Las Vegas, Nev., April 18, 2007 -- There was disappointment all around this afternoon as Danish rider Andreas Helgstrand decided to bow out of the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Finals with Blue Hors Matine, the sensation of last year's World Equestrian Games.
The gray mare, who was one of the favorites to win here at the Thomas & Mack Center, slipped coming off a trailer on her arrival at the stables Sunday.
Her injury, a little soreness in her left front pastern, was not serious, and she seemed to be all right in training Monday and Tuesday. However, she was held by the ground jury yesterday after the trot-up, since she was slightly off. Although she was scheduled to be re-tested this morning, officials gave her until 3:30 this afternoon, in hopes that she would be fine.
But I watched as Andreas jogged the horse for his entourage early this morning, and she was visibly lame. He did the right thing to pull her out, though I know how much it hurt him.
Instead of being one of the main contenders in the most prestigious event of the year, he's been relegated to a mere spectator. His family is coming to support him, however.
"We'll make a holiday out of it," he said, though the look on his face led me to believe it won't be much fun despite his brave front.
However, as a long-time top-class competitor, with silver and bronze individual medals in last year's WEG, he knows there's often as much tragedy as triumph in this game.
"When you work with horses, it goes up and down," he said, managing a small, brave smile.
He doesn't want to do anything that would hurt Matine, whose expressive passage and piaffe wowed the WEG crowd in Aachen (see "Related Articles" in left sidebar).
"I have a horse for the future," he said, noting his goal now is this summer's European Championships, where his other contender is Blue Hors Don Schufro.
Matine's absence leaves most experts thinking it will be a battle between Isabell Werth of Germany with Warum Nicht and Imke Schellekens-Bartels on Sunrise for the dressage championship. Perennial titleist Anky Van Grunsven is not riding, electing to stay home with her new baby daughter.
Watch for my EquiSearch.com postcards from the FEI World Cup Finals April 19-22.