Las Vegas – The first day of active competition of the 2007 Rolex FEI Dressage World Cup kicked off on Thursday with the Grand Prix, giving a sense of just how these top international riders stand up against each other. And American Steffen Peters is very near the top, finishing second just behind German rider Isabell Werth.
The opening day competition was narrowed to 16 after Andreas Helgstrand had to withdraw Blue Hors Matine from competition citing a minor injury incurred during shipping. But despite the loss of this pair, the opening competition was everything one expects from Las Vegas. Former Texas resident, and now Californian, Sabine Schut-Kery had the honor of riding in with the American flag and she was soon followed by the opening act of three Lusitanos and riders in classical costume from Oliveira Dressage. They were accompanied in music by the talent of tenor singer Jesús León. João Oliveira himself was unable to ride as he’s recovering from cancer surgery.
The performance was a hit with the crowd. Clearly, it’s not a Vegas World Cup without musical entertainment and laser shows and Thursday’s opening dressage competition featured both. As announcer Brian O’Connor put it, “We’ve waited two years for this competition to come back to Vegas. Are you ready?” he asked the crowd. “No one does it better than the people here in Las Vegas.”
Once the competition itself got under way, it was Canadian Evi Strasser who was the first to go. Generally, a nice quiet ride reflecting Quantum Tyme’s experience, but the drive, the impulsion wasn’t there, this showed particularly in the piaffe. The 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding (Quattro out of Argentinius) just simply lacked impulsion behind, which was even evident in the trot extensions. They finished their ride with a score of 63.00 percent.
Next to go was Dutch rider Marlies van Baalen with the Dutch Warmblood stallion BMC Kigali (Wolfgang x Voltaire). The veteran 15-year-old stallion turned out a quiet confident ride, much like Quantum Tyme, and judges rewarded them alike, giving Kigali and van Baalen a final score of 63.75. Third to go was Jacqueline Brooks of Canada with the 12-year-old Oldenburg gelding Gran Gesto (Grannox x Goldstern). This Canadian pair finished their ride with a score of 61.083 percent. They were followed by one happy Portuguese rider, Daniel Pinto, who just two weeks ago was awarded a wild card to attend this year’s World Cup. His enthusiasm at being at the Cup was matched by that of his partner, the Lusitano stallion Galopin de la Font (Exspanto x Zorro). The 13-year-old stallion displayed energy, which may have come across as having a tempo that was a bit too quick for judges who awarded the pair a score of 63.333 percent.
The first American pair to go was that of Leslie Morse and her Swedish stallion Tip Top 962 (Master 850 x Chagall 455). It was the fourth World Cup competition for Morse and she certainly looked as composed as one would expect such a veteran to be. Tip Top was in top form as well, quickly moving into the initial lead with a final score of 64.00 percent. The confident Tip Top, upon finishing his ride, raised his head and stared straight into the eyes of the crowd as he walked out of the ring.
They were followed by the next American pair of Courtney King and Idocus (Equador x Zonneglans), who quickly grabbed the lead with a final score of 67.833 percent. The 17-year-old Dutch stallion is an international veteran, having competed in the Athens Olympic Games. But the World Cup was King’s very first time representing the U.S. in international competition. No matter, she rode like a veteran, made easier, perhaps, by the quiet confidence of Idocus. This stallion knows his job and King knows it and rode with a certainty that her partner would be there for her.
A break followed King and Idocus and then British rider Wayne Channon took to the ring with the 14-year-old Dutch stallion Lorenzo (Ferro x Wolfgang). They are Britain’s lone British competitors and finished the Grand Prix with a score of 62.00. They were followed by a representative from a country new to the Dressage World Cup – Belarus. Iryna Lis and the 17-year-old Trakhener stallion Problesk (Bek x Oreol). Lis does have international experience, most recently representing her country in the 2006 World Equestrian Games in Aachen, Germany. Despite a slip early in the test, they finished with a very respectable 64.542 percent.
Award for receiving the loudest applause went to Steffen Peters and Floriano. Peters, a German native who rides for the U.S., lives in neighboring California. He has a definite fan club and its members filled the Thomas and Mack arena at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, where the World Cup competition is being held.
As expected, Peters and the 17-year-old Westfalen gelding Floriano (Florestan I x Weinberg) turned out a beautiful performance earning a score of 72.875 percent, which moved them ahead of American teammates King and Idocus.
Peters was followed by the fourth and last American rider, Catherine Haddad. Haddad, who is based in Europe and received an FEI wild card to attend the games, competed with the 13-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Maximus JSS (May Sheriff x H’jvangs Lukas). Although riding for the U.S., the World Cup was the pair’s first international appearance in the U.S. They’ve been busy competing on the international scene, but in Europe. Despite a nice ride, it could match the beauty and fluidity of Floriano and Peters. Haddad’s final score of 66.75 percent also wasn’t quite enough to edge her past King.
