USA’s Steffen Peters and Ravel Win Aachen CDIO, Netherlands Claims Team Title over Germany

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Steffen Peters wiping away a tear as he rides Ravel out of the arena after the CDIO Grand Prix. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters wiping away a tear as he rides Ravel out of the arena after the CDIO Grand Prix. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, July 2–Steffen Peters on Ravel “proved that we can go into the mouth of the lion and win” and became  the first American in almost a half-century to win the Grand Prix CDIO at the World Equestrian Festival CHIO in Aachen, Germany.

The Netherlands, led by Hans-Peter Minderhoud on Exquis Nadine who finished second overall, claimed the Nations Cup team title over Germany, only the second time the Dutch have beaten the home team at the world’s premier horse show, the other occasion being in 2005. Missing from the German team was their superstar combination of Isabell Werth and Satchmo, suspended last week for competing on her small tour horse, Whisper, with an illegal medication. Great Britain finished third and Denmark fourth.

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine who finished second. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine who finished second. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Anky van Grunsven and IPS Salinero, the 2008 Olympic individual gold pair, rode a test with several uncharacteristic mistakes that she told dressage-news.com was causing her to re-think how to deal with Salinero.

The victory by Peters and Ravel, with owners Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang watching from the stands of the Deutsche Bank stadium, was resounding with all five judges placing them first for an average score of 77.830 per cent. Germany’s Katrina Wüst gave the 2009 World Cup champions the highest score of 79.362 per cent, while Anne Gribbons of the United States along with Isabelle Judet of France marked them the lowest at 76.170 per cent.

The third placed individual finisher was Russia’s Alexandra Korelova on her 2008 Olympic gray stallion Balagur, who is now 19 years old, and brought a standing ovation from the thousands of spectators.

Tears were the order of the day. Denmark's Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein after her ride on Digby placed the pair in fourth place. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Tears were the order of the day. Denmark's Nathalie zu Sayn-Wittgenstein after her ride on Digby placed the pair in fourth place. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

There was tangible excitement leading up to the ride by Peters which brought U.S. jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris to join dressage chef Jessica Ransehousen and U.S. Equestrian Federation executives John Long, Jim Wolf and Gil Merrick to lend ringside support to the American pair.

Doping–which has been a dominating issue with the suspension of Werth and British show jumping legend Michael Whitaker and the controversy surrounding discovery at a German show of a used syringe in a riding jacket owned by Ireland’s Cameron Hanley — was an issue Thursday.

Dutch national coach Sjef Janssen and his wife, Anky van Grunsven, both spoke out separately against the handling of Werth’s case by the German National Federation.

Anky told dressage-news.com that although every one agreed that competing a horse with a banned substance was a mistake, after 20 years as one of the top dressage riders in the world with no previous problems, “she should be treated with respect.”

“I would hope that if I were ever in that position I could expect support from my national federation.”

Asked at the official news conference about the case, Janssen said: “Isabell made a mistake. But I think the reaction by the German federation is a disaster.

“It is not a good way to treat one of the best sport leaders in history. She deserves better.”

Germany’s Heike Kemmer, a team mate of Werth at the 2008 Olympics and who scored 70.723 per cent during the first of two days of Nations Cup competition, said that the doping issue was a distraction. She and team mates Matthias Alexander Rath on Sterntaler-Unicef and Ulla Salzgeber on Herzruf’s Erbe said they received the scores they deserved.

The victory by Peters of San Diego, California, was popular with the knowledgeable crowd, as was a post-competition interview in the arena that was conducted in Peters’ native German.

Steffen Peters and Ravel on their final centerline passage. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters and Ravel on their final centerline passage. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Peters said that Aachen is the only European competition with Ravel this year and the next major competition he has on their calendar is the Exquis World Dressage Masters CDI5* in Palm Beach in 2010 on their way to seeking to qualify for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky in the fall of 2010. He said he is undecided whether to defend their title at the FEI World Cup Final in The Netherlands next April.

US Jumping Chef d'Equipe George Morris with Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, owners of Ravel. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
US Jumping Chef d'Equipe George Morris with Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, owners of Ravel. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

“After our win at Las Vegas there were higher expectations of Ravel and myself,” he said. “There was obviously more pressure to perform.

“One of the questions in America was whether we should compete in Europe. I felt it was important for us to measure ourselves with international standards, which we find at Aachen.

“We proved today that we can do it. We proved that we can go into the mouth of the lion and win.”