Americans Laura Graves On Verdades & Kasey Perry On Dublet Smash 80% In CDIO3* Freestyle

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Laura Graves gold (center) Kasey Perry silver (left) and Belinda Trussell bronze winners of the individual CDIO3* Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves gold (center) Kasey Perry silver (left) and Belinda Trussell bronze winners of the individual CDIO3* Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

By KENNETH J. BRADDICK

WELLINGTON, Florida, Apri 1, 2016–American Olympic hopefuls Laura Graves on Verdades and Kasey Perry Glass on Dublet both smashed 80 per cent in the Nations Cup CDIO3* Individual Grand Prix Freestyle Friday night in the 2016 finale Adequan Global  Dressage Festival.

Laura and Verdades, the United States Grand Prix champions were awarded 82.800 per cent for the highest score in the five years of the Global circuit in the ride following Kasey and Dublet with 81.325 per cent for the third highest result at Global that brought wild cheering from the packed stadium.

The scores for both pairs were personal bests–surpassing the 2014 World Games result that put Laura and Verdades in fifth place and for Kasey and Dublet the marks came in only their second Grand Prix Freestyle and just over two months since starting the Big Tour.

Canada’s Belinda Trussell on Anton, her 2014 World Games and 2015 Pan American Games team mount, also posted a personal best of 76.350 per cent to place third. The pair are atop the unofficial rankings for Canadian combinations seeking to fill one of two individual spots for the nation at the Olympics in Rio de Janeiro in August.

America’s Arlene “Tuny” Page on Woodstock was another combination to turn in a personal best, posting a score of 75.925 per cent and then as the presenting sponsor of the Nations Cup formally handing the gold, silver and bronze medals to the top three pairs.

Kasey Perry Glass on Dblet in the Nations Cup individual Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Kasey Perry Glass on Dblet in the Nations Cup individual Grand Prix Freestyle. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

Emotions were high at this Nations Cup Freestyle under lights at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center Stadium complex on the final week of the three-month winter circuit of seven CDIs with the largest total prize money of more than $700,000 for dressage in the world. In five years, the circuit has far outgrown expectations with successive record entries for CDIs in the Americas and comparable to the best in Europe

It also marked the end for many American riders to campaign to be one of eight combinations to make the squad to go to Europe to fight for one of the four places on the team to go to the Rio Games.

The mood on a steamy sub tropical night in Wellington was set by the first ride–Canada’s 2012 Olympic and 2013 World Cup partnership of Jacqueline Brooks and D Niro with the familiar but emotional “Hallelujah” Freestyle that struck a chord not only with crowd but also with the judges who awarded the 17-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding 71.850 per cent for sixth place.

Mikala Gundersen on My Lady, also a World Games and European Championship combination for the Danish team rider based in Florida, took the lead with 75.925 per cent halfway through the Freestyle.

Kasey Perry Glass, who moved from her home in California to Wellington to work with Debbie McDonald, also the coach of Laura Graves on Verdades, then produced a jaw dropping performance that silenced the crowd until the final salute when it erupted into cheers and whistles.

The score of 81.325 per cent–with four of the judges awarding more than 80 per cent–when flashed on the scoreboard brought on another burst of applause for what was only the second Freestyle by the pair since beginning Big Tour at the end of January.

Kasey, ranked fourth on the U.S. Olympic standings with the 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding that she competed at Small Tour in Europe last year, was overcome with emotion after a ride of unexpected high degree of difficulty, wiping away tears.

She looked over to Robert Dover, the U.S. team coach, and quipped, “I found my grit!” a response to his pushing her to go for more whenever she competed at Grand Prix.

Laura Graves on Verdades clearly happy with their Nations Cup Grand Prix Freestyle performance. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com
Laura Graves on Verdades clearly happy with their Nations Cup Grand Prix Freestyle performance. © 2016 Ken Braddick/dressage-news.com

However, Laura Graves who lives in the Orlando community of Plymouth was clearly not intimidated by the performance of her friend and performed a close to flawless ride on Verdades that she has brought up since her parent living in Vermont bought the KWPN gelding as a foal 14 years ago.

She rode to the music of the movie “Rudy,” about an undersized student who wanted to play American football on the University of Notre Dame team, and triumphed in the last game of the college season and is the only member of the team ever to be carried off on the shoulders of his team mates. Dub in triumphant music for what became a Hollywood blockbuster and it is now the final centerline of the Freestyle for Laura and Verdades.

Laura confesses she doesn’t understand football, but clearly understands riding.

After a winter circuit following the first U.S. championship title for the pair last December, the 28-year-old Laura and Verdades pulled off the ride of their career so far.

She called the ride “amazing” in “an incredible atmosphere” to earn the pair both team and individual gold medals in the only non-championship Nations Cup outside Europe.

Stephen Clarke, the judge at C and also the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) Judge General, confessed that during the Freestyle “the hair on my neck was standing up” because of what he described as “fantastic… the level was amazing.”

From his perspective, “you guys really went for it… a lot of harmony, risk taking… just a super class.”

“To have these really very young girls suddenly coming up with such beautiful riding it is artistry, it’s exciting to watch,” he said. “This country is very exciting at the moment.”:

Results:

CDIO 3* Grand Prix Freestyle
E: Hess – GER H: Lang – AUT C: Clarke – GBR M: Fore – USA B: Torrente – COL
Rider Nat. Horse E H C M B Total Pl
Graves, Laura USA Verdades 76.750 85.625 86.000 81.250 84.375 82.800 1
Perry-Glass, Kasey USA Goerklintgaards Dublet 81.750 80.500 81.750 83.000 79.625 81.325 2
Trussell, Belinda CAN Anton 75.375 76.375 78.625 78.500 72.875 76.350 3
Gundersen, Mikala DEN My Lady 71.500 77.125 77.500 77.375 76.125 75.925 4
Page, Arlene USA Woodstock 75.125 75.375 76.750 76.250 76.125 75.925 4
Brooks, Jacqueline M. CAN D Niro 69.250 71.250 73.375 74.500 70.875 71.850 6
Lane, Megan CAN Caravella 65.875 70.375 70.750 70.750 69.125 69.375 7
Manfredi, Maria Florencia ARG Bandurria Kacero 67.750 68.875 68.250 68.625 72.125 69.125 8
Layne, Kelly AUS Von Primaire 61.375 67.500 66.250 66.000 66.750 65.575 9