Laura Graves & Verdades Win European Fans, Adrienne Lyle & Wizard Impress at Aachen CDIO5* Grand Prix Special
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
AACHEN, Germany, July 19, 2014–Laura Graves, a newcomer to international top sport, rode her Verdades to win a host of fans at the pinnacle of dressage competition, the World Equestrian Festival CDIO5* Grand Prix Special, with an eighth place finish on a day when the first four places were at 80-plus per cent.
Laura, 26 years old and having competed in Europe for the first time just two weeks earlier, and Verdades scored 74.784 per cent behind a who’s who of dressage while her team mate, Adrienne Lyle on Wizard placed 13th on 72.902 per cent.
Totilas, Valegro, Damon Hill, Bella Rose, Don Auriello, Desperados and Parzival–all dressage household names that are among the top in the world–placed ahead of Laura, who comes from the Orlando community of Geneva in Florida.
She was a virtual unknown until she stunned the American dressage world by squeaking into the national championships a month ago and finished as reserve champion behind Steffen Peters and Legolas, the country’s top pairing. The result guaranteed her a place on the United States team at the World Equestrian Games in Normandy, France at the end of August.
After her stand out performance Saturday, this correspondent was besieged with questions from European reporters for the story of Laura, a transplant from the cold of Vermont to the Florida heat whose mother bought Verdades as a foal from a Dutch sales video.
To Europeans, she is a fresh face whose quality of riding on the 12-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding has been admired this week by fellow competitors, trainers, the knowledgeable spectators and the media.
Although a rookie, Laura and Verdades were the top placing American pair in the Grand Prix that decided the Nations Cup Thursday. She followed it up with the eighth place in the Special and a place in the round of honor.
Adrienne Lyle of Ketchum, Idaho and Wizard–a partnership that represented the United States at the 2012 Olympic Games in London–overcame a sub -par ride in the Grand Prix that made the pair fall short of making the final team of four for Normandy. She produced a sparkling test in a highly competitive field.
Both riders are trained by Debbie McDonald, an Olympic and World Games rider for the United States on Brentina, and the first American to win a World Cup.