Gladstone, N.J. – Dry weather greeted the second day of competition at this year’s Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions. Thursday was essentially a wash-out with only the first round of the Brentina Cup, won by Jocelyn Wiese and Lamborghini, taking place before officials put competition on hold. As a result, Friday became the first round of competition for most divisions and scores are close in some. In the Intermediaire championship division, the top six riders all scored over 70 percent in the opening round Prix St. Georges.
Holding first place after Friday was Katherine Bateson-Chandler and Dea II earning a score of 73.105 in the Prix St. Georges.Second were Jan Brons and Teutobod with a score of 72.211 and third was Bateson-Chandler again with her second horse, Rutherford, and a score of 71.00 percent.
Bateson-Chandler who rides for Jane Forbes-Clark, said Dea II’s first-place finish confirmed what she already believed – that the mare is a true international-level horse. “She’s grown up a lot over the season and I’m thrilled with her,” she said. Bateson-Chandler did her homework, competing in Florida at every major show on the calender.
In Young Rider competition, Kasandra Barteau is in the lead with GP Raymeister. Barteau who has been training with Cathy Morelli is looking to hold onto he Gladstone record. “I made a few little mistakes,” said Barteau who is 21 this year. “I could have had some more push; I can push for more on Sunday. I will take it one day at a time, I can show him off a bit more – he’s super fancy.”
After winning two years in row with Robert Oury’s mare Gabriella, Barteau has a totally different challenge in GP Raymeister who is owned by Ginna Frantz. “He’s the total opposite of Gabby,” said Barteau. “But it is a good learning for me, he’s a fabulous horse. He’s a way hotter horse, but I ride a lot of different horses. I love his energy and I’m excited to learn how to ride him.” With a score of 69.946% the Maple Park, IL rider put in a typically polished performance in the 9-year-old stallion’s first year of FEI competition.
Right on their heels was another Morelli student, Meagan Davis from Stone Ridge, New York with Bentley with a score of 69.211. Bentley a 16-year-old KWPN by Sarel was the former 2006 Younf Rider mount for Barteau. When the talented Young Rider teamed up with Bentley in Florida this past winter, the maturing Bentley owned by Kelly Roetto and John Rocco began to combine his focus with his powerful movement. Meagan Davis is a long time student of Lendon Gray.
In Junior Rider competition, leading after Friday was recent High School graduate Lauren Knopp who rode Rho Dance by Rodiamant to a score of 68.378 percent in the Junior Team Test. Knopp who trains with Sasha Newman, dominated the Junior classes in Florida this past winter. Knopp, a first-timer to the Festival of Champions expressed surprise at her win. “I didn’t think I had done as well as I did and when I saw the score, I burst into tears,” she said.
Behind her in second place was Riana Porter riding Romax Foldager and with a score of 66.486.
The first leg of the 2009 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Championship, which was rescheduled to Friday morning after Thursday’s deluge, showcased some of the top horse/rider combinations in the US. But it wasn’t until the final ride of the class that anyone could break 70%. Veteran Olympic rider Leslie Morse and her classy 15-year-old stallion, Tip Top 962, put in a very focused and expressive effort to take a commanding lead with a score of 72% at the 2009 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Dressage Festival of Champions.
“I wasn’t sure what the scores were before I went in,” said Morse, who traveled from Beverly Hills, CA. “We have two more days, so I saved something up – I wanted to put in a solid, solid ride. The weather changed, it is very humid today. It was cold when we got here - so I just wanted to have a nice good ride and build from there.”
Pierre St. Jacques was first in the ring on Lucky Tiger and his score of 68.596% held until Morse’s ride. They have had a promising build-up to the Championships – and Lucky Tiger seemed to thrive in the intimate atmosphere.
“It didn’t matter if I was first or last,” said St. Jacques, who lives in Anthony, FL. “I prepared like always – it was a lean test and he let me ride him. We had a little mistake in the last piaffe, he was trying really hard. There is more in him, he keeps getting better and better and he’s happy doing what he is doing.”
It was a long road to Gladstone, both literally and figuratively, for St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger. On their way up to Gladstone from their base in Ocala, Florida, they had a break down, which added a bit of time to their trip and caused Lucky Tiger to spend some roadside time sleeping in his trailer. In addition to the literal bump in the road to Gladstone, St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger also spent a bit of time out of the limelight after the glow of their appearance in the 2003 Pan American Games.
“He shot out of the gate so quickly doing so well and I think a lot of people expected him to be a Grand Prix horse fast,” St. Jacques said of the 14-year-old Danish gelding that he’s had since the horse was five. “But when I was at the Pan Am Games, he had only done about seven Prix St. Georges tests before the Pan Am Games and a lot of people forgot that he was so young.” But at the time, Lucky Tiger was still quite hot and had confidence issues, St. Jacques said. “He’s an extremely powerful horse and I think he had trouble handling his power.”
The post-Pan Am Games years were also ones where St. Jacques himself was a bit unsettled in life and he felt that both he and Lucky Tiger needed “to step back and step out of the limelight a little bit and step out of this game. We needed just to take some time and stay home and do our homework.”
Hence, the duo went into a decompression training regimen that consisted of daily rides focused on improvement without pressure. “The other thing I did to was that I took him to a lot of event shows. My girlfriend is Samantha Taylor and she’s an Olympic event rider and the whole year before the 2008 Olympics, Lucky Tiger and I just followed along and went to events. I schooled him at events and we hung out. I’d ride him and then we’d hang out at the ingate when they were doing the show jumping and just watch the other riders. He learned to take shows in stride.” The time spent at events had its affects on St. Jacques as well. It attracted him enough that he has since done a few events and he’s even thinking of picking up a Thoroughbred to compete for fun. “It’s a whole different feel. It really makes you understand forward and how to get out of the horse’s way. It’s pure adrenaline,” he said.
St. Jacques said he believes that some horses just need more time and that Lucky Tiger was one such horse, but now he’s proving just how good he is. “Some horses go through a big change around 12, 13 years old and suddenly, they understand their jobs and you don’t have to train them at their jobs. You just need to keep them fit and keep them happy and get them strong. I think what we did the past couple of years has made him the horse he is today.”
St. Jacques said he’s not surprised that he and Lucky Tiger, co-owned by Lisa Belcastro, are standing so near the top in the Grand Prix championships, but he sure was happy that Thursday’s Grand Prix test was pushed off until Friday. “The footing was great today, but yesterday was scary. I would not have ridden him in there. We had a lot of concerns and I’m glad they made a great decision.” After Gladstone, St. Jacques said that he and Lucky Tiger will return home to Florida and prepare for Dressage at Devon. “We’ll go home and train and he’ll hang out in his stall and go for hacks and play in the field.”