Steffen Peters, Heather Blitz, Cesar Parra Likely USA Team for Pan American Games
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
GLADSTONE, New Jersey, Sept. 9–The United States team for the Pan American Games was virtually decided on Friday with a trio of combinations led by Steffen Peters on Weltino’s Magic scoring well above the rest of the contenders in the Prix St. Georges that will decide team medals in Guadalajara, Mexico, next month.
The likely three are Steffen and the nine-year-old gelding who posted their highest score ever of 79.789 per cent., Heather Blitz on her eight-year-old homebred Paragon , and Cesar Parra, who rode in two Pan Am Games for Colombia before becoming a U.S. citizen, on Grandioso, a 10-year-old Westfalen gelding.
Competition for the fourth spot on the team–the squad will be decided on results from the Prix St. Georges, Intermediaire I and Intermediaire Freestyle–will be fierce with another nine combinations scoring between 71-plus and 68 per cent. The four pairs finally selected will ride in the Nations Cup at the Pan Ams–unlike four years ago when only three of the four team members rode. At Guadalajara the lowest score will be discarded.
The U.S. won team gold at the last two Pan Ams, in Santo Domingo in 2003 and Rio de Janeiro in 2007, and in Rio also claimed the individual gold and silver medals.
Earlier in the day, Steffen andt Ravel won the Grand Prix Special on a personal best score for that class of 80.083 per cent, the previous high for them being at the 2010 World Equestrian Games a year ago where the pair won two individual bronze medals.
The Prix St. Georges was delayed one day because of heavy rains from the remnants of Tropical Storm Lee and was expected to be a tussle between Weltino’s Magic whom Steffen, of San Diego, California,and Heather Bltz of Wellington, Florida, and Paragon, two superstar youngsters who had never met in competition but had ruled the small tours on the west and east coasts of the U.S., respectively.
Heather and Paragon (Blue Hors Don Schufro x Pari Lord x Loran) whom she helped stand on his feet when he was born at Oak Hill Ranch in Folsom, Louisiana, about 60 miles (100km) north of New Orleans, was the fourth of 16 combinations and set the mark to beat with their 74.737 per cent. The score was within a couple of percentage points of their best results during the this year’s winter circuit in Florida.
At 18 hands (183 cm) of bright chestnut, Paragon is well suited for Heather–she is more than six feet (1.8m).
The St. Georges suits the horse’s extended trot that he showed off with eye-popping results.
“I played it cool,” she said. “I wanted to show lots of flow and suppleness. It was a supple test.”
Paragon showed Grand Prix in a national competition less than two months ago, scoring more than 74 per cent, in preparation for seeking a place on the American team for the London Olympic Games next year.
Heather said her goal is th Grand Prix but being on the Pan Am Games team is a very good opportunity to experience being on a team at a championship.
“I do have a lot of confidence in my horse,” she said. “He has a very honest personality and I always know what I am going to get when I get in the ring.”
Cesar of Whitehouse Station, New Jersey, and Jupiter, Florida, and Grandioso came closest to matching the score of Heather and Paragon just three rides before Steffen and Magic. And it looked at times that might happen as the scoreboard showd marks as high as 78 per cent for the trot tour by the horse owned by Sarah and Michael Davis, but then dropped with the walk and canter to finish at 74.526 per cent.
Overjoyed at the prospect of being on his first American team a year since attainng U.S. citizenship, he said: “This is like a dream come true.
“To be in the best company possible to go to Mexico… well, I’m really honored. I’m very, very excited.”
Cesar was the U.S. national champion in 2010.
Seating for several hundred spectators by the time of the last ride of the day was about three-fourths full, and the crowd was nt disappointed by the performance of Magic, owned by Jen Hlavacek and ridden to reserve six-year-old champion by Shannon Peters, Steffen’s wife.
The judges all placed the pair at No. 1, with the highest score of 82.105 per cent from Sweden’s Gustav Svalling and the lowest of 78.421 per cent from fellow Californian Hilda Gurney. The pair have scored above 81 per cent in California.
But he was as happy as Cesar.
“We have the potential for a gold medal for the team” he said. “I have never been on one.”
Steffen said “it was great” he could be an individual medalist during the competition beginning Oxt. 16, “my priority is the team. I am excited about that.”
Steffen said he is not sure about Magic’s potential for Grand Prix work.
Ravel is still likely to be his main Grand Prix mount for London who has shown repeatedly since the pair won the World Cup in 2009 the pair are among the elite group at the tof the sport. They swept the CDIO in Aachen in 2009, winning two individual bronze medals at the 2010 WEG and being acclaimed the winner over Totilasd by an aroused Aachen crowd during the CDIO Freestyle in July although the black stallion was given the victory by the judges whose opinion is the only one that counts officially. And he was in a similar situation five years ago when he had to choose between Floriano, his 2006 WEG team bronze medal mount, and Ravel.