Ashley Holzer & Breaking Dawn Capture Crowd & Victory at Florida World Cup Freestyle

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Ashley Holzer and Breaking Dawn in the World Cup Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WEST PALM BEACH, Forida, Jan. 21–Ashley Holzer and Breaking Dawn captured the hearts of the crowd and the victory at the Gold Coast Opener World Cup Freestyle Saturday night, at the midway point of the North American World Cup series leading to the Final in April.

Although only their second Freestyle, the Canadian Olympian and the 11-year-old KWPN gelding (Akribori x Eveline x L.Ronald) scored 76.900 per cent with the USA’s Shawna Harding of Aiken, South Carolina, and Come On III second on 72.475 per cent and the Domincan Republic’s Yvonne Losos de Muñiz on Liebling II third on 70.100 per cent. It was the same order of finish as the Grand Prix held Friday.

The score for the Canadian combination were the highest so far of any riders halfway through the World Cup North American League of 14 qualifiers in Canada and the United States.

But Ashley told dressage-news.com she will not be a contender for one of the two places reserved for North America at the Final in ‘s-Hertogenbosch, The Netherlands, in mid-April, as she remains focused on the Olympics in London.

Unlike the Western European League in which competitors are awarded points for the order of finish, the NAL standings are based on an average of a minimum of two freestyle scores from the qualifiers on the 2011/2012 calendar.

At the top of the standings with two scores is the USA’s Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho, with an average of 74.600 per cent, with James Koford of Raleigh, North Carolina, in second place on 72.212. Another four qualifying competitions are scheduled in Florida and two for California in which 2009 World Cup champions Steffen Peters and Ravel are declared starters.

Only seven combinations–four from Canada, two from the U.S. and one from the Dominican Republic–began the freestyle although the event drew a crowd larger than normal for the Jim Brandon Center that is being prepared for the World Dressage Masters CDI5* next week.

Canada’s Shannon Dueck on Ayscha that she competed at London Olympia last month put in the highest scoring performance of the first half with 69.550 per cent. The fortunes of the flashy 11-year-old mare (Welt Hit II x African Dream x Rouletto) have varied with the horse’s health but Saturday night’s result was close to a personal best since Ayscha began her Grand Prix career two years ago.

Yvonne Losos de Muñiz on Liebling II was the first of the final three in the arena, with spectators not knowing what to expect from the horse that carried Great Britain’s Carl Hester to team silver medals at the 2009 European Championships and the 2010 World Equestrian Games. Yvonne, winner of individual bronze medals at successive Pan American Games, became an owner and the rider of the 15-year-old Holsteiner gelding by Lorentin I just five weeks ago.

The arrangement that Yvonne made in her quest to qualify as an individual for the London Games, came after a year which Liebling began with Carl as the rider, then Canadian Cheryl Meisner and then back to Carl.

Yvonne Losos de Muñiz happy with her ride on Liebling II. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

After Friday’s conservatively ridden Grand Prix, the first change Yvonne made was to the warmup routine–shorter, less work but keeping Liebling active or “awake,” as she described it.

The performance was “more than I expected,” a jubilant Yvonne said afterward, laughing that it was probably OK for the few weeks since the horse arrived from Carl’s stable in England. “It was the horse I hoped he would be when we bought into him. Absolutely!”

Carl arrived in Florida Saturday night ahead of the World Dressage Masters, and will work with Yvonne and her longtime traner Diedrik Wigmans.

Even so, she admits to missing out on extra points in the freestyle–the first she has ridden on Liebling–because she rode too conservatively, though the judges rewarded her with the first 70 per cent of the night.

Shawna Harding, suffering a heavy duty head cold for several days, and her 2011 World Cu Final mount Come On III (Come Back II x Canna x Lantaan) were the  penultimate performers for the night.

The pair showed some of the improvements Shawna has made since the 2011 World Cup in Leipzig, Germany, followed by a European competition schedule that more than made up for her timing being a little off on some of the choreographed movements and were rewarded with their second highest ever freestyle score, 72.475 per cent.

Shawna Harding and Come On III at the GoldCoast Opener World Cup Freestyle. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Breaking Dawn, renamed from Ultiems Flemming to the title of one of the blockbuster Twilight series movies, lived up to the Hollywood story line with a performance that many in the audience saw as the start of a partnership that could vault the pair into the top 10 in the world.

Ashley’s husband, Rusty, and P.J. Rizvi, who originally bought the horse, and her husband, Suhail Rizvi of Greenwich, Connecticut, were in the audience for the ride. Suhail is a major investor in the entertainment business that includes stakes in the Twilight series.

“It was pretty emotional,” Ashley said after the awards ceremony.

“It came to me in the middle of the ride–I’m so lucky to be riding such a fabulous horse.

“I’m glad at this stage in my life to be able to really appreciate it.

“You can’t always count on having a partnership with a horse no matter how talented he is and how well you can ride.

“But we have that special relationships,” she said of the horse whose barn name is Edward after one of the lead characters in the Breaking Dawn saga.

She expressed amazement at the training and upbringing of Breaking Dawn that she attributed to his training as a young horse by Holland’s Patrick van der Meer who has built a reputation as a producer of top horses.

Ashley said that as much as she might like to compete in the World Cup Final, Breaking Dawn is still relatively green at Grand Prix and she is determined to focus on the goal of the London Olympics.

After the Games, Edward will be returned to P.J. to ride. “She will have no problem riding him in the ring,” Ashley said. “He is an incredible horse and eventually will be an exiting combination for the United States.”

Breaking Dawn gets a kiss from Ashley Holzer after their World Cup Grand Prix freestyle. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Results of the Gold Coast Opener World Cup Freestyle:

FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI-W

(E) Jena, (H) Graham, (C) Whitham, (M) Yukins, (B) Lamping

1. Ashley Holzer   CAN   Breaking Dawn   76.900%

2. Shawna Harding   USA   Come On III    72.475%

3.  Yvonne Losos de Muñiz   DOM    Liebling II   70.100%

4.  Shannon Dueck   CAN   Ayscha   69.550%

5.  Evi Strasser   CAN   Action Tyme    66.850%

6 . Jennifer Baumert   USA    Don Principe   66.675%

7.  Jacqueline Brooks   CAN   Gran Gesto   65.125%

For complete results click Gold Coast Opener Sat Scores