World Dressage Masters Palm Beach Saved by Downgrade to CDI4*

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Heather Blitz and Paragon in their first GCDI Grand Prix. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Heather Blitz and Paragon in their first CDI Grand Prix. © 2012 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDIK

WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, Jan. 26–The World Dressage Masters Palm Beach retained some horse and rider combinations not qualified for the top level–including British star Carl Hester and Wie Atlantico and the newly emerging U.S. pair of Heather Blitz and Paragon–when competitors and officials agrred Thursday nght to downgrade the formal ranking of the event that does not change the quality or prizemoney.

The downgrade to CDI4* from a CDI5*, the highest rated and most prestigious level of non-championship dressage competition, came after a review of the entries submitted by national federations for the €100,000 (US$130,000) event showed that some combinations did not meet the requirement of two scores of 64 per cent in Grand Prix at two different CDIs.

Without the agreement of riders and officials, Carl, who led Great Britain to an historic first ever gold medal at the 2011 European Championships, and Wie Atlantico who had been flown in from Great Britain specially for this event would not have been allowed to compete.

Perhaps the most famous recent instance of enforcement of the CDI5* rules was in Munich, Germany, last year when Matthias Alexander Rath was prevented from competing with the superstar stallion Totilas in the CDI5* because he did not have two qualifying scores so the new partnership dropped back to compete in the CDI3*.

Carl was offered a wild card for the Palm Beach event and was nominated by the British Equestrian Federation to ride Wie Atlantico that was loaned to him by 2010 World Equestrian Games team mate Fiona Bigwood but had never ridden the horse in a CDI.

Yvonne Losos de Muñiz of the Dominican Republic was in a similar situation with Liebling II who had attained one qualifying score and had offered to compete in the CDI3* held Thuraday–the day before WDM Grand Prix–but was assured she could ride in the WDM without competing in the 3*.

The WDM event with VIP tables at $7,500 to $6,500 and general admission seating sold as a package for three days at $240 is sold out. However, the general admission seating that was restricted at the Thursday CDI3* Grand Prix was not full and caused several angry outbursts from spectators who were not allowed watch the event.

The qualification issue came to a head during the CDI3* Grand Prix Thursday when Heather Blitz and her American-bred Paragon on whom she won team gold and individual silver for the United States at small tour at the Pan American Games in Guadalajara, Mexico, obtained one qualifyng score of 69.170 per cent for second place. The winner, Ashley Holzer on Pop Art, scored 69.915 per cent, but was already entered in the WDM on Breaking Dawn and could not ride a second horse in the 5*.

The same applied to Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén who rode Divertimento in the Grand Prix for a score of 67.085 per cent. She was already entered in the WDM Grand Prix on Favourit.

Thomas Baur of Germany, the organizer representative on the International Equestrian Federation Dressage Committee who was observing the event, discussed the qualification issue with Stephen Clarke of Great Britain, the president of the ground jury. The aim was to allow the event to continue without decomating the starting lineup while complying with the rules.

Thomas Baur suggested dropping the event ranking to a CDI4* that would eliminate the requirement for quaifying scores but would not affect prize money and maintain the starting lineup.

The proposal was put before a meeting of all riders that was called for later Thursday night at the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which was the presenting sponsor of the event and was hosting a WDM exhibitor party.

The riders from Great Britain, Canada, Domnican Republic, Sweden and Germany agreed unanimusly to allowing the nominated combinations to compete even if it meant downgrading the rating of the event.

The prize money remained the same and WDM rider ranking points would not be impacted by the decision.

“This is a good solution to allow the show to continue,” Stehen Clarke said. “It is true sportsmanship. It is nice to see how officials and riders are cooperating for the good of the sport.”

WDM in 2012 is made up of three €100,000 events–Palm Beach, Forida; Munich, Germany, and Falsterbo, Sweden. The first indoor competition, at Frankfurt, Germany, in December to replace a World Cup event that is being taken away from the show for 2012, is expcted to be announced soon. Hickstead, England, which has been part of the circuit for the first three years is not being held in 2012 because of a conflict with the Olympic Games to be held in London.

The downgrade for Palm Beach means that North Amerca’s only CDI5* will be at the new Global Dressage Festival show grounds in Wellington, a $125,000 event for Mar. 29-April 1.

The entries for Friday’s WDM Grand Prix, as released by the organizers, are:

Jacqueline Brooks (CAN) – Gran Gesto
Ashley Holzer (CAN) – Pop Art
Victoria Winter (CAN) – Proton
Yvonne Losos de Muñiz (DOM) – Dondolo Las Marismas
Anja Plönzke (GER) – Le Mont d’Or
Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) – Valegro
Carl Hester (GBR) – Wie Atlantico
Todd Flettrich (USA) – Otto
Adrienne Lyle (USA) – Wizard
Tina Konyot (USA) – Calecto V
Steffen Peters (USA) – Ravel
Pierre St. Jacques (USA) – Lucky Tiger
Per Sandgaard (SWE) – Lomumba Havdal
Minna Telde (SWE) – Deinhardt
Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfven (SWE) – Favourit

The top two riders from the CDI3* Grand Prix:

Heather Blitz (USA) – Paragon
James Koford (USA) Pharoah

Results of the CDI3* Grand Prix: CDI3* Grand Prix Scores