Laura Graves & Verdades Score 80% In Global Dressage Festival CDI5* Grand Prix
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 9, 2017–Laura Graves and Verdades of the United States scored 80.080 per cent to win the Adequan Global Dressage Festival Grand Prix Thursday, only the second American combination to break 80 per cent and the 15th rider in the history of the sport.
Laura and her 15-year-old KWPN gelding are ranked No. 5 in the world and 2016 Olympic team bronze medalist. It was also their third straight win in three starts this year, all at the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center’s Stadium complex that hosts the Global circuit of seven CDIs.
Steffen Peters, who was Laura’s team mate at the Rio Games, and is the only other American 80 per cent rider on the now retired Ravel, rode Rosamunde to second place on 73.820 per cent.
Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén and in her sixth year on the Florida winter circuit was third on Paridon Magi on 73.700 per cent.
The Grand Prix drew an unusually large crowd of more than 2,00 spectators in weather that saw temperatures more like summer than winter in sub-tropical south Florida. Even with no pre-competition hype, the anticipation of seeing three of America’s Olympic team riders as well as the popular Tinne of Sweden perform at the same event created excitement unusual at dressage events anywhere in the world outside of the Freestyle.
During the rides of the final group of pairings, all Olympic riders of Laura on Verdades, Kasey Perry-Glass on Dublet, Tinne on Paridon Magi and Steffen on Rosamunde the crowd was hushed until the final salute when they burst into sustained and enthusiastic applause.
The panel of five judges were unanimous in awarding Laura and Verdades first place. The scores ranged from a high of 81.600 per cent from Stephen Clarke of Great Britain, with Gary Rockwell of the United States at 81.000 per cent, two judges at 79.300 per cent and one at 79.200 per cent.
Not so for the second placed Steffen Peters with Stephen Clarke awarding 77.300 per cent at the top but Swedish judge Annette Fransen Iacobaeus scoring the pair 70.500 per cent and seventh in her opinion while two other judges placed the duo second and the fifth ranking them third.
“This is pretty monumental for us,” Laura said after the ride which elevated the pair to the elite of the sport after almost exactly three years at Big Tour.
“We’ve been working at 80 per cent in every test for a while now, probably since our first year at Grand Prix. Knowing what was possible with this horse and to be rewarded today while still feeling like I may have some improvements left still, it’s encouraging to have the judging panel be generous and my horse be so generous, and for us to have such a great show to come out and compete at.”
Steffen, who twice logged 80 per cent at Grand Prix on Ravel, said he told Laura immediately after her score was announced: “Now we have two 80 per cents. I love it. It shows where dressage is in the United States. It’s getting there and I love it.”
Tinne, one of the world’s most accomplished riders and widely admired for her support of other riders in dressage, said: “I must say, when Laura got her 80 per cent, I got goose bumps. It’s a cool thing to have. I was really happy, it was my best memory from today.”
Anky van Grunsven of the Netherlands on Salinero was the first rider to reach 80 per cent in Grand Prix which the pair did in 2006. Others have been Edward Gal on both Totilas and Glock’s Undercover, Isabell Werth on both Bella Rose and Weihegold, Charlotte Dujardin on Valegro, Carl Hester on Uthopia, Laura Tomlinson on Mistral Hojris, Kristina Bröring-Sprehe on Desperados, Dorothee Schneider on Showtime, Matthias Alexander Rath on Totilas, Helen Langehanenberg on Damon Hill, Adelinde Cornelissen on Jerich Parzival and Inessa Merkulova on Mister X and Steffen Peters and Ravel.
Laura Graves and Verdades now join the “80% Club,” created by dressage-news.com to honor the achievement and will present a browband specially created by Robin Brown of Sarasota, Florida to Laura during the CDI5* Friday Night Under the Lights Freestyle.
Steffen Peters on Bailarino remained undefeated in winning the CDI3* Prix St. Georges on a score of 72.719 per cent in the first competition outside the West Coast for the nine-year-old Oldenburg gelding.
Bailarino, owned by Akiko Yamazaki’s Four Winds Farm that also owns Rosamunde and Legolas, posted its ninth win in nine starts since beginning CDI small tour competition a year ago.
Jane Cleveland of Wellington, Florida on Monique was second on 71.886 per cent and Adrienne Lyle of Sun Valley, Idaho on Horizon placed third on 70.482 per cent in only the second CDI for the 10-year-old Oldenburg mare.
Correction: Laura Graves becomes the 15th rider to achieve 80 per cent or greater at Grand Prix. An earlier version reported 14 riders.
CDI5* Grand Prix