Wellington, FL -The stands were filled with eager spectators at the Adequan® Global Dressage Festival (AGDF), as competitors from around the world took to the Global International Ring for the "Friday Night Stars" FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms. Mikala Gundersen (DEN) and My Lady impressed the judging panel to earn a 79.075% for their first major win at AGDF this season. Fellow Dane Lars Petersen and Mariett followed in second place with a 76.600%, while Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 finished in third place with a 76.425%.
Gundersen and My Lady were one of the most winning combinations on the AGDF circuit in 2015 and their victory tonight marked their first CDI 5* win since 2013, when the duo took home first place in the CDI 5* Grand Prix Special at AGDF.
"Lady was really good. She was very good yesterday, but I planned to push a little bit more today and see if I could put her up a little bit higher in the neck," Gundersen said. "I had that in the warm-up and then when I came in, when my music was supposed to start it didn't, so I went to circle. Then the music started, and I tried to finish my circle, but Lady was like 'No, no. Wrong way,' and went for the centerline. Once I hit the centerline, she went into the passage, and I knew that we were good."
The pair thrives in consistency, and they are usually expected to finish atop their respective classes. Gundersen noted that Lady is reliable in big atmospheres such as the freestyle, even though she is an incredibly sensitive horse, because she is so well-versed in their choreography and enjoys performing for a crowd.
"Every time I go down the centerline it's a new feeling. This is a very sensitive horse, and it's not like we push a button and then get to go to a Grand Prix," she elaborated. "It's always different, and we are always trying to make it better. Since she's so sensitive, I don't always know what I have, but I had a good feeling and she was on it tonight. She wanted to do well."
The stands were overflowing at AGDF tonight, as the facility was filled with spectators who journeyed from around the state to watch the only FEI CDI 5* competition at AGDF this season. "I heard the crowd at the end, and I really felt it on the way out. I thought to myself that that was the biggest applause we've ever had. I know the music is fun and it gets people out of their seats. I think that going last with that music was a little bit like, 'Okay, lets finish this party.'"
Fellow Danish teammate Lars Petersen and the veteran mare Mariett performed for the second time this season at AGDF and collected second place honors, as the 18-year-old mare looked poised and energized in the ring. "I was pretty pleased with our test. We showed the last CDI and then this competition here, but other than that we haven't shown since April of last year," noted Petersen. "I've had a little bit of a hard time finding a rhythm I must admit. Our Grand Prix test was not so good, but today I felt like we had a bit better rhythm. To me we just felt a little rusty still."
One of the top combinations, Steffen Peters and Legolas 92 battled through a few mistakes in their test to ultimately receive a score of 76.425%. While the test looked fluid, Peters felt the tension that ultimately detracted from their score. "Today was very tough. I was sitting not on just one stick of dynamite tonight, but it was a whole case underneath of me," said Peters of the 2002 Westphalian gelding. "That's just the case with this horse. It can go absolutely brilliantly like he did two weeks ago when he is relaxed. I felt today in the warm-up that he was pretty keyed up. Of course, it's disappointing, but we've dug ourselves out of this spot before and we'll try to do the same in the future."
He continued, "The crowd, the atmosphere, the music. He can react to that. We have had those situations many times before and this was not the last time that he's going to act up before going in the ring. That's just his nature."
Judge at C, Thomas Lang (AUT) commented on the strong showing of the evening's competition and referenced that AGDF has created a new epicenter for the sport of dressage during the winter months. "I think that it is very marvelous for the riders to compete here and for the judges. It's great because of the atmosphere here and the audience is really looking and hoping for these pairs. I think it's very good for the sport to have a show like this," he said. "There are so many people here and so many shows; it is that the whole world is looking to Wellington from January to March and really now this is the center of the dressage world for those three months."
Devon Kane of Diamante Farms, a founding sponsor of the AGDF venue, has been thrilled with the growth of the competition and was overwhelmed by the number of spectators who came out to witness the CDI 5* Grand Prix Freestyle in real time.
"It's really been amazing to me, as a participant, but also watching from the background. When Mark [Bellissimo] approached us with this idea and Ken [Braddick] also, we had a lot of dressage people who stepped in. We did it as a family and now you see the corporate sponsors stepping in and the town getting involved. You have all of these people from Wellington coming to dressage," Kane expressed. "I think that's amazing that we've made this a center point of dressage, but also a venue for everyone else. The vision of AGDF has really come to par and morphed into what we all had hoped it would be from the beginning."
