Wellington, FL - The 2011 World Dressage Masters Palm Beach presented by International Palm Beach will be remembered for breaking records, and the results of Friday night's Grand Prix Freestyle finale are no exception. Olympic and World Equestrian Games medalist and 2009 World Cup Final Champion Steffen Peters danced his way to the highest score ever awarded at the WDM Palm Beach. Riding to a collection of rock songs including Sympathy For the Devil and Viva La Vida, Peters and Akiko Yamazaki's 13 year old Dutch Warmblood gelding Ravel captivated the sold out audience and received a winning score of 84.550% from the FEI ground jury.
Having won the Grand Prix at both the 2009 and 2010 WDM Palm Beach but having then settled for third and then second place, Peters was thrilled to have finally achieved a WDM freestyle victory. "Maybe there is some truth to 'three is a charm'," he said. "Last year was very close between Salinero and Ravel. Certainly it was one of my goals to win World Dressage Masters and I'm happy that it happened tonight."
If Peters' victory was a decisive one, such was not the case between second and third places, where there was a close contest between Tina Konyot of the US and Sweden's Tinne Vilhelmsson Silfven. Konyot had finished second in Thursday's Grand Prix and Vilhelmsson Silfven third, but after two strong performances with exciting music and choreography, the two riders switched places in the Freestyle.
Vilhelmsson Silfven and Antonia Ax:son Johnson's 12 year old Danish gelding Favourit performed an elegant program to a collection of Eurthymics tunes, receiving a score of 77.975%.
Konyot's powerful black Danish stallion Calecto V was shown off to a contemporary score that included, appropriately, the song Black Horse in a Cherry Tree. A score of 76.775% was not quite enough to put Konyot into second place for a second time, but she wasn't disappointed with the outcome.
"I don't mind trading places with Tinne," said the Palm City, Florida based member of the 2010 US World Equestrian Games Team. "I was very happy with Calecto. I believe that was my highest score in the freestyle." Vilhelmsson Silfven was delighted with her result, but was already casting her gaze toward the next prize. "I ride for the best feeling I can get from the horse, but part of you always wants to be the best," she said with a smile.
There was one moment of misfortune in an otherwise spectacular evening, when Germany's Anja Ploenzke was pulled up by President of the ground jury Wim Ernes of the Netherlands. Le Mont d'Or showed a slight pink tinge around his bits, due to the horse having bitten his tongue or lip. The injury was extremely slight, but the FEI is unequivocal in its rulings that maintain welfare of the horse as the highest priority. Ploenzke graciously waved to the sympathetically applauding crowd as she left the arena. "Anja is a very nice rider and is good to her horses," said Ernes. "It was a pity that the horse had some blood in the mouth. It was otherwise a very exciting evening and a great show. On behalf of the ground jury we would like to thank the sponsors and organizers."
The 2011 WDM Palm Beach came together because of the quick moving commitment of the sponsors and show organizers who stepped in to save the WDM Palm Beach just one month ago, when it was nearly cancelled. WDM presenting sponsor Antonia Ax:son Johnson of the Axel Johnson Group acknowledged the Herculean efforts of the Goodman family, International Polo Club Palm Beach and show producer Wellington Classic Dressage. "I think this was a miracle in a way. Last year we put a WDM show together in six weeks in Sweden. I thought six weeks won first prize but now I think this is first prize. It was a superb competition, but there was also a great party and enthusiasm."
International Polo Club Palm Beach and International Polo Club Catering put on an evening spectacle to be remembered, with extensive decorations to create the atmosphere of Southern France which perfectly complemented a five course French dinner and wine pairings from France's most renowned wine regions. The evening didn't end with the awards ceremony, either. An after-party kept spectators dancing well past midnight at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center.
Eurosport Events is the official broadcaster of the World Dressage Masters series, and will show highlights from the Grand Prix Freestyle on a weekly prime-time program that features equestrian sports, as well as golf and sailing. The USEF provided a live webcast of Friday's Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle. Archived footage of the WDM Palm Beach can be found by going to http://www.usefnetwork.com/WDM2011.
World Dressage Masters Palm Beach CDI5*
Grand Prix Freestyle Results
Steffen Peters (USA) - Ravel-84.550%
Tinne Vilhelmsson Silfven (SWE) - Favourit - 77.975%
Tina Konyot (USA) - Calecto V - 76.775%
Ashley Holzer (CAN) - Pop Art - 74.550%
Anne Van Olst (DEN) - Exquis Clearwater -73.150%
Christa Laarakkers (NED) - Ovation - 72.600%
Todd Fletrich (USA) - Otto - 70.225%
Eliminated: Anja Ploenzke (GER) - Le Mont d'Or
World Dressage Masters Palm Beach Fast Facts:
What: North America's only CDI5*, and part of the richest dressage series in the world. Up to twenty of the world's top dressage stars will compete for 100,000 Euros in prize money at the WDM Palm Beach.
When: March 9 - 11, 2011
Where: Jim Brandon Equestrian Center - Okeeheelee Park South, 7500 Forest Hill Blvd,
West Palm Beach, FL 33413
Producer: Wellington Classic Dressage - www.wellingtonclassicdressage.com - Noreen O'Sullivan 561-227-1570 or John Flanagan 561-714-9058.
WDM Palm Beach Presenting Sponsor: International Polo Club Palm Beach
Additional WDM Palm Beach Sponsor: Akiko Yamazaki
WDM Presenting Partner: Axel Johnson Group
WDM Official partners: team EXQUIS, Moorland Investments and Moorland Stables, Nürnberger Versicherungsgruppe
WDM Official supplier: Jerich International
WDM series 2011: 425,000 Euros in prize money awarded at four individual events: Palm Beach (USA), Munich (Germany), Falsterbo (Sweden) and Hickstead (England).
Media Contacts: Mason Phelps 561-371-0118 or Karen Robinson 561-383-1425