Reigning Champion Isabell Werth Could Not Be De-Throned at Paris World Cup Final

Paris, France – April 14, 2018 – Following an exciting FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Omaha, Nebraska, in 2017, international dressage fans had their eyes glued to the competition in Paris to see if the world No. 1 ranked rider from Germany could defend her title or if Laura Graves could dethrone the ‘Queen.’ Though rising star for the United States, Laura Graves, topped the field on Friday in the Grand Prix, when it counted the most, the reigning champion Isabell Werth used her experience to jump into the lead to claim her fourth FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final title at the conclusion of Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle.

Laura Graves and Verdades
Laura Graves and Verdades

During her third World Cup Finals Grand Prix Freestyle, Graves laid down an expressive and clean test in the second half of the class with her 16-year-old KWPN gelding Verdades (Florett As–Lilwilarda, Goya). In December, Graves worked with her team, including her trainer Olympian Debbie McDonald, to redesign the choreography of her “Rockie” freestyle in order to receive a higher degree of difficulty score, which featured two piaffe pirouettes, an extended canter into a pirouette before executing a line of two tempi changes up the centerline towards C. As they approached C, they turned into a double pirouette before repeating this pattern with a line of one tempi changes replacing the two tempis.

Laura Graves and Verdades
Laura Graves and Verdades

After receiving a ruckus applause after her salute, the score of 89.082 percent was announced to the crowd at the AccorHotels Arena in Paris — the highest score of Graves’ career. But was it enough to claim her first World Cup Finals title? She only had to wait a few rides to find out.

Werth, who won her first World Cup Finals title 26 years ago, was second to last to head down centerline and had to top Graves’ score in order to clinch the win on Weihegold OLD, a 13-year-old Oldenburg mare (Don Schufro–Weihevoll, Sandro Hit) owned by Christine Arns-Krogman. They laid down a harmonious and clean freestyle, which led them to victory in Saturday’s highlight event with a 90.657 percent. The score difference between the rivaled pair was much closer in Paris, with only one and a half points separating Graves and Werth, compared to their results in Omaha when Werth earned a 90.704 percent and Graves had a 85.307 percent.

Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD
Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD

Last to go in Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle was Germany’s Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl and Beatrice Bürchler-Keller’s Unee BB, a 17-year-old KWPN stallion (Gribaldi–Ilarichta, Dageraad). They earned a score of 83.725 percent to slide into third place on the leaderboard behind Graves.

Saturday’s podium finish was an emotional experience for Von Bredow-Werndl, as she announced that the championship in Paris would be Unee BB’s last World Cup Finals appearance. The pair, who have been partnered together for five years, have competed in four World Cup Finals including Las Vegas, Nevada; Gothenburg, Sweden; Lyon, France; and now Paris, finishing three times on the podium. Although Unee BB will not compete at the World Cup Finals again, Von Bredow-Werndl still plans to continue competing the stallion in international competition with their next show being the CDI Weisbarden.

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl and Unee BB


Isabell Werth – 2018 FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final champion

On her win:
“I’m really happy today. It was a fantastic performance. Weihegold was really focused and with me, and I think I can say it was one of her best freestyles. Maybe the best one! Whatever I asked she did. She was really top today.”

Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD
Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD

On the pressure from her rival, Laura Graves:
“Of course the pressure is very motivating. It’s a pleasure to compete with the top competition and best riders — it is a close battle. Yesterday I was thinking about how I could prepare today, make it better and analyze. I decided to make her more free in the schooling and bring her forward again. Today she was the horse I wanted to show yesterday. This is life and a lot of people think it is easy to go and win and win again and again. I have to think about it all the time and listen to the horse. Yesterday was not our day, and today we solved it. This is what I like to do and what I love. That’s why I love to compete because you improve yourself. It was a great show and great competition. There were a lot of spectators which I didn’t expect because this show is really new as a horse show here, and it was a fantastic atmosphere. Thank you to everyone who supported the show here.”

Isabell Werth giving a hug to Laura Graves
Isabell Werth giving a hug to Laura Graves

On her experience competing in the World Cup Final:
“To have experience is an advantage because you can use it in the right way. We did it the right way from yesterday to today. In many years in the sport, many things can happen and change suddenly. Anything is possible. It gives you the confidence to go in the ring and try your best. You know what your horse can do and what you can do. It was a great day today.”

Laura Graves – Second place

On her ride:
“I’m super excited. He actually felt a lot more relaxed in there than he did yesterday, which is not normally the case when you add music, but he’s not really a sound sensitive horse. We schooled him in there just really lightly this morning in a snaffle and he was terrific, so I had a pretty good feeling going into today that we could feed off of that relaxation. I’m pleased with him.”

