Laura Graves & Verdades Win Wellington World Cup Grand Prix in 1st Competition since Olympics
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK.
WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 26, 2017–Laura Graves and Verdades won the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Grand Prix Thursday in the first competition for the world’s No. 4 ranked partnership since last summer’s Olympics and the first step seeking to earn a start at the Omaha Final.
Laura of Geneva, Florida and Verdades, a KWPN gelding now 15 years old, appeared relaxed, fit and ready for what is a so-called “off year” for championships in the Americas except for the World Cup Final in March in being awarded 76.660 per cent.
The most emotional moment of the Grand Prix of 28 combinations from 10 countries came at the end of the ride by American Katherine Bateson-Chandler on Alcazar for a personal best score of 71.880 per cent in their first competition since the 12-year-old KWPN gelding underwent emergency colic surgery at Aachen, Germany last July.
“I thought I’d be able to hold it together but I couldn’t stop the tears of joy that he is really back after what was so scary in Aachen,” the 41-year-old rider based in Wellington said after the ride that beat their previous best result of 70.840 set posted at Global last March.
“And he is really back.”
Alcazar was ridden by Katherine on the U.S. team in the Grand Prix that was the first phase of the CDIO5* Nations Cup in Aachen last July.
However, the horse owned by Jane Forbes Clark that Katherine began competing at Small Tour in Europe in 2013 and moved up Grand Prix two years ago suffered a colic during the night and was rushed to a nearby veterinary clinic for surgery.
Katherine and Alcazar also rode on the American Nations Cup team in Denmark two months earlier, one of the inaugural year of the official team series that was won by the United States.
Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén on Paridon Magi also posted a personal best of 75.080 per cent to place second. She declared the 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding her World Cup mount in this competition in which she also rode Benetton Dream FRH who was eliminated after he sneezed during the second pirouette and gave himself a nosebleed.
Tinne said she has not yet decided whether to seek a start in Omaha at the end of March as her primary goal is the European Championships in Gothenburg, Sweden later in the year.
Charlotte Jorst of Reno, Nevada on Kastel’s Nintendo was third on 73.080 per cent.
The 29-year-old Laura said she was thrilled with the performance by Verdades as he had what she described as a “bad experience” during training in the same arena Tuesday evening when a water sprinkler went off in his face.
“He is a mega, mega honest horse,” she said. “It always feels good to ride him.
“I’m really, really hoping to qualify for the World Cup that will be here at home. We had such an amazing time in Las Vegas,” she said in reference to the 2015 Final when the pair placed fourth in the Freestyle that decides the annual global championship.
“After last year’s Olympics where our team won bronze and we placed fourth in the Freestyle everything that happens now is icing on the cake.”
Though she admitted that “nothing compares to the unbelievable atmosphere” of riding Freestyles under the lights on Friday nights at Global.
Laura talked to dressage-news.com about big gaps in competition after major championships–a break of seven months after the World Equestrian Games in Normandy in 2014 where she placed fourth in the Freestyle before starting again in Wellington to earn a World Cup start in Las Vegas; six months between the Pan American Games team gold and individual silver medal performances, and almost six months since the Olympics and her fourth place Freestyle placing to this show in Wellington.
“Winning today is awesome, phenomenal,” she said, “but it’s not the end goal. People, and I include myself in this, feel the pull to compete whenever you can.
“After Rio, I pulled the shoes off Diddy. He didn’t do any work for two months, just trail rides, two months completely off.
“My goal is not to win every time. I hope to have a horse for next year and maybe the year after.
“I don’t see the point in taking a couple of dings just to compete. I’d rather save his legs and go for six months without competing.
“The utimate goal is having a very, very healthy horse for years to come.
“I don’t have another horse. We don’t baby him, but we need to be fair to him.
“It’s been a whole learning curve for me learning to live with other people’s expectations. I feel all of a sudden I have nothing to prove.
“And I tell myself that kids are starving, there are wars. Nobody cares if I miss a flying change.”