Wednesday, May. 29, 2024

Canadians Claim Both Grand Prix Classes

Holzer and Creech lead the honor rounds on Friday.

While there was plenty of good competition on the first day of CDI action at Dressage at Devon, Sept. 26, the Canadian contingent clearly set the standard in both the Grand Prix classes.

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Holzer and Creech lead the honor rounds on Friday.

While there was plenty of good competition on the first day of CDI action at Dressage at Devon, Sept. 26, the Canadian contingent clearly set the standard in both the Grand Prix classes.

Canadians Ashley Holzer and Diane Creech, both the penultimate riders to perform in their classes, earned top honors in the Grand Prix for the freestyle and the Grand Prix for the Special, respectively. The win was the second consecutive victory for the experienced Holzer and Pop Art, who dominated in this class last year at Dressage at Devon, and just returned from the Olympic Games in Hong Kong, China, a few weeks ago. But for Creech and her longtime partner Wiona, who are both only in their first year at Grand Prix, leading a victory tour was just the cherry on top of their Devon debut.

“I’ve never been to Devon, and the first day we were walking around I was like, ‘Oh my God, oh my God!’ ” Creech said, laughing. “There are so many nice horses and so many wonderful people. It’s just amazing.”

Creech posted a winning score of 64.16 in the Grand Prix for the Special, besting Susan Dutta’s second-placed mark with Golden Choice DC by nearly two full points. All five judges ranked the Canadian pair best.

“It’s very electric,” Creech said of Devon’s famed Dixon Oval, despite the venue being blanketed in fog and mist for most of Friday. “It’s so fun. [Wiona] takes that and transforms it and plays on it. She blooms up in this kind of atmosphere.”

Creech, Caistor Centre, Ont., broke Wiona to ride herself, and the now-11-year-old Hanoverian mare has made solid progression up the levels. The pair helped Canada earn the team silver medal at the 2007 Pan American Games (Brazil), placing eighth individually. After a three-month stint in Germany training with Norbert van Laak this spring, they came out at the Grand Prix level at Paxton Farms (Ohio) in May.

“It feels better now,” said Creech. “At the beginning we were green, and everything was a little bit new, but now I’m starting to learn the feelings I have to have.

 

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“Consistency is my goal, and she is so consistent,” Creech continued of Wiona (Weltmeyer—Feline). “There are no real weak points. Right now I’m just aiming for a clean, consistent test, then we’ll work to improve the quality of the work and build up from there. So there might not be too many 8s or 9s right now, but there also aren’t too many 3s and 4s in there.”

Doug and Louise Leatherdale of Leatherdale Farms in Long Lake, Minn., have owned Wiona since she was 5, but weren’t able to witness her Devon debut because of Doug’s scheduled knee surgery.

“The Leatherdales are just so thrilled,” Creech said. “They were just so happy when they heard she’d won. They’re on pins and needles waiting for news.”

Following up on Creech’s late-afternoon win, Holzer trotted into the Dixon Oval with a title to defend and a tough act to follow. Last year’s Grand Prix freestyle winners, Lars Petersen and Succes, had just logged a leading score (69.00) in this evening’s Grand Prix immediately before Holzer and Pop Art’s test. But the veteran combination rose to the challenge, breaking the 70-percent barrier with a score of 70.70.

“Lars had had such a good ride and so much applause, but Poppy always finds this ring very exciting,” Holzer said of the 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding (Amsterdam—Jody Prinses) owned by her husband, Rusty Holzer, and Ian and Moreen Nicoll. “He seems so happy to be back.”

Holzer, New York, N.Y., is one of only two riders who brought an Olympic mount to Devon this fall, and said she didn’t plan on competing here at first. But she was “shocked” at how well the horses recovered after their return from Hong Kong.

“He seemed to take it all in stride and didn’t seem bothered by the travel at all,” she said. “I gave him down time when we came back for two weeks, expecting him to feel tired, but honestly he didn’t. He feels great.

“We love Devon,” Holzer continued. “You get an incredible opportunity to ride in a world class ring with world class judges, two hours from where you live. Why would you not do it?”

Holzer’s Olympic bid in Hong Kong, her third for Canada, didn’t go as she’d hoped this summer. Considered before the Games to have an outside chance at an individual medal, she said she was disappointed with her performance in the Grand Prix, which scored 67.04 percent. But the pair improved their scores in the Grand Prix Special (68.76) and the Grand Prix Freestyle (70.10).

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“Even though it was the Olympics, I didn’t really feel like the ring had the atmosphere,” Holzer said of the massive competition venue at the Hong Kong Jockey Club. “The ring was basically in the middle of a field. I think it made him feel a little small, and I don’t think it really gave him the atmosphere he likes. It was very different than this.”

Holzer, who has never won the freestyle at Devon, now hopes to unveil a few technical changes to the end of her test on Saturday evening, but won’t hint at what they are for fear of jinxing herself.

“I feel very positive,” She said. “I love my freestyle, and I never liked riding freestyles before. Last year when I rode him [here], he was very tense in the ring, and I had ridden him a lot to get him quiet. By the time the freestyle came, I still had a tense horse, but I had a tired, tense horse. This time I opted out of working him hard, and I’m hoping he’ll just get in the ring even with the tension, and he’ll just do his job, without being as tired as he was last year.”

Saturday evening’s Grand Prix freestyle begins at 7:45 p.m.

For full provisional results from Dressage at Devon, click here.

Dressage At Devon Tidbits 

Top honors in today’s Prix St. Georges competition went to Courtney King and Jubilant on a score of 68.66 percent. The pair edged out Chris Hickey and Bugatti Hilltop by just .16 percent, but King won’t be riding in the Intermediaire I on Saturday. Devon served as King’s first outing since the Olympic Games in Hong Kong in August, after which she served a one-month FEI suspension for banned substance usage.

Young Rider Kassandra Barteau of Gilberts, Ill., claimed the top two slots in the FEI Young Rider Team Test competition. Barteau won the class on a score of 68.88 with Gabriella and placed second aboard GP Raymeister (68.66). Another Region 2 rider, 17-year-old Katie Foster of Minocqua, Wisc., topped the FEI Junior Team Test with Sacramento, scoring 66.97 percent.

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