Wellington, FL - Sweden's No. 1 rider Patrik Kittel scored his personal best to win the FEI World Dressage Masters (WDM) Exquis Grand Prix CDI5* on Watermill Scandic H B C. The duo's powerful and consistent ride featured buttery-smooth transitions, earning them a 77.681% against a field of 15 competitors at the Palm Beach County Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. Kittel broke into a wide grin at the completion of his test, and his confidence was rewarded when the scores flashed on the board. The judge at "H," Isabelle Judet of France, awarded Kittel and Scandic, a 14-year-old chestnut KWPN stallion, an 80.745%. A member of the Swedish team at the 2008 and 2012 Olympic Games as well as the 2010 World Equestrian Games, he rode Scandic to victories at Falsterbo CDI5*, Rotterdam CDIO3* and Lingen CDI4* last summer.
"It was my personal best score, and I'm very, very happy with that," Kittel said. He emphasized his horse's improvement, explaining that Scandic is "in much better shape" now after their hard work over the past months. "After the Olympics, I thought a bit, and I changed a bit, and I worked a bit more on getting my horse more uphill in the canter, and that was much better," he added.
After they compete in the WDM Grand Prix Freestyle on Saturday, Kittel and Scandic will fly home and begin working toward the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in late April.
Kittel described himself as "a big fan of WDM" and said he "for sure will try to come back" to WDM Palm Beach. "It's an amazing show," he said. "We've been treated so well here. The people here are friendly, the crowd is really nice, lovely weather, the judges give you nice points, what more can you want?"
Sweden's Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven came in second with a 76.851% riding Don Auriello, an 11-year-old bay Hanoverian gelding owned by Lovsta Stuteri. Swedish teammates Kittel and Vilhelmson-Silfven continued a friendly Florida rivalry after last weekend's Gold Coast Opener CDI-W, also at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. Kittel and Scandic won both the Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle at the Gold Coast Opener, while Vilhelmson-Silfven, riding Divertimento, finished second and third.
While Vilhelmson-Silfven turned to her Olympic mount, Don Auriello, for World Dressage Masters in an effort to challenge Kittel, she fell just short today. "If I have to be beaten, then I'm happy to be beaten by Patrik," she noted with a smile.
Don Auriello earned high praise from Gary Rockwell, the judge at "C." "The lightness of Tinne's horse is so beautiful to watch that you have to appreciate that," Rockwell said.
Vilhelmson-Silfven credited the dressage circuit in Florida as a catalyst for Don Auriello's development. "Florida's been very important for Don Auriello," she said. "He has done a lot of his best starts here, I think." She also mentioned that "he loves the atmosphere" at Jim Brandon.
The defending two-time WDM Palm Beach Champion Steffen Peters was pleased with his third place finish on Legolas 92, whose precise movements and lofty piaffe earned them a score of 75.149%. Legolas 92 is an 11-year-old bay Westphalian gelding owned by Four Winds Farm. Peters, a three-time Olympian, is the only U.S. dressage rider to have won individual medals at the World Equestrian Games.
U.S. rider Heather Blitz on Paragon, her own 10-year-old Danish Warmblood, scored a 74.064% to take fourth with extravagant extensions and fluid tempi changes. The elegant pair finished second in the Grand Prix Special at the 2012 World Dressage Masters Palm Beach CDI4*.
Denmark's Lars Petersen and Mariett, a 15-year-old Danish Warmblood mare owned by Marcia Pepper and Lars Petersen, earned a 71.809% for a fifth place finish. A five-time Danish National Champion, Petersen's resuméincludes the Olympic Games, three World Equestrian Games, two World Cup Finals, and three Continental Championships.
U.S. Olympian Adrienne Lyle, Debbie McDonald's protégé, and Wizard earned a 71.362% for sixth place. The pair rode in their first WDM Palm Beach appearance last year and won the Grand Prix Special with a score of 75.022%. Lyle's big grin and pat for Wizard, a 14-year-old Oldenburg gelding owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas, was a crowd pleaser, and the duo passaged out of the arena after their test.
Another crowd favorite was David Marcus on Chrevi's Capital, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Deborah Kinzinger. His ride earned a 70.660% for seventh place, and the pair left the arena amid cheers and waving of Canadian flags.
Hans Peter Minderhoud on Withney van 't Genthof earned a 69.872%. The Dutch pair rounded out the top eight to advance to the Grand Prix Freestyle Saturday night.
Edward Gal of the Netherlands, who was slated to ride Inter Floor Next One, had to withdraw from today's competition due to illness.
Saturday at World Dressage Masters will feature the Grand Prix Special CDI5* in the afternoon and the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI5* in the evening. The top eight riders from today's Grand Prix return in the Freestyle, while the ninth-through 14th-placed riders compete in the Special.
The Special and the Freestyle promise to be highly competitive. Several riders are poised for a big effort on Saturday, not least of whom is Peters. After retiring Ravel, his partner for his two WDM Palm Beach championships, Peters is taking another shot at the title with the promising Legolas 92.
"It feels nice to be the underdog again," he said. "We'll see how it ends up tomorrow."
World Dressage Masters FEI Grand Prix CDI5*
1-Patrik Kittel (SWE)-Watermill Scandic H B C-77.681%
2- Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven (SWE)- Don Auriello-76.851%
3- Steffen Peters (USA)-Legolas 92-75.149%
4- Heather Blitz (USA)-Paragon-74.064%
5- Lars Petersen (DEN)- Mariett-71.809%
6-Adrienne Lyle (USA)- Wizard-71.362%
7-David Marcus (CAN)- Chrevi's Capital-70.660%
8-Hans Peter Minderhoud (NED)-Withney van 't Genthof-69.872%
9-Mikala Gundersen (DEN)-My Lady- 68.447%
10- James Koford (USA)-Rhett-66.383%
11-Jacqueline Brooks (CAN)-D-Niro-66.362%
12-Cheryl Mizner (CAN)-Tango-65.404%
13-Silvia Rizzo (ITA)-Donnerbube II 65.255%
14-Diane Creech (CAN)-Devon L 64.106%
Eliminated-Tina M. Konyot (USA)-Calecto V
Sadly, there was a slight amount of blood found on the flank of Calecto which Konyot suspected happened when he stumbled in a movement and her spur caught him. This is under the new and stricket blood rule (MP dressagedaily)
Social media links:
Website: www.worlddressagemasters.com and www.wellingtonclassicdressage.com/world_dressage_masters.htm
Past WDM results, as well as complete WDM Rider Rankings can be found on the WDM website: www.WorldDressageMasters.com