Experienced Combinations Lead USA Olympic Selection Trials
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KENNETH J. BRADDICK
GLADSTONE, New Jersey, June 9–With Steffen Peters, the winner on Legolas of the first Grand Prix at the U.S. Championships Saturday already assured of his place at the Olympics with Ravel, experience ruled in the top rankings in the battle to make the American Olympic squad that grew from three to four with the qualification of an individual to join the team.
The 2010 World Equestrian Games combination of Tina Konyot and Calecto V was second on 72.787 per cent behind Steffen and Legolas that won with 76.064 per cent the first of four competitions over two weekends that will determine the horses and riders to get a ticket to London’s Olympics beginning July 27.
Jan Ebeling of Moorpark, California, and his three-time World Cup Finals mount Rafalca was third on 71.532 per cent admitting he felt no pressure or distraction with the presence of Ann Romney, the wife of Republican presidential nominee, Mitt Romney, and an owner in the mare.
“In fact,” he said, “I’m really happy she could make it to see her horse compete. It’s wonderful for our sport to have the visibility that Ann brings to it.”
Todd Flettrich of Wellington, Florida. and Otto, the horse he rode on the 2010 WEG team that qualified the U.S. squad for the Olympics, placed fourth with 71.149 per cent and three-time Olympian Günter Seidel of Cardiff, California, and Fandango were fifth on 70.553 per cent.
The peformances by Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho, and Wizard and Heather Blitz of Wellington and Paragon, among the top ranked pairs coming into these championships, were disappointing. Adrienne and Wizard were sixth on 70.468 per cent and Heather and Paragon eighth on 67.936 per cent.
However, Saturday’s result counted for only 25 per cent of the total, two Olympic Grand Prix Specials and another Grand Prix will also each count for 25 per cent.
The top placings after the fourth competition next weekend will make up a squad of six horses and riders that will go to England from which the final four to compete in London will be selected.
Steffen, of San Diego, California, who has won the U.S. championships on Ravel, Floriano, Lombardy and Udon, said that despite a problem with the one-tempi changes on Legolas the walk, trot and piaffe and passage tours were the best since he started riding the horse at the end of 2011.
“Overall the feeling was great,” he said. “I couldn’t be more thrilled with the start.”
Tina Konyot said that Calecto had lost weight and gained fitness in the past eight weeks of preparing for these selection trials.
“Fitness-wise he feels wonderful,” she said.
Jan Ebeling said that Rafalca, whom he competed at the World Cup Finals in 2009, 2011 and 2012, has matured in the six years they have been together–“I know her really well and she knows me really well.”