Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén & Don Auriello Win World Dressage Masters Palm Beach Freestyle
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By ILSE SWCHWARZ
WEST PALM BEACH, Florida, Jan. 26–Tinne Vilhelmsson-Silfvén did a final tweaking of the Freestyle on Don Auriello, her Olympic mount, to produce their first World Dressage Masters Grand Prix Freestyle victory with a score of 84.075 per cent at the show where they began their Grand Prix career three winters ago.
The six-time Swedish Oympian’s score came close to her personal best–their alltime high was 84.700 per cent in Stockholm last month. Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic H.B.C., team mates for Sweden at the 2008 and 2012 Olympics as well as World Equestrian Games and European Championships, runnerup on 85.252 per cent.
Steffen Peters and Legolas was the top ranked U.S. combination, placing third on 80.175 per cent, their first ever result above 80 per cent in the year he has been competing the Westfalen gelding that was bought by Akiko Yamazaki as a successor to her Ravel.
“Tinne’s ride demonstrates what dressage should be all about,” declared Stephen Clarke of Great Britain, president of the ground jury who also headed up the panel of judges at the 2012 Olympics, “uphill, complete harmony, with the horse an outstanding picture.”
The WDM Palm Beach with €100,000 ((US$133,000) in prize money is one of two CDI5* events in the United States, the other at the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington the first week of April.
With no other show in North America that brings in European stars, it has become a signature event of dressage that attracts spectators from around the continent, retail vendors reporting their best sales of the year and an atmosphere unmatched by the typically dreary American shows that attract paltry number of spectators.
Antony Kies, chief executive officer of WDM, told dressage-news.com the event will return to Wellington Classic Dressage as the organizer of the event at the Jim Brandon Center for another year after three years hosting the competition. The first two years were staged by Equestrian Sport Production as a highlight event of the Winter Equestrian Festival at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center.
This year’s event was marked by Swedish domination and emrgence of new combinations of American dressage in the performances of Steffen and Legolas and Heather Blitz and Paragon.
However, the event was marred when both highly touted imported combinations from the Netherlands were no-shows–Edward Gal and Interfloor Next One scratched when he was too sick to ride and Hans Peter Minderhoud and Withney van t’ Genthof pulled out after finishing eighth in the Grand Prix following an agonizing maybe in, maybe out veterinary inspection.
Then. Tina Konyot of Palm City, Florida, and Calecto V who represented the United States at the 2012 Olympics and the 2010 World Equestrian Games, were eliminated based on the discovery of a drop of blood on the side of the horse. The International Dressage Riders Club and the International Dressage Trainers Club both challenged the procedures that led to the elimination.
In Saturday night’s Freestyle, Steffen and the 11-year-old Westfalen gelding performed to music from American pop culture.
“This was a huge step-up for sure, first time in the limelight,” said the three-time Olympian. “The atmosphere was a lot for him. To finish with an 80 per cent here is amazing.”
Heather Blitz of Wellington, Florida, and her Paragon, a 10-year-old Danish Warmblood on which the pair won Pan American Games team gold and individual silver medals, showcased their signature extensions in both the trot and canter to score 74.900 per cent.
The Grand Prix Special was won earlier in the day by Denmark’s Mikala Gundersen, based in Florida, and My Lady on 69.479 per cent with James Koford of Wellington, Florida on Rhett in second place with 67.333 per cent and Jacqueline Brooks of Canada on D Niro scoring 66.833 per cent for third place.