THE Netherlands’ Dinja van Liere won the eighth leg of the FEI Dressage World Cup 2022/2023 Western European League on home ground in Amsterdam, partnering her double-bronze-medal-winning ride from last summer’s ECCO FEI World Championships, the stallion Hermes NOP.

However it is five-time World Cup champion and longtime legend, the extraordinary German star Isabell Werth, who has moved into pole position on the leaderboard going into the closing stages of the hard-fought 11-leg series.

Werth set the target in the class with a sparkling performance from the 17-year-old Emilio for a score of 86.595%. But to the delight of the home crowd, van Liere and Hermes bettered that when putting the winning score of 87.055% on the board when last to go. It was the second victory of the season for this pair who also came out on top in Mechelen (BEL) in December and they had also won the Grand Prix the day before at the venue.

Denmark’s Nanna Skodborg Merrald and Blue Hors Zack finished third. Zack has always been super-consistent throughout his career with both Skodborg Merrald and his former rider Daniel Bachmann Andersen, and at 19 years of age, continues to deliver his work with the greatest of ease including fabulous passage and canter pirouettes.

The successful stallion looked rightly satisfied as he swaggered out of the ring after putting 85.220 on the board - a combination-best score and a personal-best for Skodborg Merrald whose smile was as wide as an ocean.

A delighted van Liere commented: “I’m really happy, yesterday he was already great and today again he was really on fire! I’m so proud, he’s getting better and better. He was very on fire today and very powerful, but it was power I could manage well enough to ride a nice test without making any big mistakes. Yesterday he was really relaxed but today was a lot more crowds and he felt the difference. But now I can manage him better and better.

“The crowd was fantastic today and it really made me emotional. The spectators were so enthusiastic and so crazy! It is so cool to ride here at Jumping Amsterdam!”

With the Longines FEI Dressage World Cup Final in Omaha (USA) in April now looming large on the horizon, the battle for one of the nine places available to athletes in the Western European League is really hotting up. But having moved to the very top of the standings after today’s competition, five-time champion Isabell Werth has easily booked her place at what will be her 20th Final.

With three more qualifiers left to run, at Neumünster (GER) and Gothenburg (SWE) in February and ’s-Hertogenbosch (NED) in March, there is still plenty of time for others to bid for a place. As it stands, Werth is well out in front followed by compatriots Ingrid Klimke and Benjamin Werndl in second and third while van Liere has moved into fourth ahead of Skodborg Merrald in fifth place.

Patrik Kittel lies sixth, The Netherlands’ Thamar Zweistra lies seventh, Morgan Barbancon from France is in eighth place and The Netherlands’ Emmelie Scholtens and Germany’s Helen Langehanenberg share ninth spot.