This first leg of the USET Grand Prix Selection Trials qualifier, the CDI Grand Prix, was won by popular 2004 Olympic partners, Brentina and Debbie McDonald, who put in a beautiful and clean test for a 72.708 percent. Returning to the arena after a long time recuperation from an injury McDonald admitted most everyone thought the 17-year-old Hanoverian mare was retired, but the US horse who has competed in two World Championships, three World Cup Finals and one Olympic Games is on track to Hong Kong "feeling better than when she was eight."
They led the class with a four-percentage margin. The others top combinations hovered around the 67-68 percentage range. Steffen Peters’ ride on Lombardi II was also clean and highly polished for reserve with a 68.708. Leslie Morse took third and fourth places, third with Kingston and a score of 68.292 and fourth with Tip Top and a score of 67.958. Peters and Willie Arts’ Prince placed fifth with a 67.875, followed closely by Jan Ebeling and Rafalca with a 67.708.
Brentina and Debbie Mc Donald Receive a Standing Ovation
The grand final of the evening, and some would say for the show itself, was the unveiling of Brentina and Debbie McDonald’s freestyle to “Respect.” Brentina and Debbie literally danced through expressive music that was punctuated by Debbie’s precise riding, and Brentina’s attentiveness and talent. Debbie is also returning to the show arena with Brentina after a rest, and was delighted with the ride. The crowd, which clapped in rhythm with “Respect” during their final tour down the centerline, gave her a standing ovation at the ride’s end. During the awards ceremony which includes the salute of the US flag and the playing of the National Anthem, Brentina’s owner Peggy Thomas stood next to Brentina and Debbie and was also honored as well. The Thomas family has tirelessly supported the development of dressage in this country and has in fact given us all Debbie and Brentina as ambassadors for the sport.
All day long, people asked both Debbie Mc Donald and her husband Bob if she was going to do, the “Respect freestyle” which they had done at the World Cup 2005. So when the music began, the crowd cheered. Debbie wanted to not rush the ride, “I haven’t ridden the freestyle since 2006, so I was a little tentative. But after the first sequence of two tempis on the circle, I knew it felt good. It was one of the best rides I have ever had on her. It was amazing!” This is especially sweet after her long layup. Debbie said that, “I live with the mare daily. She loves to work. Once we got the OK to go back to work, we knew she had to do this.” Brentina is now 17 years old and strictly due to age, closer to retirement. “Each ride is a little more emotional for me as I know it is closer to the end. There just aren’t many horses like this.” This freestyle finished the pair’s requirements for qualification for the Olympic Selection Trials in June where they will contend for a spot on the 2008 United States Dressage Team for the Beijing Olympics.