April 24, 2006 -- Anky van Grunsven of The Netherlands, riding Keltec Salinero, scored 87.75% in the FEI World Cup Dressage Final Grand Prix Freestyle to Music April 22, clinching her victory in the 21st annual FEI Dressage World Cup Final. The win in the Europahal at the RAI Center in Amsterdam, The Netherlands, marks the eighth time van Grunsven has won the World Cup and the third time she has won it with Keltic Salinero.
"To be honest, I liked the whole test," said van Grunsven. "So far it's the best test he's done since I've had him. He was very, very relaxed and still going wherever he had to go. I felt like it was very easy today and that's what you want in a test, so I was very, very happy."
Isabell Werth of Germany and the Hanoverian gelding Warum Nicht FRH scored 81.15% to earn second place. Jan Brink of Sweden aboard the Swedish warmblood stallion Bjorsells Briar 899 notched 79.32% for third.
Only the top 12 riders from the 18 who competed in the Grand Prix on April 20 qualified for the April 22 FEI World Cup Dressage A-Final Grand Prix Freestyle Kür to Music to determine the title. The other six competed in the B-Final with Laura Bechtolsheimer of Great Britain aboard Douglas Dorsey topping that class.
All of the judges placed van Grunsven first in the kür and were tightly in unison in their scoring for both the technical and artistic elements of the ride. Officiating were Mr. W. Ernes (NED) at E; Mr. G. Rockwell (USA) at H; Mr. V. Truppa (ITA) at C; Mrs. K. Wust (GER) at M; and Mrs. B. Buchler-Keller (SUI) at B.
President of the Ground Jury Truppa noted that during van Grunsven's performance, "I got really moved and I gave her a 10 for the music." Van Grunsven's orchestral soundtrack included versions of some contemporary easy listening tunes and was also soft and spare in some segments.
Van Grunsven, who has competed in 12 FEI Dressage World Cup Finals, won aboard Salinero (first called Gestion Salinero and now Keltec Salinero) in 2004 and 2005. She also won with Bonfire in 1995, 1996, 1997, 1999 and 2000--known as Gestion Bonfire for the last two wins.
Second placed Werth has been riding Warum Nicht FRH for three years, but only for a year at the Grand Prix level. She created her own choreography and described it as "very difficult." Werth explained, "There are a lot of extensions and collections back-to-back and that's very difficult and that makes all the difference." Her soundtrack included Queen's Bohemian Rhapsody and Pomp and Circumstance, which she feels is music her horse "wears" well.
Brink and his 15-year-old Grand Prix veteran Bjorsells Briar 899 placed second over Werth in the Grand Prix, but the two reversed positions in the freestyle.
Brink created his own choreography and teamed up with actress/singer Helena Lindquist to create the soundtrack. He noted that he used the final centerline as the finale of his ride. "It's a long, long passage tour and he's really, really strong in that. Not many horses can stay up in this quality--half-pass, passage, half-pass, passage, piaffe and passage--for about one minute."
Edward Gal of The Netherlands, who is van Grunsven's student, entered the World Cup Final ranked second in the Western European League and second in the FEI/BCM Dressage Riders' World Ranking List (van Grunsven was first in both) with the Dutch stallion Group 4 Lingh Securior. He finished fourth with a score of 79.07%.
The disappointing performances were due to a slight injury that went undiscovered until after the Grand Prix. "When I went into the Grand Prix there was nothing, then suddenly I felt in the first half-pass that he was responding weird on my leg on my right side," Gal said, "but I didn't know what it was and I couldn't do anything and that's why he cantered in the piaffe and there were mistakes in the ones and the twos."
After the test, Gal discovered there was a large swelling under the girth that had been swelling during the test. A veterinarian informed Gal that it was likely a "popped vein." The injury was iced for the next two days and the swelling began to go down.
"Today [April 22] it was not painful at all anymore," said Gal, who had considered withdrawing from the competition. Still he noted that the injury was on his mind during the ride. "Mentally it was not good because we had a bad preparation" and during the ride he was sensitive to his horse's responses to the aids, still listening for signs of the injury. The test improved as the ride progressed but Gal acknowledged, "It was not as good as it can be."