Steffen Peters & Ravel Win WDM Palm Beach Grand Prix On Personal Best Score – Complete Results
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, Mar. 10–Steffen Peters rode Ravel to a personal best result and only the fourth CDI Grand Prix score ever above 80 per cent in a dominating performance at the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach Thursday.
Steffen said of the performance on the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding that scored 80.872 per cent, “It was just an amazing ride. It will, from now on, be the ride that I compare all the other rides to.”
“I wish I had a 12 to give you,” said Ground Jury President Cara Whitham of Canada who awarded Steffen his sole 10, for riding.
Personal best Grand Prix scores were also posted by Steffen’s U.S. 2010 World Equestrian Games team mates Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida, and Calecto V of 72.213 per cent for second place and Todd Flettrich of Wellington, Florida, on Otto in fifth place with 69.936 per cent.
Sweden’s five-time Olympian Tinne Silfvén on her WEG mount Favourit was third on 71.340 per cent and Canada’s Ashley Holzer on her Olympic and WEG mount, Pop Art, were fourth on 71.046 per cent.
Seventeen horses and riders from nine nations are competing in the €100,000 ((US$138,000) WDM. The top eight from the Grand Prix move on to the Grand Prix Freestyle Friday night in the covered arena at the taxpayer-funded Jim Brandon Center.
The arena has been transformed almost beyond recognition by lavish decorations to create a theme of Provence, France. A sellout audience of 1,200 spectators who paid $80 for general admission and up to $4,000 for a table of eight that includes a five-course banquet of French cuisine with matching wines will watch the kür, and a warm-up MasterClass by Dutch Olympic team silver medalist Hans Peter Minderhoud.
The remaining nine combinations will compete in the Grand Prix Special Friday afternoon.
The WDM Palm Beach is the sole CDI5* in the Western Hemisphere and appeared doomed after the organizers of the two previous events in Wellington opted out for this year. But the event was pulled together with financial backing reported to be close to $250,000 (€180,000) from International Polo Club Palm Beach and funding from Akiko Yamazaki, the owner of Ravel.
Owners, riders and spectators praised the effort that brought five horse and rider combinations from Europe–a sixth pair if Tinne Silfvén is counted as she is concluding a three-month stay with the horses of Antonia Ax:son Johnson, whose Axel Johnson Group is a major WDM sponsor.
On Thursday, however, few cared about details, including the weather that turned stormy but did not delay the Grand Prix and may have helped the footing that organizers had re-mixed in both the indoor and outdoor warm-up arenas after issues in two previous CDIs. Steffen Peters described it as “perfect” and Tina Konyot echoed the description.
Scores climbed throughout the class, but the crowd was clearly waiting for the final ride of the day, Steffen of San Diego, California, and Ravel, the pair that won two individual bronze medals at the 2010 WEG to become the most successful American in the history of championship dressage .
The overall ride was a textbook definition of harmony and suppleness and power, a performance that several knowledgeable spectators described as “magical,” and Cara Whitham, the judge, was unabashedly tearful. Highlights included a right canter pirouette close to perfect that scored 9.5 (there were lots of half points just below 10) from several judges and a canter extension that was huge and uninhibited.
All five judges, four of them top rated “O” jurists–Gary Rockwell and Louis Yukins from the U.S., Cara Whitham of Canada, Stephen Clarke of Great Britain and Wim Ernes of The Netherlands–scored the pair above 80 per cent
The final score places him in the company of Edward Gal and Moorlands Totilas and Adelinde Cornelissen and Jerich Parzival of The Netherlands and Laura Bechtolsheimer and Mistral Hojris of Great Britain as the only pairs to break the 80 per cent barrier in a CDI Grand Prix, according to a search of official records by dressage-news.com.
Steffen and Ravel will perform what he labeled as his now “getting a bit tired” freestyle choreographed mostly to Coldplay’s “Viva la Vida.”
“I made a deal with coach Anne Gribbons that I would change my music after this show,” he said. “So this will be the last time with the WEG music.”
The third time in the WDM Freestyle may be lucky. Steffen and Ravel won the Grand Prix the two previous World Dressage Masters Palm Beach but were edged in the freestyle on both occasions by the Queen of the Freestyle, Anky van Grunsven.
Tina Konyot, who just a week ago at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby rode her black stallion, Calecto V, in what she described as a “disaster,” clearly put that behind her. The canter work and passage and piaffe were among the best ever for the pair and resulted in their personal best at Grand Prix.
“I’m very, very, very happy,” said Tina. “My ride… I’m trying to improve every time, it was one of my better Grand Prix. It was the time to do it. I’m very, very happy with him.”
Her boyfriend, Canadian Thoroughbred racehorse trainer Roger Attfield, made it in time to watch the ride after one of his listed starters at nearby Gulfstream Park was scratched because the same storm that passed over West Palm Beach caused problems at the race track.
Tinne Silfvén (she told dressage-news.com she is willing to drop her maiden name, Vilhelmsson, and use just her married name) is in the final competition of three months in Florida that has produced outstanding results for Favourit, and Don Auriello, a horse she debuted at Grand Prix here with outstanding success.
“It’s been such a great time these three months,” said the mother of a nine-year-old boy, Lucas, about her winter in Florida. “It’s been a great opportunity to educate my horses here. Favourit was a little tense but I’m still very pleased.”