Wellington, Fla.—Jan. 26
Laura Graves and Verdades comfortably captured the FEI World Cup Grand Prix freestyle with a mesmerizing performance on her own and Curt Maes’ 2016 Rio Olympic team bronze medalist, Verdades.
The pair’s emphatic 84.67 percent is the best score ever given at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival. Ranked fourth in the world, Graves and Verdades’ floorplan exudes complexity, and includes passage half-pass, two-time changes on a curve melting into one-times and ultra-steep trot half-passes.
“He is such a hot horse that I rode him three times today,” said Graves, 30, who trains with Debbie MacDonald. “We brought him out at lunchtime and with the wind he was a little crazy and we were a little concerned as we know what he can be like. But I am excited about this score—and the score from the grand prix [79.63%].”
Graves crafted the test, which carries a high degree of difficulty, for the 2014 FEI World Equestrian Games (France) when she was unexpectedly selected.
“I was thrown into the fish tank that year, so I studied all the other riders’ floorplans. And the music comes from Rudy, a football movie about an underdog kid,” said Graves, who admitted that she had actually arrived at the show without her music and had to have a new copy burned.
Although this was their third highest score ever, Graves will be altering the floorplan ahead of the five-star CDI at AGDF (Feb. 8-11).
“He’s such a clever horse that he guesses what’s going to happen, which is why we’re going to change it,” she explained.
The podium order was unchanged from the previous day’s Grand Prix: Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén filled second on Lövsta Stuteri’s 15-year-old gelding Paridon Magi (by Don Primero) with 79.05 percent, while home rider Shelly Francis partnered Patricia Stempel’s ever-improving 14-year-old Danilo, by De Niro, to third place with 76.15 percent.
Vilhelmson Silfvén had to ride in one of the rain squalls that passed over.
“Magi felt extremely electric, and it’s hard to ride outside when there’s a lot of wind—the rain is OK—but generally the test felt really good. He’s a fun horse to ride in the freestyle because you can do difficult things on him,” she said.
Francis said: “I’m so happy with my horse; he’s getting much more honest in there. He’s hot, but he’s now using the hot to come to work with me. We had a little mistake in the one tempis, but he came right back to me.”
All three riders are aiming to qualify for the FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Paris in April and, ultimately, the FEI World Equestrian Games in Tryon, North Carolina in September.
American judge Janet Foy, who was presiding from C, said: “Two of us judges here are also judging at the World Cup final—plus we’ve done other qualifiers in Europe—and these top three rides were wonderful and would fit right in in Paris.”
Heather Blitz bolstered Praestemarkens Quatero’s 2018 resumé by landing the day’s Prix St. Georges CDI*** class, adding to their two small tour wins in Week 1 of the 2018 AGDF. In this class, Blitz was the only rider to crack 70 percent, scoring 70.32 percent on her own 9-year-old Danish Warmblood by Quaterback. The combination boasts six wins from their seven CDI small tour starts.
Two judges had the second-placed Norwegian combination of Alexandra Gamlemshaug Andresen and her own 9-year-old Empire B (by Sting x OO Seven) as the winners. This promising duo were stepping out into senior international ranks for the first time, having been on the youth circuit, culminating in the European Championships for young riders in August in Roosendaal, France. Andresen, who is just 21, scored 69.67 percent.
British rider Susan Pape’s Prix St. Georges CDI* winner Harmony’s Eclectisch has an equally sparse competition history, but roared to victory with a final total of 69.52 percent, including a high score from the M judge, Janet Foy, who awarded 74.26 percent.
The 9-year-old black licensed stallion by Zenon was acquired in November by American dressage sponsor Leslie Malone of Harmony Sport Horses, having previously been owned by Andreas Helgstrand, among others.