Laura Graves & Verdades Win First Global Dressage Festival CDI5* Grand Prix Freestyle
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By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Feb. 10, 2017–Laura Graves and Verdades captured their first Adequan Global Dressage Festival CDI5* Grand Prix Freestyle Friday night, helping to build American dressage to new heights of popularity.
Laura’s score of 82.000 per cent on the 15-year-old KWPN gelding, her Olympic team bronze partner, came a day after the duo became only the second American to achieve 80 per cent at Grand Prix. The Freestyle victory earned the rider $36,400 to add to the $6,000 won in the Grand Prix.
Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén on Paridon Magi placed second on 77.450 per cent while Laura’s Olympic team mate Steffen Peters on the 10-year-old Rosamunde was third on 77.325 per cent.
Three of the four U.S. Olympic team riders as well as two Americans from 2012 and Games competitors from Canada and Sweden competed here this week helping fill the spectator stands and the VIP pavilion in the sixth year of the winter circuit of seven CDIs.
Mark Bellissimo, who heads up the group that owns and manages the Global circuit and show grounds as part of the Palm Beach International Equestrian Center, told dressage-news. com that he is increasing seating to about 2,500 to meet spectator demands. The seating will be added for the remainder of the circuit at the Stadium complex although he has plans to move dressage to a new and bigger facility by 2018 at the nearby International Polo Club grounds one of his financial partner groups acquired last summer.
The 29-year-old Laura of Geneva, Florida said after her ride: “We are preparing for the World Cup Final and even though we don’t have an indoor environment to do that, we have this awesome Adequan Global Dressage Festival to pack on Friday nights and still get a huge atmosphere for our horses and to practice in, and that is a very lucky thing to have here.
“The adrenaline is so high when you come out of the arena. You’re so in the moment, that when it’s over you kind of think, ‘what just happened?’ But he was great. He really feeds off of the atmosphere, he’s a highly sensitive horse and he never lets me down.”
Verdades, she said, has more points to add to scores that she will work on before the Omaha World Cup at the end of March.
Tinne, in her sixth winter in Florida, said that the 14-year-old Swedish Warmblood gelding that has also been competed by stable rider Caroline Darcourt, had “a super warm-up.”
“I think that when you get into this arena with this atmosphere, it’s just fun to ride,” she said. “I had some small mistakes, but a very nice feeling so overall I’m very pleased.”
Steffen Peters of San Diego, California who has competed in the CDI5*s in Florida since they were first staged in 2009, is now focused on Rosamunde as a successor to his Olympic mount, Legolas that has been taken over by his assistant Dawn White O’Connor.
“I had a different strategy today,” Steffen said. “This morning I worked her for about 45 minutes and I walked her around all day. She was walking all day and working, so it worked out. I had my doubts after yesterday’s Grand Prix if she could handle an atmosphere like she would have to at the World Cup, and tonight she proved that she might have the potential to qualify.
“I’m super happy, there was one 80 already in there, she had a clean test that was much more relaxed then the Grand Prix, and in this atmosphere, I’m stoked.”
He freestyle that he had performed with on Ravel when the pair won the 2009 World Cup in Las Vegas and the bronze medal at the World Equestrian Games in Kentucky, not telling owner Akiko Yamazaki.
“I paid for it and said, ‘just watch the freestyle,’ and she sent me a picture of Ravel and said that Ravel approved.”