World Cup Dressage Final podium
World Cup Dressage Final podium

On her freestyle highlights:
“The half-passes I was really pleased with, keeping clean in all the changes, that’s a big point mistake if you can’t get your changes clean. He really felt super rideable for the whole thing. When we changed the music and I haven’t ridden to it since we’ve added a second piaffe pirouette on the centerline so maybe the timing could’ve been a bit better, but I’m proud of him for doing the piaffe pirouette both ways. That was a highlight for me because it’s easy to chicken out. I think he was really super in his head today. I don’t think we’re too far off from the world record. I’m feeling all the mistakes in myself that maybe if I practiced we could iron out a bit. I feel excited for the rest of the year. Today we are second, but still a personal best for us.”

On her rapid success to the top in only four years:
“To be honest, I spend a lot of time studying even before I was making the Grand Prix, I would study riders like Isabell and try to learn everything. I keep myself in that position every day. I have to pay respect to my horse because without these top horses who want to do the job for us, learn and all us to learn with them, and really a quality horse that can compete at this level, none of this would be possible.”

Laura Graves and Verdades
Laura Graves and Verdades

On her second place finish:
“I knew anything was possible. I knew it would take a score like that to possibly have a win. It was still a huge personal best for me, so I was a bit surprised, especially because I always come out of the arena thinking of all the things I could’ve done better. I think I have a bit of homework we’ll be better prepared. I think there are many more points to earn out of that freestyle.”

Jessica Von Bredow-Werndl – Third place

On following Isabell Werth in the order-of-go:
“It was extra pressure a little but an extreme motivation. The only thing I could do was ride my very best, otherwise, there was no chance to beat her, and we did. I’m so proud of Unee and the whole journey we’ve made together so far. It’s our fourth World Cup Finals, third time on the podium and fifth time qualifying in a row. It means so much to me. He is my partner in crime. I love him for doing his best freestyle today. It’s just very emotional for me.”

Jessica von Bredow-Werndl doing the victory lap with Unee BB
Jessica von Bredow-Werndl doing the victory lap with Unee BB

On Unee BB:
“He is in love with Weihegold [OLD]. It’s only her and it’s very dangerous if they are together in the warm-up. There is no plan for retirement yet. Just looking at his age, this will be his last World Cup Finals. We want to do more international shows and our next show is Weisbarden then we will see how it goes.”

Janet Foy – Judge at F

On Saturday’s Grand Prix Freestyle:
“This is my first time judging World Cup Finals so I was feeling the excitement and a little bit of the stress of having to do it. When Laura came in, she had so much energy and so much excitement that I just knew she was going to get a great score. She rode such a clean test, it was really wonderful. Isabell, of course, had a bad day yesterday, but she came in and the mare was so with her and it looked so easy and harmonious. The piaffes, passages and transitions are 9s or 10s almost all of the time. I was at F in the corner and when Isabell came around for her last centerline, the look on her face already said, ‘I’ve got it, I’ve won, this is no problem.’ It was very close, and I think the difference was the piaffe, but they both were so exciting to judge.”

RESULTS: FEI World Cup Finals Paris GrandPrix Freestyle
Rider / Country / Horse / Total Score
1. Isabell Werth / GER / Weihegold OLD / 90.657
2. Laura Graves / USA /Verdades / 89.082
3. Jessica von Bredow-Werndl / GER / Unee BB /
4. Patrik Kittel / SWE / Deja / 83.146
5. Dorothee Schneider / GER / Sammy Davis Jr. / 81.843
6. Madeleine Witte-Vrees / NED / Cennin / 81.336
7. Daniel Bachmann-Andersen / DEN / Blue Hors Zack / 80.432
8. Edward Gal / NED / Glock’s Zonik N.O.P / 79.650
9. Inessa Merkulova / RUS / Mister X / 79.168
10. Morgan Barbancon Mestra / ESP / Sir Donnerhall II OLD / 76.207
11. Hayley Watson-Greaves / GBR / Rubins Nite / 75.346
12. Shelly Francis / USA / Danilo / 74.207
13. Belinda Weinbauer / AUT / Söhnlein Brilliant MJ / 74.032
14. Ludovic Henry / FRA / After You / 72.804
15. Yvonne Losos de Muniz / DOM / Foco Loco W / 72.675
16. Patrick van de Meer / NED / Zippo / 72.289
17. Hanna Karasiova / BLR / Zodiak / 70.264

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