By Steve Keating
(Reuters) – Germany’s Isabell Werth grabbed her second gold medal in as many days at the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina on Friday, taking top spot in the dressage individual grand prix event with a dominating display on Bella Rose.
Werth, who led Germany to team gold on Thursday, crushed her competition by posting a winning total of 86.24, more than five points clear of her nearest challenger Laura Graves of the United States.
Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin, the defending champion in the grand prix special and gold medal winner in the individual event at both the London and Rio Olympics, settled for bronze.
The last rider into the ring, Werth knew exactly what was needed to take the gold and did that and more, once again confirming her decision to ride Bella Rose, who recently returned to competition after four years off.
The gold was Werth’s fourth in the grand prix special competition after wins in 1994, 1998 and 2006.
It was also her ninth gold and 11th medal overall in dressage events at the WEG, both records.
Graves, who helped the United States to a dramatic silver medal in the team event, again took second on Verdades with 81.17 just ahead of Dujardin with 81.48.
Germany also look poised to extend their early domination at WEG into team eventing, moving top of the standings after a record setting effort in the dressage portion of the three discipline competition.
Britain sit second and United States third going into Saturday’s cross-country event followed by show jumping on Sunday.
The drama at the Tryon International Equestrian Center unfolded as just 250 miles (402km) away Hurricane Florence continued to pound the Carolina coast.
Concerns over Florence seriously impacting what organizers say will be the highest-attended sporting event in the United States this year eased after National Hurricane Center (NHC) on Friday afternoon downgraded the hurricane to a tropical storm.
However, the NHC warned there was still the potential of heavy rain and flooding as the storm slowly moves inland.
The WEG also confirmed a horse fatality, saying Barack Obama, ridden by Team New Zealand’s Jenny Champion in the endurance competition, had been euthanized on Friday.
The 20-year-old Anglo-Arab gelding was taken to the endurance treatment clinic after being transported back from the second loop of the 120-kilometre ride and treated for kidney problems.
One of the first events on the WEG schedule, the endurance competition was canceled on Wednesday after an unusually high number of horses displayed clinical signs of metabolic issues due to the combination of extreme heat and humidity.
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