Pirouetting to Paris for the Final showdown – bring it on!!

 It has been an amazing qualifying season filled with exciting newcomers, old favourites, big clashes and some magical moments. Now it’s down to the wire, with 18 horse-and-rider combinations from 13 countries chasing down the 2018 title. The 33rd FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final is going to be a classic…

Show-stealer, Sweden’s Patrik Kittel, celebrates with fans after his victory in the fifth leg of the FEI World Cup™ Dressage 2018 Western European League at Olympia, London (GBR) in December. He joins 17 other qualified riders, from all around the globe, at the 2018 series in Paris (FRA) where the action takes place from 11 to 15 April.  (photo © FEI/Jon Stroud)

“It’s good for our sport that they are all trying to beat me!”

Paris, the City of Lights, will welcome 18 horse-and-rider combinations from all around the globe for the 33rd FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in two weeks time, but can any of them stop Isabell Werth from winning her fourth title?

The 2018 Final looks set to be a superb piece of sporting theatre, with a fascinating cast of players and the prospect of a whole series of electrifying performances when the curtain is raised at the AccorHotels Arena in the French capital city.

Put together Sweden’s Patrik Kittel (41), Mr Entertainment himself, whose infectious exuberance saw him give almost the entire audience a celebratory “high five” after his brilliant victory at Olympia in London (GBR) last December, the Netherlands’ Edward Gal (48) whose stunning stallion Glock’s Zonik has been attracting gasps of delight over the winter months, and America’s Laura Graves (30) who is likely to give the defending champion a real run for her money.

Add into the mix a host of other contenders including the intriguing Ellesse Tzingberg (26) who recovered from a life-threatening car crash, was discovered in Paris by a modelling agency, traded the catwalk for the Dressage arena and is the first-ever athlete to represent The Philippines at the Final, and top it off with the one they all have to beat, the incredible Isabell Werth (48) from Germany who is on yet another roll right now, and you have all the ingredients for a blockbuster!

For Werth, the number one rider in the World Rankings and the most medalled athlete in the history of equestrian sport, it might all look like a walk in the park as she heads to this year’s finale. But that’s not her style. She takes nothing for granted, and throughout the entire Western European League series she has celebrated every one of her four victories like it was her very first.

It was with her top ride, the fabulous mare Weihegold OLD, that she claimed the title for only the third time in her sparkling career in Omaha (USA) 12 months ago where she pinned Graves and Verdades into runner-up spot. The American rider posted a personal-best Grand Prix Freestyle score of 85.307 that day, while Werth’s winning mark was a massive 90.704, but Graves demonstrated the increasing threat she poses when turning the tables in the Grand Prix Special in Aachen (GER) three months later where the crack German duo had to settle for second spot.

Graves wasn’t on hand when Werth swept all before her at the Longines FEI European Championships 2017 in Gothenburg (SWE) a month later. It was Werth’s team-mate Sönke Rothenberger who put her under the greatest pressure that week, and he paid the doyenne of Dressage the highest compliment when he pushed her to the absolute maximum but she still managed to find that extra edge.

“This is what Isabell is so good at, producing her very best on the day, on the spot, when she really needs it!” he said.

If her opponents have their way, this phenomenal sportswoman may need to do it all again – and more – in Paris. But as Werth said after claiming all gold in Gothenburg last summer, “it’s good for our sport that they are all trying to beat me. The harder they try, the better I have to be. Bring it on!”