Ilse Schwarz Reports on Aachen Nations Cup Grand Prix Special

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Charlotte Dujardin on Erlentanz. Aachen 2019 is all about France. The dressage arena is surrounded by lavendar. © 2019 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

By ILSE SCHWARZ

AACHEN, Germany, July 20, 2019–Today is Saturday at Aachen. It is a big day for the spectators as both the cross country and the driving marathon are taking place. The cross country was the deciding phase for the eventing and incredibly popular with about 38,000 spectators before they closed the course to more viewers.

Ingrid Klimke of Germany was first, Michael Jung, also of Germany was second and Christopher Burton of Australia came third. The awards presentation took place in the main stadium at the same time as the latter stages of the Grand Prix Special were happening in the Deutsche Bank stadium. Technically you couldn’t hear a pin drop in the dressage stadium…but you could hear the music pumping, the crowd roaring and clapping in rhythm and basically having the BEST time cheering in the main stadium. It must be said that it didn’t affect any of the rides in the dressage arena but it really did make a great background soundtrack.

Up until the Nations Cup Grand Prix Special, this show for me has been defined by individual performances.

The stallion Glamourdale (Lord Leatherdale x Negro), in the Prix St Georges, ridden beautifully by Charlotte Fry of Great Britain not only won the class with the huge score of 77.971%, but completely wowed me with his quality. I was watching him in the warmup and the moment he cantered I was reminded exactly why he received a “10” for his canter in 2018 on his way to winning the seven-year-old class at the young horse world championships. He is developing beautifully and, as far as I can see, there is not one hole in his development at this stage.

Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Alcazar © 2019 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

I also loved how emotional Katherine Bateson-Chandler of the USA became after her Grand Prix ride on Alcazar. It was a gorgeous ride, absolutely foot perfect and held the lead for the better part of the first half of the class. The last time she competed here he colicked badly enough to not only be potentially career ending, but there were concerns about whether or not he would even survive.

Sönke Rothenberger and Cosmo have been in a class of their own. It is a shame they didn’t get to go head to head with Bella Rose and Showtime, but also perfect that he got to shine. Cosmo’s ears were pricked forwards for his entire Grand Prix Special. It was so clear just how much this horse was enjoying his Aachen experience this year. If you haven’t watched the ClipMyHorse video of the ride, you should.

The Grand Prix Special for the Nations Cup was my focus for the day. I am going to be brave and start by saying that perhaps the management could save themselves some money and crowd source the judges. The crowd at Aachen is extremely knowledgeable and are enthusiastic participants using the spectator judging app, with over 600 people entering their scores by the end of the class. They were basically spot on and NOT always in agreement with the actual judges.

There were some lovely rides early in the class, Henri Ruoste of Finland on Rosetti and American Katherine Bateson-Chandler on Alcazar are two that spring to mind. However, it isn’t until the final group of 10 horses that it starts to get really exciting.

It was perfectly clear that Germany would win the Nations Cup, but the competition between Sweden, Denmark and the USA was very close and all three of those teams had two riders in the final group.

Dorothee Schneider and Showtime of Germany had shown a new level of quality and confidence in the Grand Prix and I think everyone was wondering if they could show this again through the Grand Prix Special.

Charlotte Dujardin, of Great Britain presented her “catch” ride Erlentanz very successfully in the Grand Prix, could she find a hint more horse this time around? The Special is all about passage and extended trot. Bella Rose does not have a strong trot extension, would she be able to use her brilliance in other areas to win the class? Could someone else? These questions definitely made it interesting.

Therese Nilshagen riding Dante Weltino (Danone x Welt Hit 11) for Sweden was the first of this last group. They are such a beautiful pair. Dante Weltino is just the prettiest stallion and the work is world class. A mistake in the two tempis and not the best extended walk still gives them 76.596% and 8th place individually.

Daniel Bachmann Anderson is an up-and-coming star for Denmark and trained by Lars Petersen, one of Denmark’s stars who now lives in Florida. Daniel was on his slightly less experienced horse,  Blue Hors Don Olymbrio (Jazz x Olympic Ferro) who is only 11 years old. Daniel had a moment of forgetfulness and only rode seven one tempi’s on the centerline instead of the required nine. He was so mad at himself in the press conference, but the rest of the test was seamless. This horse is so off the ground and energetic, like a bouncy ball. They are simply fun to watch from beginning to end. The judges agree with 78.170% and sixth place.

