Tuesday, Apr. 23, 2024

Peters’ Prince Rules At Del Mar Classic

The Southern California trainer sweeps the CDI and open divisions with his veteran mount and two young prospects.

Steffen Peters may have plenty of equine royalty in his San Diego, Calif., stable, but his wins at the Del Mar Classic, Nov. 9-11, proved there’s a new heir in his line of succession and success.
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The Southern California trainer sweeps the CDI and open divisions with his veteran mount and two young prospects.

Steffen Peters may have plenty of equine royalty in his San Diego, Calif., stable, but his wins at the Del Mar Classic, Nov. 9-11, proved there’s a new heir in his line of succession and success.

Peters claimed six total wins at the Southern California competition in Del Mar, two of which came in his first competition with Prince, a 10-year-old, Dutch Warmblood gelding (Hemmingway—Wimpel) owned by the DeGroot family of DG Bar Ranch in Hanford, Calif.

After training him up through Prix St. Georges himself, resident professional Willy Arts sent Peters the horse in early September.

“Willy said, ‘Look, I’d be interested in leaving him with you to see if he should be sold as a Young Rider horse or if he has more potential,’ ” Peters explained. “After 10 days I called Willy back and said, ‘This is definitely not a Young Riders horse. I think he’s an international horse.’ ”

Prince earned his highest scores at Del Mar on Friday morning, logging a 67.84 percent in the open Grand Prix, which Peters attributed to his talent for the piaffe. He said he chose to ride the movements a bit on the forward side owning to Prince’s inexperience, but scored well nonetheless. Peters was also pleased with the gelding’s extensions.

“I think the test was judged with the highest international standard, and for him to start out with a 68 was, to all of us, a big success,” Peters said. “What’s really neat about him is that as excited as he gets in the piaffe and passage, he still does an extended walk for a pretty high score.”

The pair’s score in Saturday’s Grand Prix test (62.29%) was, unfortunately, lower than on the previous day, but was still enough to claim the blue.

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“On the second day we had too many mistakes,” Peters admitted. “We had a mistake in the one-tempis, in the half-pass, and in one piaffe he lost his balance. Two of those movements are coefficients.

“Knowing what he can do at home and by the feeling he gave me at home, I have to admit that I was a little disappointed, but on the other side I’m also very realistic,” he continued. “When you show a horse for the first time, and especially at the Grand Prix, you have to know that it’s not going to be perfect right off the start.”

By no means discouraged, Peters said he plans to take the horse in another Grand Prix in February. Meanwhile, he’ll continue to hone the young gelding’s skills, working on balance in the piaffe and highlighting his talent for trot and canter extensions.

“I definitely believe it’s a horse for the international levels,” he said. “There’s no doubt in my mind. I believe in the horse, and I’m very lucky that he’s another addition to [my other upper-level mounts] Lombardi and Ravel.

“I had the luxury of finishing the one-tempis and controlling the passage and pirouettes with him,” Peters added proudly. “Willy does a fantastic job with young horses, and it’s obviously a lot of fun to work with him. It’s an honor.”

While his rides on Prince gave Peters a chance to admire someone else’s training techniques, he had his own to thank for his wins with Lord Chalk Hill, a 7-year-old, Oldenburg stallion owned by Peggy Furth.
Peters began competing Lord Chalk Hill (Lord Sinclair—Piroschka II) at training level when he was just 3.

“It’s been a great partnership for four years,” said Peters. “Especially since, being a stallion, it’s always been exciting to see how much effort and heart he puts into the tests.”

The pair topped the CDI Prix St. Georges on Friday afternoon with a 67.55 percent and began Saturday with an early win in the CDI Intermediaire I (69.75%). Lord Chalk Hill earned 8s and 9s on his trot half-passes, as well as healthy marks in his trot extensions and canter pirouettes.

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“For him it was, so far, the best show we’ve had,” Peters noted. “Both days he put in really clean tests. Two of the judges scored him at a 72. He’s just a super honest horse. For him to go into an environment like this arena and perform exactly like he did at home is huge.”

Peters said he plans to take his time with the young stallion at Prix St. Georges and Intermediaire I for another year, but he’s already recognized his particular talents for the piaffe and passage.

“I definitely think there’s no doubt that he’s going to make a Grand Prix horse,” he said. “I don’t think it’s a question of if, but when. I’ve always believed in taking my time with my horses. He’s another horse who’s going to be allowed to tell me when he’s ready.”

Peter’s third mount, Lombardi 11, proved his readiness with wins in the CDI Grand Prix (68.33%) and CDI Grand Prix freestyle (73.50%) classes.

Peters gave up the ride on Floriano, his long-time top mount, earlier this fall after the horse’s owners asked him to compete their gelding exclusively in his Olympic-qualifying events. Lombardi (Locato—Baroness) is now Peters’ most seasoned international horse and may be his top pick for the Olympic Games in 2008.

“It’s a little soon to say, but Lombardi has the most experience,” he said of the 16-year-old, Holsteiner gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki. “I know nowadays I can put him in any arena and keep things together, which was not always the case when we started out. And that’s extremely important when you’re looking for a team horse—that he can handle the environment.”

“I was very pleased with him,” Peters continued of the horse’s performances at Del Mar. “It was one of his better Grand Prix tests. The inconsistencies he’s had have been in the piaffe. The transitions are sometimes a little difficult from the piaffe to the passage, but all three piaffes in the test were great.”

Recent additions to Lombardi’s freestyle choreography also bolstered his scores. Peters said he upped the difficulty of the test by adding half-pass passage in both directions, a quarter turn in the piaffe, and flying changes on a serpentine.

Peters said his other top-level prospect, Ravel, will be contesting his first Grand Prix in February.

Kat Netzler

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