Steffen Peters & Ravel Win Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO in Historic Sweep at Aachen

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Steffen Peters and Ravel leading the victory gallop with Anky van Grunsven and Salinero and Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquise Nadine. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters and Ravel leading the victory gallop with Anky van Grunsven and Salinero and Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquise Nadine. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, July 5–Steffen Peters and Ravel of the United States won the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO Sunday, pulling off an historic hat trick of the only American ever to win the three top dressage competitions at the world’s premier horse show.

The victory by the American pair, the last to go, over the 2008 Olympic individual gold medal combination of Anky van Grunsven and IPS Salinero brought the capacity crowd of 5,000 spectators to their feet in a standing ovation for several minutes. Peters and Ravel came to Europe for this single competition to show their 2008 FEI World Cup title was not a fluke and Sunday’s performance produced a record for them of 85.600 per cent, 1.1 per cent higher than the Dutch pair.

“This has always been a dream of mine to finish in the top three in Aachen,” Peters said in a conversation that was frequently interrupted by autograph seekers and well wishers wanting to shake his hand. “To win in Aachen, all three classes, is incredible. This will be hard to top.”

Peters gave the credit for his win to a “really, really super” freestyle by the 11-year-old Ravel, the music and “the wonderful crowd in the stadium” that erupted in spontaneous applause when Peters and Ravel completed their musical compilation of Coldplay, the Rolling Stones and Mark Knopfler. The music and degree of difficulty was the same as their ride in Las Vegas in April, but the execution was superior at Aachen.

Steffen Peters and Ravel powering to victory in the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Steffen Peters and Ravel powering to victory in the Grand Prix Freestyle CDIO. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Peters and Ravel earned €45,100 (US$63,140) for the three victories–€6,500 (US$9,100) for the Grand Prix, €8,600 (US$12,000) for the Special and €30,000 (US$42,000) in the Freestyle.

Although the Germans are proud of the fact that Peters was born and raised not far from Aachen, The San Diego, California resident proudly says “my heart beats for America.”

On this Independence Day weekend, his wins in the Grand Prix on Thursday, the Grand Prix Special Saturday and Grand Prix Musical Freestyle Sunday were, he said, “fantastic for America and super for American dressage.”

Among the first to congratulate Peters was van Grunsven who said she did her best to win and had no excuses.

“Thank heavens Steffen is American so he won’t be competing at the European Championships,” she joked of the fiercely competitive championships scheduled for Windsor, England the end of August where the Dutch will field perhaps their strongest team ever against the traditionally dominant Germans who are suffering from the suspension of Isabell Werth and the injury to Ulla Salzgeber’s Herzruf’s Erbe that will sideline the horse for months.

Anky van Grunsven and Salinero were back in top form as master practitioners of the musical afreestyle except for a couple of mistakes. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Anky van Grunsven and Salinero were back in top form as master practitioners of the musical afreestyle except for a couple of mistakes. © 2009 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The effect of the troubles of the German team were evident in the results:

1. Steffen Peters and Ravel, USA, 85.60 per cent;

2. Anky van Grunsven and IPS Salinero, NED, 84.500 per cent;

3. Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine, NED, 80.00 per cent;

4. Emma Hindle and Lancet, GBR, 79.50 per cent;

5. Heike Kemmer and Bonaparte, GER, 77.90 per cent;

6. Alexandra Korelova and Balagur, RUS, 76.40 per cent;

7. Matthias Alexander Rath and Sterntaler-Unicef, GER, 76.350 per cent;

8. Nathalie zu Sayne-Wittgenstein and Digby, DEN, 75.350 per cent;

9. Ellen Schulten-Baumer and Donatha S, GER, 73.250 per cent, and

10. Andreas Helgstrand and Tannenhof’s Carabas, DEN, 73.20 per cent.

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Peters’ mother, Doris, with her arm in a cast from a fall before Aachen, his wife, Shannon, Ravel owners Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, U.S. jumping Chef d’Equipe George Morris joined a large group of Americans at the Deutsche Bank stadium to support Peters.

Ravel was bought by Akiko and Jerry Yang when Peters was competing at the World Equestrian Games in Aachen in 2006 especially as a future top horse for the United States.

Describing his test, Peters said that the first right pirouette was not as good as it should be but he had a chance to repeat it after the canter extension and that balanced out the score.

From there on, he said, the ride was the best he had ever experienced on Ravel.

As he is fond of saying, “Ravel is such a sensitive and super horse that he makes me look good.”

Anky, made no excuses, saying she had a mistake in the first trot extension but after that she “really went for it.”

Salinero gave her “a really good feeling” and, equally important, “I feel good, too.”

Perhaps an indication of renewed trust between van Grunsven and Salinero is that she rode the 15-year-old gelding in the awards ceremony, a rarity since the horse ran away with her during the awards at the 2006 WEG in Aachen.

Great Britain's Emma Hindle celebrating the highest score ever received on her Lancet. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com
Great Britain's Emma Hindle celebrating the highest score ever received on her Lancet. © 2009 Ilse Schwarz/dressage-news.com