Steffen Peters and Suppenkasper © 2019 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Steffen Peters for the USA is next to enter on the enormous Suppenkasper (Spielberg x Krack C).” Mopsie,” as he is known in the barn, entered the electric atmosphere of the stadium and was pretty sure he wanted to turn around and go back to the warm up. He broke into canter at the end of the entry centerline and I am pretty sure the entire crowd was holding their breath to see if Steffen could get him to settle and focus. He did. There were mistakes in the one-tempi’s, this was a recurring theme with many horses, as it was in Friday nights CDI4* Special, but the piaffe and passage were probably the best we have seen this partnership produce. The horse eats up the ground and almost seems to do things in slow motion, his stride is so large. It looks like literally every joint and ligament in his body can move. When all that movement is aligned and in balance it is extraordinary. When it isn’t, there are still mistakes. The judges are impressed enough to score 74.872% and the race is still on for placings in the Nations Cup.

Antonia Ramel and Brother De Jeu have a sweet ride for Sweden, with the only mistake being a break into canter in one of the passage/extended trot transitions. No real highlights but a solid days work for the team with 74.702%.

Adrienne Lyle and Salvino are the top scorers for the USA. © 2019 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Adrienne Lyle is last to go for the USA with the stallion Salvino (Sandro Hit x Donnerhall). They have really become partners in the arena and it shows. They look confident, expressive and so very steady in the frame and connection. They catch the attention with the first trot extension. The passage is a highlight for this horse, so the Special is a test that really suits him. Two small mistakes in the canter steal a couple of marks but a final score of 76.745% is enough to squeak the USA into third place ahead of Sweden, and Adrienne individually 7th.

The overall theme of the entire class has been elegant and light-footed movement performed in harmony. It is wonderful to be able to say that. I don’t think we saw one single horse in the entire class present with flashy forced movement and flinging front legs, fuelled by tension. That doesn’t mean there wasn’t some wrestling going on but it was certainly much less prevalent than in recent history.

Dorothee Schneider and Showtime were the crowd favorites © 2019 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Dorothee Schneider and Showtime (Sandro Hit x Rotspon) of Germany enter the arena. There is a sense of anticipation. The horse looks sensational as he goes around the arena and the first trot extension is truly “wow.” Showtime surprises everyone, I am sure that includes Dorothee, when he breaks into canter in the second passage/trot extension transition. We know there is little room for mistakes if she is to beat Isabell and Bella Rose, but the rest of the work is simply magical and then Showtime picks up the wrong canter lead out of the passage and Dorothee may just have lost first place. The horse looks incredible, the frame so soft and uphill and Dorothee sits so quietly. They score a personal best of 83.617% The crowd truly appreciates this ride and also has her clearly in first place with a spectator score over 80%. It just remains to be seen if Bella Rose will bring her “goosebump”-creating work that we all remember from the 2018 World Equestrian Games in Tryon.

Cathrine Dafour and Bohemian secure second place for Denmark © 2019 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Cathrine Dafour and the VERY young nine-year-old Bohemian (Bordeux x Samarant) secure 2nd place for Denmark with a test that assures us we are seeing a superstar in the making. He really sits in the piaffe and has beautiful big changes. A mistake in the pirouette right and still not the strongest trot extensions leave her with 78.809%. My prediction is that we will see 80% with this horse very soon.

In comes Isabell Werth and Bella Rose (Belissimo x Cacir AA). The expectation that we were to see something great was palpable. The trot half passes are extraordinary in their mechanics but the connection is busy, still good enough for 9.0 from three judges. The passage is amazing and some of the judges again can only see 10s but it is between the rather normal trot extensions. Showtime has a better walk than Bella Rose, so after the walk tour they are neck and neck. Into the first piaffe and we are in “wow” territory again. The mare can truly piaffe for a 10, except then she doesn’t in the 2nd piaffe. The passage is fantastic and then the transition to canter is not. In the canter work, the mare gets long and really quite busy in the contact. She pulls down in the pirouettes, but I gather my camera, I and the spectators were the only ones to see it. The final passage/piaffe is amazing. Yes, the final piaffe gets a 10 and a 9.9 for the transition but surely this can’t beat Showtime… even in Aachen? Who was I kidding? Some things are apparently set in stone. Final score is 84.447%. Clearly first place. The spectators had her at a high 79% and in second place. The judges at B and M also had her ranked second. I really love this mare and her relationship with Isabell. They are beautiful to watch, but today, I agree with the spectators. They simply were not the best.

Isabell Werth and Bella Rose © 2019 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

Charlotte Dujardin and Erlentanz can’t really expect to beat either Isabell or Dorothee, but she isn’t going down without a fight. I almost wonder if she is trying to squeeze something out of the adorable Trakhener gelding that simply isn’t there. The passage gets a little too mechanical and he kicks out at the leg on one short side. Charlotte seems to relax a little and accept Erlentanz for what he is and the test gets softer and more harmonious as it progresses. This horse has crazy uphill changes with a huge amount of jump and the test scores 80.277% for a well deserved third place. Charlotte is delighted with her horse and is grinning from ear to ear as she leaves.

Charlotte Dujardin and Erlentanz. © 2019 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Sunday is the freestyle. Can we be bold and speculate that we really DON’T know who will win? I am going to go out on a limb and say that it is possible.