Lexington, KY - Yesterday Mikala Munter Gundersen experienced the drama inherent in competition. The Danish rider had to cut her warm-up for the Grand Prix short because Leonberg's bit was rubbing his lips, and her groom had to run back to the barn to get another one. Her sixth-placed finish in the Grand Prix was the result.
Today, though, Gundersen had plenty of time to progressively prepare her German Warmblood for his test, and she scored 70.79 percent to claim the Kentucky Cup Grand Prix Special.
"I had so much fun in the ring today. He was with me the whole time," exclaimed Gundersen, 41.
Gundersen and Leonberg were the last to perform today, and their score narrowly eclipsed the two pairs who performed immediately before them. Bonny Bonnello, of Calgary, Ont., boldly rode Pikardi to a score of 70.29 percent, immediately after Pierre St. Jacques, of Anthony, Fla., precisely guided Lucky Tiger to a score of 69.33 percent.
The Kentucky Cup Dressage is the test event for the dressage world championships at the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, which will be held at the Kentucky Horse Park from Sept. 25 to Oct. 10.
Bonnello, 59, finished second for the second consecutive day, but she might have finished first if she hadn't performed an incorrect movement late in the test, an error for which each of the five judges must deduct 1 point from their score for that movement.
"[Coach] Robert Dover will never speak to me again if I do that again," said Bonnello. Nevertheless, Bonnello's performance on Pikardi has garnered the pair a place on the Canadian team that will be competing in Europe this summer. She hopes that her performance there will put her on the Canadian team for the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Gundersen, who lives in Wellington, Fla., but continues to compete for Denmark, and Leonberg will also return to Europe in preparation for the World Games. She plans to compete in the Danish Championships in July, where the team will be chosen.
St. Jacques, 45, was a member of the U.S. team at the 2005 Pan Am Games, and he hopes to wear the flag again in September. "That's why I came here. I wanted to compete here for the first time, have fun, and get to know the facility," he said.
Gundersen said that the Kentucky Cup fit perfectly into her preparation plans, "and I couldn't wait to get here. I've been here before, and I think it's wonderful."
The Kentucky Cup Dressage concludes on Thursday evening, with eight horses contesting the spectacular Grand Prix freestyle, beginning at 7 p.m.
About The 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games
The Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games are the world championship of eight equestrian disciplines recognized by the Federation Equestre Internationale (FEI). The World Games are held every four years, and this will be the first time in the United States. The World Games will be broadcast on NBC Sports, which has marked the largest commitment to network coverage of equestrian sports in U.S. television history. The 2010 World Games are expected to have a statewide economic impact of more than $150 million, and current sponsors include Alltech, Rolex, John Deere, Ariat International Inc., Meydan and UK Healthcare.
For more information on the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games, please visit www.alltechfeigames.com.
Photo: Mikala Munter Gundersen on Leonbrg