Laura Graves & Verdades Win Wellington World Cup Freestyle to Head to Paris to Battle Isabell Werth, Cathrine Dufour in Final
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Mar. 2, 2018–Laura Graves and Verdades won the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle Friday night to earn a ticket for Paris and a Final showdown with defending champion Isabell Werth and Danish superstar Cathrine Dufour. Adrienne Lyle on Salvino placed second in their first freestyle.
Laura and the 16-year-old KWPN gelding, reserve champion to Isabell and Weihegold OLD at the 2017 Omaha Final and the only pair to beat the world No. 1 combination, earned a score of 84.975 per cent in what she said was the “best ever” ride for the pair, though not scored as high as at the Omaha World Cup and the Rio Olympics.
The score was the highest for a freestyle in the six years of the Global circuit and put the pair at the top of the World Cup North American League standings.
Adrienne of Ketchum, Idaho and the 11-year-old Hanoverian stallion, marking Salvino’s first year at Big Tour this month, were awarded 78.275 per cent for second place.
The 33-year-old rider borrowed the music from her 2012 Olympic mount Wizard, now retired, for the performance as the freestyle for Salvino is still being created.
Juan Matute, Jr., the Florida-based youth rider for Spain who became an American citizen last month but still rides for his homeland, rode Don Diego Ymas to third place on 73.800 per cent.
The victory for Laura, 30 years old, and her Olympic team bronze medal mount ranked No. 4 in the world, was the sixth straight and the second consecutive year of being undefeated on the Global winter circuit of seven CDIs over 12 weeks at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
The results enabled Laura , who lives about 2 1/2 hours north of Wellington with her partner Curt Maes who shares ownership of Verdades, to claim one of the two slots reserved for North America at the annual world championship of the 18 top freestyle combinations.
Shelly Francis of Loxahatchee, Florida on Danilo, a 14-year-old Hanoverian gelding, qualified for the second slot.
The 59-year-old rider and Danilo racked up an average of 76.937 per cent from their two best results to earn a start in the first international championship for Shelly since she rode Pikant at the 1998 World Equestrian Games.
Laura has been partnered with Verdades since the horse was bought from a video as a foal in the Netherlands.
The pair burst on to the international scene with a fourth place freestyle finish at the 2014 World Equestrian Games in Normandy, earned team gold and freestyle silver at the 2015 Pan American Games in Toronto and Olympic team bronze at Rio de Janeiro in 2016.
World Cup starts were at Las Vegas in 2015 then the reserve title in Omaha in 2017.
Laura and “Diddy,” as she calls Verdades, has been the only duo since the 2016 Olympics to beat Isabell and Weihegold, ranked No. 1 in the world, which they did in the Grand Prix Special at the World Equestrian Festival CDIO5* in Aachen, Germany last year.
Cathrine Dufour and Cassidy, the Danish Olympic team pair that led her country to the silver medal behind Germany at last year’s European Championships, beat Isabell and Emilio, ranked third in the world, at the World Cup event in Gothenburg, Sweden last month.
CDI-W Grand Prix Freestyle