By Lynndee Kemmet for DressageDaily.com
West Palm Beach – Canadian Olympian Ashley Holzer and Pop Art rode away with the win in the CDI Grand Prix Freestyle at the Gold Coast Dressage Association Opener Festival putting them closer to an invitation to the 2009 World Cup, scheduled to be held in Las Vegas in April. The CDI competition at the Opener serves as a World Cup qualifier.
In the first evening class of dressage held at the Palm Beach County Jim Brandon Equestrian Center the bleachers brought in for the event were full, and weather made for a perfect Florida evening in January. The VIP tent hosted dinner and drinks for guests of the Gold Coast Dressage Association. In a class of thirteen entries the top four placings were in the 70's from an international panel of judges; Bo Jena, Anne Gribbons, Cara Whitham, Linda Zang, and Stephan Clarke. Second was Mikala Gundersen Leonberg 70.500%, followed by george Williams and Rocher, and Tara Stegan New Tango 70.050%.
Holzer and Pop Art, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, anchored down Canada's 2008 Olympic Dressage Team during the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong finishing 15th overall. Just two months after their return, they took the win in the prestigious Grand Prix Freestyle at Dressage at Devon. And now the pair is on track toward their next goal – the 2009 World Cup.
"We're definitely going for the World Cup. That's my reason for being at the Opener – to get that score and qualify," Holzer said after her win Saturday evening. The Grand Prix Freestyle competition was held in the evening under the lights of the covered ring. And while the freestyle competition was at the end of the day, Pop Art still had plenty of steam. "He was quite revved up, more than the day before," Holzer said.
Pop Art's energy helped compensate for Holzer's lack of steam. She's not been feeling her best and said she had a bit of bronchitis. "But I've made it thanks to Advil and vitamin C. It' a good thing they don't drug test the riders," Holzer joked. On a more serious note, she gave much thanks to Pop Art for picking up where she left off. "My horse helped me out there today," she said. "I was not at my best but we really got it together."
Holzer and freestyle designer Karen Robinson had increased the technical difficulty in the freestyle, and Holzer said it seemed to have been a wise decision because it increased her scores. She admits to a few errors in the Grand Prix in the changes and zig zag which she attributed to the change in the test "and not being prepared enough!!". In the Freestyle "It was a clean, super test, but the best was that he was attentive most of the time. We just really nailed that test," she said.
Pop Art will now get a few days of rest in his field before preparing for the World Dressage Masters. Holzer said it might be a bit much doing the Opener one weekend and the World Dressage Master's next, but Pop Art will have a good rest in between. "What's also nice about him is that you can let him down to relax and then pick him right back up."
Holzer said she is looking forward to the upcoming Exquis World Dressage Masters CDI***** because of the chance it will give her to compete against Europe's best. And after her strong showing at the Opener, Holzer said she is heading into the Dressage Master's "with much confidence." She's also thinking that once the Europeans have a taste of the Florida show season, they might want to stay. "We have world-class facilities right here and a growing number of CDI's. The weather is wonderful and the lifestyle is super for the horses. Why wouldn't they want to stay here and just compete in Florida?"
[#25937 override="Complete Results for the Gold Coast Opener 2009" title="Complete Results for the Gold Coast Opener 2009"]