Michael Bragdell of Colora, Md. (Region 8) is no stranger to the winner’s circle at the US Dressage Finals, and he found his way back to victory lane with his first ride down centerline at this year’s competition aboard Hilltop Farm, Inc.’s nine-year-old Oldenburg stallion Qredit Hilltop (Quaterback x Dream Rubina by Dream of Glory, bred in the U.S. by Judy Yancey). An impressive ride for a score of 71.535% earned the pair the unanimous win under all three judges in the Intermediate II Open Championship.
“He came here last year and caught me a little by surprise by being a bit ‘big-eyed’ in the Alltech Arena,” said Bragdell of his young mount. “So this year I took my time to focus on him being comfortable in there, and he seemed much more laid-back this time around and I think that made a big difference. He schooled really well yesterday, and my game plan was to keep him happy, relaxed, and comfortable with the arena, and it worked out because he felt super in the ring. I was very excited about our performance.”
After a sixth-place finish at the Markel/USEF Developing Horse Grand Prix Championship in August, Bragdell felt like Qredit Hilltop brought his A-game to Lexington. “At Lamplight I think I didn’t have as much horse by the last day as I would have liked to have, but as the season has progressed he’s gotten better and better and I feel like he really peaked here. It’s such a nice finish to the year in coming to the Finals because it really feels like a national championship. You hear the announcer saying riders’ names from all over the country, and it’s definitely something special to be a part of.”
Also pleased with her performance was Reserve Champion Judy Kelly of Clarkston, Mich. (Region 2) riding her 13-year-old Hanoverian mare Benise (Breitling W x Rubina by Rubinstein) to a score of 68.509%. “This is our first year at this level – we rode here at the inaugural Finals in 2013 at Prix St. Georges, so as we continue to progress I was delighted to qualify to come back here as well as with our ride today. I was very happy with her piaffe and passage, and she tries so hard and has the best temperament. This is such a special event and I’d like to thank everyone who helps to support it, especially sponsors like Adequan which have been there from the start.”
Wrapping up a busy first day of championship action and open classes in the Dressage in the Bluegrass competition, exhibitors enjoyed a Competitor Welcome Party and Trade Fair Kick-Off on the concourse of the Alltech Arena. Championship competition resumes Friday at 8:00am ET – follow the action through updates on the USDF Facebook page and the US Dressage Finals website, as well as watch live online streaming on the popular USEF Network.
To learn more about the US Dressage Finals presented by Adequan®, download competition information, review day sheets and results, and read daily news releases, visit the official event website at http://www.usdressagefinals.com.