The excitement is back in the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final. American favorite Steffen Peters did the incredible as his 11 year old gelding Ravel offered everything almost effortlessly. No weak points and no mistakes could be seen in his Grand Prix-test. His score of 77,915% was a personal best and while the audience went completely wild after the test, Ravel seemed to be unaffected by the applause and cheering and simply walked on a long rein. Steffen Peters got emotional and said: “My emotions are hard to describe. I am beside myself. I honestly kept looking up to the scoreboard to see whether this really happened! Ravel was fantastic. I didn’t have to push him at all. His only focus was me! He offered everything!” And so it was.
Steffen Peters and Ravel brought the crowd to their feet when winning the Dressage Grand Prix at the Rolex FEI World Cup™ finals at the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas Thursday Photo Credit: Dirk Caremans www.hippofoto.be
Chair Maribel Alonso de Quinzanos said: “We as judges have not given any ten to Steffen Peters and Ravel but we have marked him with an incredible number of eight’s and nine’s. His effortless test looked incredibly easy and smooth.”
Talking about the pressure now to perform this well again for the Freestyle on Saturday, Steffen Peters said frankly: “Well, Anky advised me about that in Wellington at the Exquis World Dressage Masters in January where I won the Grand Prix as well. My mistake there was that I didn’t stick to my routine. So my plan now for the Freestyle on Saturday is just to stick to my routine and do nothing special. I feel confident as Ravel has showed yesterday and today that he only focuses on me whatever reactions the crowd will give. It’s a wonderful feeling.”
Not all riders shared the wonderful feeling of Steffen Peters. The competition began with a difficult ride for Jan Ebeling whose 12 year old mare, Rafalca, proved arena-shy on this big occasion. Ending last, he decided to refrain from competing in the Freestyle on Saturday. Fellow-American, Leslie Morse, also experienced deep disappointment when her 17 year old stallion, Kingston, was eliminated after becoming unsound at the beginning of his test. Morse was devastated after leaving the ring on foot after the Ground Jury rang the bell to call a halt to her effort. “I had the most powerful amazing ride yesterday. It felt like eight or nine years of togetherness had come together to such a fun time”, she said afterwards. “I could tell in the first corner, he felt unbalanced and I knew he wasn’t right. We respect the Ground Jury's decision....it was absolutely in the best interest of the horse”, she agreed.
Also real beautiful performances had already attracted the eye before Peters and Ravel entered the arena in the Thomas and Mack centre in Las Vegas.
The first to go over the 70% threshold was Jan Brink riding his 18 year old stallion Briar for the eighth time in a FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final. Jan Brink commented on his ride: “I didn’t push Briar to the limit today. He still feels very happy to enter the arena and do his job. I am looking forward to perform our Freestyle on my ‘number one’ music now. It will be a fitting farewell and no doubt which horse ever will come, Briar will stay my number one.”
After Brink seven more riders crossed the 70% line.
KWPN-bred Pop Art showed by Canadian Ashley Holzer Art impressed by the great picture combined with fluency and impulsion, especially in the collections in the piaffe and pirouettes. The big Nartan showed by his petite rider Jeannette Haazen did a very even test and showed great extensions. “I am so happy! Our best performance of the season we kept for Las Vegas!”, Jeannette commented.
The mare Exquis Nadine, placed fifth individually with his rider Hans Peter Minderhoud at the Olympic Games, floated uphill and showed very impressive extensions. Monica Theodorescu had a fluent performance aboard Whisper, leaving only her extended walk for the five judges to question, as both the mark 5 as the mark 9 had been given.
Isabell Werth riding her Olympic silver medal horse Satchmo had a wonderful start with highlights in the beginning of her test with the half passes in trot and the extensions. However she had a mistake in counting the one tempi changes and did 17 instead of 15. Overall, it looked as though she was riding a bit with the handbrake on as Satchmo easily is distracted.
The winner of the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final in Las Vegas 2007 Isabell Werth, riding Warum Nicht FRH at that occasion, said: “This time I liked to give Satchmo the chance to compete in Las Vegas. I love the audience here, however I felt a bit disturbed by the photographers indeed. Therefore I rode more careful in a pirouette as I noticed Satchmo was distracted by the camera noise.”
Immediately after Werth, Anky van Grunsven entered the arena riding the black stallion IPS Painted Black. For the audience it was quite exciting to compare Anky’s score with the leader board of Isabell’s scores. As IPS Painted Black had a mistake in the two tempi changes, in the very end at the point of the last centerline with passage and piaffe the scores of Werth and Van Grunsven were equal at 73,0%. In the end, Anky took the lead due to the last passage rewarded with an eight by all judges. Nine time World Cup winner Anky van Grunsven commented on her ride: “After the Olympic Games I definitely needed time to find a new goal. I found it in competing with IPS Painted Black. This is a new challenge and today in Las Vegas this was my best Grand Prix of the season.” However her challenge of the day had not been the riding alone, as she started the day with a visit to the hospital. Respiratory problems and no voice only two hours before her entrance in the Rolex FEI World Cup™ Final Grand Prix made it an unexpected beginning. Doctor’s help immediately relieved her.
The excitement in competition rose as Steffen Peters from his start took over the lead with the impressive and powerful Ravel combining his incredible lightness and impulsion with relaxation and the perfect focus on his rider. All the excitement concluded with his well deserved clear win. The Grand Prix result however does not influence the battle for the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup™ dressage title which will be decided on Saturday night during the Freestyle competition solely. A huge influx of Californian supporters are expected to turn up to watch the battle played out under the Las Vegas spotlights. All expectations are open again for the Freestyle which will conclude the 24th Rolex FEI World Cup™ Dressage Final.