Laura Graves & Verdades Win USA Championship Grand Prix, Steffen Peters 2nd on Legolas, 3rd on Rosamunde
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Dec. 9, 2015–A fitter, stronger Verdades was ridden by Laura Graves to victory Wednesday in the United States Grand Prix Championships presented by the Dutta Corp., in the first competition in five months since helping earn an American team start at next year’s Olympic Games.
The score of 76.460 per cent for Laura and the 13-year-old KWPN gelding with Steffen Peters and Legolas in second place on 74.220 per cent and on Rosamunde in third on 72.620 per cent was a big step in putting her in contention for her first championship.
Steffen described as a “tough day, rough day” his performances on Legolas, the U.S. champion for the past three years and ranked No. 8 in the world, and the eight-year-old Rosamunde on whom he is ranked 23rd in the world.
Seventeen combinations from across the country started in the Grand Prix which counts for 45 per cent of the championship total with the Special to be held Thursday that will count for 40 per cent and the Freestyle Saturday night for the final 15 per cent.
The day belonged to Laura of Plymouth, a small community on the outskirts of Orlando in central Florida and Verdades that barely made it into the 2014 Festival of Champions as the U.S. championships are called but emerged as runner-up and a star.
The pair went on to the World Games in Normandy where they placed fifth in the Grand Prix Freestyle, competed at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas last April then four months later won team gold and individual silver at the Pan American Games in mid-July that was a qualifier for the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro.
As a result of the work she has been doing at home of interval training and a day a week of cavalettis plus continuing training with Debbie McDonald but being competition rusty Laura said she expected “to have to knock some rocks off” this first time out.
“But I’m having to keep up with him,” said Laura. “He was very on, fresh, just the way I like him.
“I finally have him where I want him now I have to retrain my body. Overall I could not be more thrilled with him.”
Her goal is to get as close to 80 per cent as she can during the seven CDIs in three months of the Adequan Global Dressage Festival beginning in January at these same show grounds where the championships are being staged for the first time. She will seek to qualify for the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden next March then focus on the Olympics that she sees as a long term goal at this stage.
Steffen of San Diego, California had high praise for Laura–“I was excited the first tine I saw Laura.. I’ve been a big fan since then. Thank God she pulled it off today. I thought maybe her score should have been a bit higher. It’s excellent for the team.”
As to his own two horses, “I just didn’t ride very well today. They felt great in the warmup and solid in the changes.
“The rider did a terrible job.
“It was a tough day, rough day. It will take me a few hours to put that aside and then go for it tomorrow.”
But he admitted the Grand Prix Special is tougher for both horses, so “it’s going to be xtremely difficult.”
Nevertheless, he said, Rosamunde has clearly improved with better piaffe and changes but not shown in the ride, he said, because of too many mistakes.