Lauren Sammis & Sagacious Capture Grand Prix, GP Freestyle at Raleigh CDI-W

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Lauren Sammis cheering when the scores for her and Sagacious are announced. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Lauren Sammis cheering when the scores for her and Sagacious are announced. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

RALEIGH, North Carolina, May 30–the USA’s Lauren Sammis rode Sagacious HF in their first ever CDI Grand Prix Freestyle to capture the Raleigh World Cup title Saturday night.

The performance had been put together so late that Sammis had never ridden through the Billy Joel selections that was expanded with cuts from “Allentown” to expand the version they performed in the small tour that won them the individual silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games to go along with their team gold.

And unusual for American audiences, the record sized crowd for the Raleigh CDI-W Saturday night freestyle burst into applause for a line of one-tempi changes midway through the peformance that Al Guden of Hyperion Farm in Wellington, Florida, said “brought tears to my eyes” as he watched from the side of the indoor coloseum.

The ride on the 10-year-old Dutch warmblood earned Sammis, 38, of South Orange, New Jersey, and Sagacious a score of 74.250 per cent, all five judges placing them first as they did Friday night in winning the Grand Prix.

Pierre St. Jacques of Anthony, Florida, and Lucky Tiger were second as they were also in the Grand Prix, with a score of 70.150 per cent in the freestyle, while Sharon McCucker and Juli Sherif were third on 68.500 per cent.

Axel Steiner, an “O” level judge from the U.S. who was president of the ground jury, said the winning pair showed that they will have a “bigger and brighter future.”

Lauren Sammis and Sagacious. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Lauren Sammis and Sagacious. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

He said he was “very pleased and surprised” at the clear improvement since their only previous CDI start, at the Palm Beach Derby in Florida three months ago.

Sammis told dressage-news.com that Sagacious was an amazing horse who continues to offer whatever she asks of him.

The scores from this weekend probably fulfilled her goal of seeking to qualify for the USEF National Grand Prix Championships in Gladstone, New Jersey at the end of June.

As to their strengths and what needs improvement, she said, “the biggest weakness, is on top of his back,” meaning herself as the rider.

pierre-st-jacques-lucky-tiger
pierre-st-jacques-lucky-tiger

“The fact that we had never ridden through the freestyle even to practice and he keeps offering shows what an amazing horse he is,” she said.

The performance, she said, was exciting from the time she rode in and recognizing fans and supporters in the stands shouting encouragement, clapping during the performance to the thunderous applause.

“We are so lucky to be able to do this for a living,” she said.

While her program is aimed at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, she has not ruled out competing in Europe to raise their profile outside the U.S., possibly at the World Cup in The Netherlands next April if she qualifies through the North American League. Though that decision would be made with her partner, her trainer Ashley Holzer, a three-time Olympian for Canada, and Robert Dover whom she consults on major decisions because of his extensive experience.

Sammis said her first phone call was to her partner at home taking care of her 10-month-old twins, a girl, Ryan, and a boy, Aidan, that were not at a show with her for the first time since their birth.

Then, she called Holzer, who lives in New York.