Michael Barisone had a tough decision to make after his fifth place finish in the Grand Prix on Friday. The New Jersey-based rider made the cut for the lucrative Freestyle but made a tremendous gesture of sportsmanship allowing van Grunsven into the Freestyle and opting for the Grand Prix Special instead. The gamble paid off. Big time.
"These guys have made such an effort to come from Europe," said Barisone. "Thousands of people are coming tonight to see Anky. I felt it was the right thing to do to ride in the Special and let her into the Freestyle. Anky was ninth, the difference was tiny but if it makes a big difference to let them see Anky it is my responsibility to the organizers and sponsors to let the people who are going to fill this place up come to see the people they are paying to see."
Barisone and Jane Sulwasky's Neruda put in a stunning effort in the Grand Prix Special and won with a score of 69.292 percent over Tosca Visser van Der Meer and Moorland Opportunity from The Netherlands.
Barisone and Neruda cantered off with $9,500 bringing his two day winnings close to $14,000. The Dutch gelding served as the reserve horse for Barisone at the 2008 Olympic Games in Hong Kong last summer. He never got his chance in the ring in China but made in impression on the dressage world today.
"Obviously Steffen and Ashley and Anky, of course, are going to be really strong," said Barisone after his afternoon ride. "I have several reasons why I did the Special. I had a really incredible time being on the team in Honk Kong. I really want to go to Kentucky (for the 2010 Alltech FE I World Equestrian Games) next year... that means that your first test has to be the good one. The consistency of riding the Grand Prix, the way it is written on paper, I thought it was more important to ride a set test."
Barisone was pleased with Neruda's effort, out of all the tests he's performed with the 14-year-old gelding, this one ranked about third.
"We never worry about the piaffe and passage with this horse," said Barisone. "But I'm working really hard on changes to level it out. Credibility is what I need. It worked out great today but even if it hadn't it would be OK, we are trying to build the sport."
Arlene 'Tuny' Page was third with Wild One and was honored for her efforts in helping to pull off the very first World Dressage Masters in Wellington.