Valegro A New York Celebrity In Packed Central Park Horse Show For Triple Olympic Gold Medal Pair
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
NEW YORK, Sept. 25, 2016–Valegro came to Central Park to celebrate the three Olympic gold medals won by him and rider Charlotte Dujardin to be mobbed by hundreds of adoring fans after the British partnership performed a musical freestyle against a back drop of perhaps the world’s most famous skyline after dark.
The scene of Charlotte leading the 14-year-old KWPN gelding, possibly the greatest dressage horse in history, back into the arena after their performance to give fans streaming behind a chance to be up close and personal with Valegro has been rare.
Valegro and Charlotte, who gave up a chance to take a break after the Olympics and then Britain’s championships last week where she won six titles, appeared to enjoy the celebrity status in a city that can sometimes become jaded. After all, Adele was in town this week, and during last year’s show the Pope visited Central Park at the same time.
In the third year in which the show in the center of New York at the Wollman ice skating rink already famous the world over for scenes in several Hollywood blockbusters, Valegro and Charlotte were a draw rarely seen in dressage–the much loved partnership of Edward Gal and Totilas were massively popular and were willing to wade into crowds.
To lure Charlotte and Valegro to New York after the Olympics and ahead of the official retirement at the London Olympia Christmas show was due to Charlotte offering to do what she could to promote dressage in America.
A telephone call from Mark Bellissimo, who heads up the International Equestrian Group that organizes Central Park as well as managing the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida and other major horse shows did not appear to have been successful initially.
However, he disclosed to dressage-news.com, Charlotte called back the next day and said she and Valegro were in for New York. Her reason was to do what she could to promote dressage.
Charlotte and Valegro fulfilled what they came for, packing the stadium erected over the ice rink then topping it with Valegro’s spontaneous meet and greet.
“He is only 14 and he could do a couple more years, but to me I don’t feel that I have any reason to keep going with him,” Charlotte said after her exhibition. “He has won absolutely everything. He holds every world record. He has been a horse of a lifetime for me. I would love everybody to remember him as the best horse he is, and after Rio I could not have asked for a better ride. It was just one of the most emotional and magical rides of my life, and I would hate for him to finish his career down.
“He owes me nothing, so why not finish at his best? It is not the end of Valegro. He is not going to compete, but he is still going to be around and people will see him, and I think that is very nice for him.”
Throwing herself into the spirit of the Central Park show, Charlotte rode a Friesen named “Frederik the Great” and touted by the promoters as the most handsome horse in the world. The rider was not identified until the pair were in the arena.