Thomas Baur, Director of Sport at AGDF, has been thrilled with the number of entries and the exposure the sport has received using AGDF as a platform. He stated, "I think it's been a great show so far this week. We had 133 horses jog on Tuesday and Wednesday. It went super well this week. I'm very happy and I also would like to thank the judges at this point. We have 10 CDI 5* judges in this week. This is a typically unusual situation. I think they've done a very good job overall so far, and we'll be looking forward to two more days."
Adequan® has played a major role in the success of the competition with their title sponsorship for several years. Allyn Mann of Adequan® voiced his opinions on the success of competition to this point in the season and what it means to see a stadium packed with spectators watching dressage on a Friday evening. "The spectators were just amazing, and it's wonderful to be on the journey here," he said. "It's on nights like this that you see it all come together and you're just humbled to be a part of it. I feel very blessed to be here."
Alongside their major contributions to the competition and facility, Adequan® has also taken a strong initiative to recognize the people who help make top sport possible, sponsoring each of the owner awards given throughout the night. Christopher Preston was awarded with the High Point National Show Owner Award, which was accepted on his behalf by rider Lauren Chumley for her performance aboard Hotstreak CF during AGDF 3. Lynda Hol accepted the High Point National Show Owner Award, as Karen Pavicic rode Beaujolais to a weekend high score during AGDF 4.
Christina Vinios and Folkestone OLD dominated Small Tour competition so far at AGDF 5, and earned themselves the FEI Prix St Georges Owner Award for their win in the division on Thursday. Janne Rumbough, owner of My Lady, winner of the FEI CDI 5* Grand Prix Freestyle, was presented with the Grand Prix Freestyle Owner Award, while My Lady's groom Julie Albrechtsen accepted the Groom's Initiative Award presented by Mark Bellissimo, managing partner of Wellington Equestrian Partners, to reward her dedication and hard work as an integral member of the winning team.
Competition at AGDF continues today with the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 3*, presented by Wellington Equestrian Realty, at 1 p.m., followed by the FEI Grand Prix Special CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms, starting at 4 p.m.
For more information on AGDF and to see a full weekly schedule, please visit www.globaldressagefestival.com.
Final Results: FEI Grand Prix Freestyle CDI 5*, presented by Diamante Farms
1. Mikala Gundersen (DEN), My Lady, 2000 Danish Warmblood mare by Michellino x Marion x Ritterstern owned by Janne Rumbough: 78.750%, 79.000%, 77.875%, 80.875%, 78.875%, 79.075%
2. Lars Petersen (DEN), Mariett, 1998 Danish Warmblood mare by Come Back II x Zendi x Sidney owned by Marcia Pepper & Lars Petersen: 73.750%, 76.250%, 76.250%, 79.375%, 77.375%, 76.600%
3. Steffen Peters (USA), Legolas 92, 2002 Westphalian gelding by Laomedon x Furstin x Florestan II owned by Four Winds Farm LLC: 78.250%, 74.875%, 78.375%, 75.250%, 75.375%, 76.425%
4. Shelly Francis (USA), Doktor, 2003 Oldenburg gelding by Diamond Hit x Gurena x Renoir I owned by Patricia Stempel: 75.500%, 77.625%, 73.750%, 77.000%, 78.125%, 76.400%
5. Karen Pavicic (CAN), Don Daiquiri, 2002 Oldenburg gelding by Don Cardinale x Nedstatte II x Rubinstein I owned by Jayne Essig: 70.375%, 73.250%, 72.750%, 74.250%, 74.750%, 73.075%
6. Kasey Perry-Glass (USA), Trostruplunds Scarlet, 1999 Danish Warmblood mare by Blue Hors Don Schufro x Ramona x Blue Hors Romancier owned by Diane Perry: 73.125%, 72.375%, 72.500%, 74.625%, 71.750%, 72.875%
7. Brittany Fraser (CAN), All In, 2005 Dutch Warmblood gelding by Tango x Leontine x Damiro owned by Brittany Fraser: 76.000%, 71.375%, 71.000%, 72.250%, 72.250%, 72.575%
8. Lisa Wilcox (USA), Galant, 2006 Belgian Warmblood gelding by Escuro x Bellisima x De Niro owned by Jacqueline Shear: 72.250%, 72.000%, 72.750%, 72.750%, 71.500%, 72.250%