Press Release -- The sensational partnership of Edward Gal
and Totilas made Dutch dressage history today when becoming
the first combination from The Netherlands to win the World
Championship Grand Prix Special title at the World Equestrian
Games™ in Kentucky, USA. But this extraordinary pair
are also on the brink of adding another record to the list
they just keep on compiling. If they can add Friday's Freestyle
to their haul, then they will become the first partnership
ever to take both titles, and on present form they look well-set
for a hat-trick of gold after yesterday's team victory.
medallist Laura Bechtolsheimer set a new British record when
beating the score she set at the Alltech FEI European Championships™
in Windsor (GBR) last summer, while Steffen Peters and Ravel
took bronze for the USA. Peters was emotional afterwards.
"I've been counting the days and hours since I missed
that bronze medal in Hong Kong (Beijing 2008 Olympic Games)"
he pointed out, "so this means a lot to me. I can't believe
how lucky I am, what he (Ravel) did for me today was unbelievable".
And Bechtolsheimer also became the first British rider ever
to take World Championship silver in the Special. The previous
best British result was bronze for Jennie-Loriston Clarke
and Dutch Courage back in 1978 at Goodwood (GBR).
HELD THE LEAD
It was Holland's Imke Schellekens-Bartels and Hunter Douglas
Sunrise who held the lead as the final five partnerships took
their turn in the arena. And the Dutch duo's score of 74.792
was unchallenged by the defending champion, Germany's Isabell
Werth, whose 14 year old gelding Warum Nicht was unsettled
throughout his test, producing a score of 72.000 that was
only good enough for tenth spot in the final analysis.
Peters was next to go, and to the delight of the home crowd
swept Schellekens-Bartel's target aside when firmly posted
into pole position by all five judges. But the German-born
rider's time at the head of affairs would be short, as Bechtolsheimer,
with her exquisitely light touch, steered Mistral Hojris to
improve on the American's score by almost three full points.
Second-last into the arena were the crowd-pleasing partnership
of Spain's Juan Manuel Munoz Diaz and his delightful dancing
stallion Fuego X11 Their score of 76.842 would leave them
just out of a medal position, but Spain's rising fortunes
in the sport of dressage have been clearly evidenced this
week and the Andalusian stallion and his rider, who first
rose to prominence when winning the Spanish Championships
in 2008, today threw down the gauntlet as top-level contenders.
A CLASS OF THEIR OWN
Edward Gal and TotilasGal and Totilas however were once
again in a class of their own. From the outset, judges Cara
Witham (CAN), Stephen Clarke (GBR), Mary Seefried (AUS), Maribel
Alonso (MEX) and Linda Zang (USA) rewarded the passage and
piaffe with nines and tens and it seemed the score might come
dangerously close to the World Record 86.460 they set in Aachen
(GER) this summer. That didn't quite happen despite straight
tens for the final passage and more straight tens for Gal's
riding position as the scoreboard showed 85.667 but the victory
was, once more, beyond a shadow of a doubt.
Firsts are now all in a day's work for the Dutch stars, and
Gal said afterwards that the stallion was much more relaxed
than he had been yesterday, "and that meant I could take
a little more risk today" he pointed out. Asked how it
feels to ride this much-admired horse who has already established
a legendary reputation he stumbled to explain, as he always
does. "It's so difficult to describe the feeling"
he said, "you'd have to ride him to feel it and that's
something I won't allow!" he said to a wave of laugher.
"I know he's always there for me, he doesn't want to
make any mistakes even when I screw up. He's such an amazing
horse" he added.
Bechtolsheimer reflected on the fact that the sport is developing
so fast and the standard is constantly being raised. "The
guys just keep getting better and better, and it's a lot more
open now. It used to be just Isabell and Anky (Van Grunsven/NED),
but now quite a few of us feel like we have a chance and it
makes the sport more exciting" she pointed out.
She's been in amazing form herself this week, and in Friday
night's Freestyle she will be hoping that she might just get
that chance and take full advantage of it. But the one they
all have to overcome is the black stallion whose record-breaking
run just seems to go on, and on.......
Ground Jury President Mary Seefried, when asked about the
best elements of the performances of the riders today "for
the first three it was harmony with the horse, the horses
are so well-trained and responsive that the riders can create
great energy. For the Spanish horse it was his wllingness
to work - he must give great feeling to his rider". Edward
Gal, commenting on a rumour that Tolilas has been sold to
the USA "I've heard those rumours too, but I can confirm
there is nothing going on!"
Laura Bechtolsheimer "I felt quite short on the podium
between these two guys today!"
By Louise Parkes for the FEI
Photos Courtesy Of Ree Photographics