Loxahatchee, Florida – After Saturday's FEI Grand Prix de Dressage at the Palm Beach Dressage Derby CDI-W/Y, Canadians Ashley Holzer and Jacqueline Brooks knew one thing for certain – it's looking good for Hong Kong. "Ashley and I both needed to get over 67 percent today in the Grand Prix to count toward our final qualifying team," Brooks said.
Brooks scored a 67.958 in her Grand Prix test with Gran Gesto, a 13-year-old Oldenburg gelding by Grannox, givng them a fourth place finish overall. Holzer and Pop Art, an 11-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding by Amsterdam, scored a 73.083, which also earned them the first place in the class of more than 30 Grand Prix competitors. "I am so excited to be going to the Olympics and it looks like today I qualified," Holzer said. "I have two CDI scores from this year and one CDI score from last year and I think I have an average of about 72. Today sealed the deal for me to go. So I'm thrilled."
Not so many weeks ago, Holzer had taken herself out of the running for the Olympics because Canada had planned to require its riders to compete in Europe prior to heading to Hong Kong. Holzer felt that would be too much travel for Pop Art. After Canada dropped that requirement, Holzer then said she would go to the 2008 Olympics in Hong Kong this summer if she qualified. Now she has. Although Holzer is pretty much a sure bet for the team, Brooks said she'll be hitting more CDIs this season in hopes of bringing up her average to ensure that she'll be a full-fledged team member and not the alternate.
"Our team is picked on a descending order of averages. Ashley's average is very, very high so her spot is guaranteed. Mine is a mid- to high-67 and we have some more riders in Europe who are averaging 66, 67 as well. So now I'll have to work a little harder to guarantee my spot in the top three. It's looking very, very good because these are the only two horses qualified for the Olympics so far. And we have two more in Europe with a chance. So, there's the four, which means I'll be going to Hong Kong, but it's not known yet if I'll be participating as one of the top three or be the fourth rider," Brooks said.
This will be Brooks' first Olympics. "I'm so excited. Never been to the Olympics before, but this has long been a goal of mine. It's been 32 years in the making. I started dreaming of this when I was eight," she said.
While Brooks will be working to improve her average score for the Olympic team, Holzer said she might take it a little easier with Pop Art now. She showed him the weekend before the Derby and he seemed more tense at the Derby, which, she said, could either be from the Derby atmosphere or two back-to-back weekends of competing. "I think I am going to be a little careful because maybe it taught me to perhaps skip a week in between and just keep him supple," she said. "This horse is an unbelievable horse. No matter what I ask of him. He'll do it. I mean coming up to the canter pirouettes, it was like, 'Honey, I know you're tired but there are a lot of points here' and he just did it."