Z: Schütt, Herbert
H / DK / B / 1999 / Gribaldi / Schwadroneur / DEN02780 / B: Rosbög,Jörgen
W / DK / B / 1999 / / DEN40807 / B: Seierskilde,Lisbeth
Anne van Olst
W / DK / B / 1998 / Carpaccio / Limebrand / DEN02595 / B: Munkedal,Klaus
W / Hann / F / 1997 / Espri / Gluecksgriff / FIN40045 / B: Oy,Sinituote / Z: Wiechert,Udo