West Palm Beach, Fla.—Jan. 25
Last weekend, in the covered arena at the Jim Brandon Equestrian center, Sweden’s Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic HBC swept a CDI-W Grand Prix and Grand Prix freestyle. Today Kittel repeated his win in the same location, but on an even larger scale. Kittel and Watermill Scandic HBC topped a field of 15 in the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach CDI*****  Grand Prix with a 77.68 percent. It was a personal best Grand Prix score for Kittel, who’s based in Germany.
“I have to say, the preparation was really good,” he said. “It’s not always that it happens that you think something and then it happens that way. To do the show last week and then come back here was great. He was perfect today. There were a few small glitches, but I’m really happy with the horse and my score today.”
Kittel’s foes were formidable. He faced off with fellow Swede Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and U.S. rider Steffen Peters, who’s won this event four times before with his now-retired partner Ravel.
But mistakes from both Vilhelmson-Silfven and Peters, who was mounted on Legolas 92 this year, gave Kittel the win. Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello, her mount for the 2012 Olympic Games in London, had a glitch in their second canter pirouette and a few small bobbles in piaffe-passage transitions, but their performance was still good enough for second on 76.85 percent.
“If I have to be beaten, I’m happy to be beaten by Patrick,” joked Vilhemlson-Silfven, who is based in Sweden but spends her winters in Florida. “He felt really good in there. It’s not that easy to go from outside to the little bit darker inside, but I think it went well.”
Kittel and Watermill Scandic HBC, a 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood (Solos Carex—Noraline, Amiral) stallion, are also Olympic veterans, having competed in London for Sweden.
“After the Olympics I thought a bit and changed a bit, and I worked on getting my horse more uphill in the canter, and that was better the last few shows,” said Kittel. “[The Grand Prix work] is very routine for him now, so you can work more on small things instead of thinking you won’t be able to do the movements. Before you’re just glad you make everything happen. I think that’s a big clue as to why it’s getting better and better.”
Peters and Legolas 92, an 11-year-old Westphalian (Laomedon—Furstin, Florestan II) gelding owned by Akiko Yamazaki’s Four Winds Farm, showed off rhythmic piaffe and passage work, but the horse took a bathroom break during the canter half-pass zigzag and switched leads several strides late. Their score of 75.14 percent put them in third place.
“It’s very exciting,” said Peters, of San Diego, Calif. “It’s the first time for a young kid, and I’m certainly not talking about myself. I was a bit concerned before; he’s never seen a situation like this, and he stayed very calm.”
Peters and Legolas haven’t competed since last year’s USEF Festival Of Champions (N.J.), where Legolas won the national Grand Prix title, but they've been doing plenty of work at home.
“The strength isn’t an issue for him,” said Peters. “It’s the relaxation we’ve been working on. In the previous tests, even at the championships, we still saw some tension. I was really happy he stayed as relaxed as he did today. So far we’ve been extremely patient with him, and this was a wonderful start for him.”
Heather Blitz rode her 2011 Pan American Games partner Paragon into fourth on a 74.06 percent. Denmark's Lars Petersen, riding Mariett, rounded out the top five with a 71.80 percent.
“I thought it was an exciting competition,” said FEI five-star judge Gary Rockwell, who served as the judge at C. “You have to appreciate all these horses. The lightness of Tinne’s horse is so beautiful to watch that you have to appreciate that. Steffen’s horse had everything, but just that one big mistake. I’ve judged Patrik on this horse several times before, and I thought this was the best ride I’ve seen him have. I think they were all very close in their own way, and the results were very good.”
The top eight from today’s class will proceed to the Grand Prix freestyle tomorrow evening, while the remaining six will contest the Grand Prix Special at 2 p.m. Tina Konyot was eliminated from the competition with Calecto V.
"Upon review of the process and after consultation with the FEI, it has been confirmed that the current rules regarding the elimination process were followed to the letter," said a statement from the event officials. "Before she left the official equipment check area ringside, the rider was informed by the FEI Chief Steward that the judge at C had made the decision based on Article 428.8 and Article 430.7.6 that the horse must be eliminated due to the evidence of fresh blood."
The Netherlands' Edward Gal, scheduled to ride Interfloor Next One, withdrew before the start of the class due to a bad case of the flu.
Visit Wellington Classic Dressage for full results from the Grand Prix .