European Championships Grand Prix Starts Monday, Germany Looking for 24th Title, 3 Other Nations Seeking Tokyo Olympic Berths

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A frisky Bella Rose with Isabell Werth at the European Championships horse inspection at Rotterdam. © 2019 Lily Forado

Aug. 18, 2019


European Championship dressage gets underway in Rotterdam Monday with Germany expected to claim its 24th title since the first team event in 1965, but also at stake are the last three team berths at next year’s Olympic Games in Tokyo. Denmark is considered a shoo-in but the remaining two slots appear up for grabs by eight other hopeful nations.

When two days of Grand Prix to decide team medals starts Monday, Isabell Werth on Bella Rose will be looking to extend the string of 15 straight victories since the mare returned less than 14 months ago from 3 1/2 years out of competition.

The 50-year-old rider, with more Olympic medals, 10, than any other equestrian in history, also holds the record of most medals at the Europeans–10 golds, two silver and one bronze for teams, seven individual golds and one silver on three different horses (Gigolo, Satchmo and Weihegold).

Sixty-nine horse and rider combinations from 24 nations are scheduled to start before seven judges in Grand Prix Monday, with the 30 best pairs moving on to the Grand Prix Special Thursday for individual medals and the top 15 going into the Grand Prix Freestyle Saturday.

Daniel Bachmnn Andersen on Blue Hors Zack under the watchful eye of coach Lars Petersen, an Olympian for Denmark who lives in Florida and now rides for the United States. © 2019 Lily Forado

Germany, USA, Great Britain, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Russia, Canada, Brazil and Australia have already booked a Tokyo Olympic team slot, as has Japan as the host country.

Germany’s 2016 Olympic gold medal team mates Sönke Rothenberger on Cosmo and Dorothee Schneider on Showtime FRH as well as Jessica von Bredow-Werndl with TSF Dalera are on the team with Isabell and Bella Rose.

Great Britain, that won European team gold at this same show grounds in 2011 ahead of the historic Olympic gold in London a year later, is given an excellent chance of finishing on the medals podium with Charlotte Dujardin on Mount St John Freestyle (Valegro here in 2011), Carl Hester on Hawtins Delicato (Uthopia in 2011), Gareth Hughes and Classic Briolinca and newcomer Charlotte Fry partnering Dark Legend. Elmegardens Marquis that was ridden by Emile Faurie for Britain in 2011 is back at the age of 20 but with owner Joanne Vaughan riding for Georgia as she did at the two most recent World Equestrian Games and the 2017 Europeans.

Sweden has Patrik Kittel on Well Done de la Roche, Therese Nilshagen on Dante Weltino OLD, and Ramel sisters Antonia on Brother de Jeu and Juliette on Buriel K.H.

The home side is Edward Gal on Glock’s Zonik, Anne Meulendijks on MDH Avanti, Hans Peter Minderhoud on Glock’s Dream Boy and Emmelie Scholtens on Desperado.

Austria, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, France, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal and Switzerland will battle for the three final team berths.

Denmark, with world No. 8 ranked pair of Daniel Bachmann Andersen on Blue Hors Zack and 2017 European Championship star partnership of Cathrine Dufour on Cassidy, as well as Anders Dahl on Fidelio van het Bloemenhof and Agnete Kirk Thinggaard on Jojo AZ are odds-on favorites or, as many riders say, “Well, there are two spots available after Denmark.”

European Championship Grand Prix Start List