Laura Graves on Verdades Celebrates 30th Birthday Winning Aachen Grand Prix Special, Leading USA to Nations Cup Silver

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An exuberant Laura Graves on Verdades after winning the Nations Cup Grand Prix Special at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

AACHEN, Germany, July 22, 2017–Laura Graves on Verdades celebrated her 30th birthday Saturday winning the CDIO5* Grand Prix Special at the world’s premier horse show and leading a strong Dutta Corp. United States team to the Nations Cup silver medal.

Laura and the 15-year-old KWPN gelding, ranked No. 4 in the world, for the first time beat the world’s No. 1 and Olympic team gold medalist and Omaha World Cup champion winner Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD.

Laura of Geneva, Florida and Verdades led the U.S. team of Adrienne Lyle and Salvino, a Nations Cup rookie horse and only the third international competition for the stallion who placed ninth 73.608 per cent, Olivia LaGoy-Weltz on Lonoir placing 12th on 72.118 per cent and Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet 13th on 71.608 per cent.

The predominantly German crowd that filled the Deutsche Bank Stadium of 6,500 seats celebrated Laura’s birthday with a rendition of “Happy Birthday,” heard here:

“There’s nothing like a stadium full of Germans singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to you,” Laura said afterward. “That’ll be a birthday I’ll remember for a while.

“It was really emotional getting to listen to my national anthem; it’s something that makes me teary. Just getting to wear our flag is something that I have a lot of pride in and to have that flag hoisted over the stadium when we come out on top is a very prideful thing I think for everyone who puts in so much time for us to come here. We have amazing staff at US Equestrian, my family, my groom, my trainers who give up so much of their time to be here with us to make this happen is the best way to say, ‘Thank you’.”

Laura Graves on Verdades in the imposing Deitsche Bank stadium celebrating the American’s victory in the Nations Cup Grand Prix Special. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Laura and Verdades and the other top combinations had two honor rounds, the other in the main jumping stadium where 45,000 spectators paid home to the dressage stars.

Laura Graves being honored in the main stadium at the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Laura and “Diddy,” as she calls the horse she has grown up with since Verdades was bought as a foal, had never before beaten Isabell–at the World Games in Normandy in 2014, the Olympics in Rio last summer and the World Cup Final in Omaha last winter.

She told dressage-news.com after placing second behind Isabell Werth in the Grand Prix Thursday, “I’m a little tired of being the bridesmaid. I want to win.”

Saturday, she did that, scoring 81.824 per cent with Isabell and Weihegold second on 81.059 per cent.

Three of the five judges placed the pair first, and two in second, including her former coach Anne Gribbons but who also awarded the pair the highest marks of any on the ground jury. Isabell was placed first by two judges, second by two and fifth by one.

Laura admitted it was “rather embarrassing” to try a lot and not win but “today was just our day.” She rode into the arena and as soon as Verdades turned right, the horse said: “OK, Mom, I know the Special.”

Aachen, she said, brings out the top riders and, “I would rather be second to Isabell any day than any competition that is not so fierce.”

Laura dismissed the idea that being the “bridesmaid” was a monkey on her back.

“This is sport,” she said. “Every day we all try our best. To me the big feat is not coming here and and winning; it’s coming in here and producing our best form. It’s nothing more than that.”

Adrienne Lyle and Salvino in the Nations Grand Prix Special at Aachen. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

The performance by Adrienne Lyle and Salvino was seen as boding well for the future of American championship teams as this was only the third international competition for the 10-year-old Hanoverian stallion, the first in Wellington, Florida in March and the second in Rotterdam a month ago. Adrienne, of Ketchum, Idaho and who rode Wizard for the United States at the 2012 Olympics and 2014 World Games, had no plans to compete here but was drafted for the team.

Adrienne, assistant trainer for the past decade to Debbie McDonald who also was coach of all the other pairs on the team, has been developing Salvino since the horse was bought two years ago by a group of owners as a team prospect.

The score of 72.118 per cent for Olivia LaGoy-Weltz of Haymarket, Virginia and Lonoir, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding, was a personal best for the Special in 15 months at Big Tour.

The duo competed in Europe in small tour in 2015 and was reserve for the United States team at the Pan American Games in Toronto.

This year, Olivia and Lonoir were on the U.S. gold medal Nations Cup team in Rotterdam, Netherlands a month ago.

Olivia LaGoy-Weltz on Lonoir in the CDIO5* Grand Prix Special. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Kasey Perry-Glass, based in Wellington, and Dublet, the 14-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding on which she earned team bronze along with Laura and Verdades at last summer’s Olympics, returned to form with a score of 71.608 per cent.

Kasey Perry-Glass and Dublet in the Nations Cup Grand Prix Special. © 2017 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Curt Maes, boyfriend of Laura Graves and part-owner of Verdades, hugging coach Debbie McDonald with U.S. chwf d’equipe Robert Dover. © Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com