West Palm Beach, Fla., Jan. 27—Steffen Peters is never one to count a competition won before he goes down centerline, but after winning the Grand Prix test in the Palm Beach World Dressage Masters for the fourth time with Ravel, it’s safe to say it’s going to take a pretty special combination to beat him.
Despite Peters’ insistence that he’s just aiming to maintain the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood’s level of performance, Ravel (Contango—Hautain, Democraat) continues to improve, scoring a personal best in the Grand Prix (81.38%) over Great Britain’s Charlotte Dujardin and Valegro (78.46%).
"Sometimes it's a little hard to put it into words," said Peters. "First, I have to give a big thank you to my buddy Ravel; it's a personal best for us. It's amazing to think he keeps getting better after all these years.
“It was a blast to ride!” he continued. “Everything worked out great. He felt even stronger than last year, a bit more supple, absolutely beautiful in the bridle.”
Dujardin, 26, and Valegro, 10, are both quite new to the world of top Grand Prix competition, and this is the first time either one of them has competed in the United States. The Dutch Warmblood gelding (Negro—Maifleur, Gerschwin) was quite impressed by the electric atmosphere in the Jim Brandon Center. But a few minor bobbles didn’t distract from the power and elegance on display.
“Today was rather interesting for me,” said Dujardin. “Valegro got in the arena and was like ‘Wow!’ He was keen to go today. My entry was expensive, and my pirouette and my zigzag on my centerline weren’t so good either. He’s young, and he’s still learning. I have to forgive him for those. He did some really amazing things, and I’m very happy with him.”
Dujardin was particularly pleased that Valegro stuck with her for the tempi changes. “Everything was a little bit strong and a little bit hot today,” she said. “When he’s hot, I have to be a bit careful.”
Valegro proved to be so keen, in fact, that there was a scary moment during the prize giving ceremony when he stood up on his hind legs and provided a brief, but impressive, Wild West show. Dujardin was able to stick with him and keep him away from the other horses.
Sweden’s Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven took third place with Favourit (73.25%). Vilhelmson-Silfven spent the winter in Florida in 2011 and placed second at the WDM in 2011 aboard Favourit. “I’m very pleased today,” she said. “Favourit hasn’t been to a show in a while. He was really in a good mood. He was still a bit too fresh, but he did let me ride in the test, and I’m happy.”
Other performances of note came from U.S. riders Adrienne Lyle and Heather Blitz. Lyle, 27, placed fourth with Wizard (72.14%) after putting in an impressive test that went from highlight to highlight.
Blitz only rode Paragon in his first Grand Prix CDI the day before the World Dressage Masters. The officials decided to downgrade the competition from a five-star to a four-star in order to allow the 9-year-old Danish Warmblood to compete after he placed second in the three-star, since he didn’t have the required two CDI scores for the five-star.
Paragon placed seventh in the WDM Grand Prix (71.00%), which qualified him for the Grand Prix Special.
One horse, Jacqueline Brooks’ Gran Gesto, did not start the competition. He was held at the veterinary inspection, and although he was eventually passed, Brooks decided not to compete him.
Complete results are available on the World Dressage Masters website.
Grand Prix riders Liz Austin and Lauren Sprieser will be live blogging during the Grand Prix freestyle, which begins at 7:30.
Watch the World Dressage Masters live on USEFNetwork.com.