As the 11th rider entered the ring, the Americans held a commanding lead, holding first, second and third places. But that was about to change. Next to go was the Swedish pair of Tinne Vilhelmson and the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding Solos Carex (Castro x Lagano). Vilhelmson, a four-time Olympian, put in a performance that, had it not been for a few small errors, such as one in her second piaffe, might have edged her past Peters and Floriano. As it was, the Swedish pair finished with a score of 70.75 percent, putting them ahead of King and Haddad.
It was after the second break in competition that spectators got their chance to see some of the most anticipated riders as the world’s leading non-American riders took to the ring. The Vegas World Cup, is for many American spectators, their only chance to see the best world riders, live and in person. Starting off the final group of five riders was the Dutch pair of Imke Schellekens-Bartels and the 12-year-old Hannoverian mare, Sunrise (Singular Joter x Werther). Sunrise was the lone mare in the field. Despite tremendous tail-swishing throughout her ride, considered by some a clear sign of tension, Sunrise pulled out a score of 71.708 percent, moving her into second place and at the end, it was good enough to finish fourth among this highly competitive group. At this point, American Peters still held the lead, but four of the world’s top riders were yet to come – Jan Brink, Kyra Kyrklund, Edward Gal and Isabell Werth. And it was expected that all of them would earn scores in the 70s, putting Peters’ current first-place score of 72.875 at risk.
First of the final four to go was Jan Brink, riding the 16-year-old Swedish stallion Briar 899 (Magini x Krocket). But the five-time Swedish national champion, despite a good start, appeared to lose momentum as the ride went along. Scores in the 69 percent range for piaffe, passage and tempi work pulled down his final score to 71.458 percent, leaving Peters in the lead as the last three riders prepared to go.
Finish rider Kyra Kyrklund was next to go and faltered early in her test, but she quickly recovered. Long one of the world’s leading riders, she and the 12-year-old Swedish gelding Max (Master 850 x Alpen Furst) put in a beautiful ride, but not entirely faultless. A bit of weakness in the piaffe cost them some and in the end, their final score of 71.708 was enough to tie with Schellekens-Bartels for second but was not enough to knock Peters and Floriano out of the lead. That job was left to Werth.
Edward Gal may ride for the Netherlands, but the handsome rider definitely has a large American following, unless a mass of Dutch left home to attend the Vegas World Cup. His entrance was met with a loud and enthusiastic round of applause. A talented young rider who has trained with Anky van Grunsven, Gal, who is competing in the World Cup with the 14-year-old Dutch stallion, Group 4 Securicor IPS Gribaldi (Kostolany x Ibikus), had a bit of difficulty in his ride, with moments of resistance appearing, particularly in the piaffe. Tense may be what judges were thinking when they awarded him a final score of 68.083 percent, a bit less than many were expecting from Gal.
Isabelle Werth and the 11-year-old Hannoverian gelding Warum Nicht FRH (Weltmeyer x Wenzel), however, gave spectators exactly what they were expecting. After a bit of a rocky start, they turned out the performance one expects from world champions. Some weaknesses appeared in the piaffe and tempi changes, but they managed to make up for it in other ways. Still, it was not quite the pair’s best performance. No matter, however, the crowd loved them. And the judges loved them enough to give them a final score of 74.792 percent, which gave them the win – and $15,000 in prize money – in the opening day Grand Prix.
These top riders and horses will now be preparing for the day that really matters in determining who will be this year’s world champion – Saturday evening’s freestyle competition.
Grand Prix for the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Finals
- 1. Isabell Werth - Warum Nicht FRH - 74.791 (Germany)
- 2. Steffen Peters - Floriano - 72.875 (USA)
- 3. Kyra Kyrklund - Max - 71.708 (Finland)
- 4. Imke Schellekens - Sunrise - 71.708 (Holland)
- 5. Jan Brink - Bjorsells Briar - 71.625 (Sweden)
- 6. Tinne Vilhelmson - Solos Carex - 70.750 (Sweden)
- 7. Edward Gal - Gribaldi - 68.083 (Holland)
- 8. Courtney King - Idocus - 67.833 (USA)
- 9. Catherine Haddad - Maximus - 66.750 (USA)
- 10. Iryna Lis - Problesk - 64.541 (Russia)
- 11. Leslie Morse - Tip Top - 64.000 (USA)
- 12. Marlies van Baalen - Kigali - 63.750 (Holland)
- 13. Daniel Pinto - Galopin de la Font - 63.333 (Portugal)
- 14. Evi Strasser - Quantum Tyme - 63.000 (Canada)
- 15. Wayne Channon - Lorenzo CH - 62.000 (England)
- 16. Jacqueline Brooks - Gran Gesto - 61.083 (Canada)
HorsesDaily On The Scene at the 2007 Rolex FEI Dressage World Cup Final