Gladstone, NJ - Steffen Peters (San Diego, CA) dominated the day at the 2011 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions winning both the Prix St. Georges and the Grand Prix Special with Weltino's Magic and Ravel respectively. A veteran superstar for the U.S. Dressage Team over the last 10 years, Peters proved that not only is Ravel on top form, but that Weltino's Magic's winning streak is still going strong. "That's a first," said Peters of scoring an 80% and a 79% on his two horses. With selection for the 2011 Pan American Games on the line, there was everything to play for in the Intermediaire I National Dressage Championship and Peters dominated the Prix St. Georges test which serves as the first leg of this three-part Championship. He rode Jen Hlavacek's Weltino's Magic to a record score in this specific Championship scoring 79.789% for a huge win.
"I was happy in Aachen," said Peters. "It was his first time in a really big stadium and in his earlier days he could be a bit spooky... I thought he would be able to handle this arena and he did. He was soft in the bridle, he's not always the most supple, but today he was."
Weltino's Magic put in an excellent test and Peters was impressed with how much the horse, which his wife Shannon rode at the beginning of his career, has matured. He was the 2008 Reserve Champion in the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Dressage Championship with Shannon and she believed in him from the beginning.
"I have to give Shannon 75% of the credit," said Peters. "She started him and I didn't really believe in him, but she was very patient. My very generous wife turned over the reins when he was going well."
Heather Blitz (Wellington, FL) on her 8-year-old Danish Warmblood Paragon has been highly regarded and scoring well all season. They didn't disappoint in the Dick and Jane Brown Arena in Gladstone and scored 74.737% for their accurate and polished performance.
"I do have a lot of confidence in my horse," said Blitz. "He has a very honest personality and I always know what I am going to get when I get in the ring."
Blitz said she has been schooling many of the Grand Prix movements this year which Paragon has been handling with ease.
The defending champion from 2010 brought a new horse to the competition in 2011 and scored 74.526% which meant Cesar Parra and Grandioso took third place in the first leg of this Championship.
Parra, who became a U.S. citizen last year, won a Silver medal in 1999 at the Pan American Games in Winnipeg riding for his native Colombia and is looking forward to the opportunity to ride for the United States.
Owned by Sarah and Michael Davis, the 10-year-old Westphalian looks like a superstar in the making. He was the 2007 6-year-old Champion at the Markel/USEF National Young Horse Championships and was then third in 2009 at the Developing Horse Championships, formerly ridden by Jason Canton.
"I'm just excited to be here," said Parra. "I'm very happy, this is a wonderful competition and I love competition, especially when the competition is strong."
Parra (Whitehouse, NJ) is looking forward to possibility of a third Pan American Games performance. He was also fourth Individually in Santo Domingo in 2003.
Peters and Ravel Break 80% in the Grand Prix National Dressage Championship
Peters and Ravel did it again in the Grand Prix Special, which is the second leg of the 2011Grand Prix National Dressage Championship, breaking their own record and scoring over 80% for the first time ever in the Grand Prix Special. Their score of 80.083% gave them a commanding lead over Tina Konyot and Calecto V who scored 73.417%.
Peters (San Diego, CA) and Ravel have been the top dressage combination in the U.S. since they burst onto the scene in 2008. They have picked up major victories both in the U.S. and abroad including sweeping the 2009 FEI World Cup Dressage Final in Las Vegas and the CHIO Aachen in Germany. They won two Individual Bronze medals at last year's Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games but this Grand Prix Special score is one for the 13-year-old Dutch gelding's personal record books.
"He was a tiny bit behind me yesterday in the Grand Prix and today in the warm up too," said Peters. "I had to wake him up a little bit more than usual and he said 'OK, I better pay attention.' He carried that through from the first step into the arena to the last halt. He was so in front of me...he was absolutely super."
Ravel, owned by Akiko Yamazaki and Four Winds Farm, has been consistently brilliant, so the improvements to push the 80% mark have not been technical changes but more fitness work - much of which is done on the treadmill at the walk.
"I have noticed a little more definition in his hindquarters," said Peters after describing his treadmill routine. "That little bit of extra fitness is the reason that he's scratched the 80% mark or gone over."
Konyot and her 13-year-old Danish Warmblood were the 2010 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Champions but settled for second in the Grand Prix Special. Konyot struggled in the rainy conditions yesterday but found today a much better day.
"I love my horse so much," said Konyot. "He was very, very good. The passage was very even, there have been problems in the past but I think that is behind us. I haven't ridden the Grand Prix Special this year... it felt comfortable and smooth. There is a weakness in the extended trot, but that's my weakness not his."
Lauren Sammis had to wait for the scores to be verified to ensure she was the sole owner of the third position in the Grand Prix Special with Sagacious HF. Owned by Hyperion Farm, the 12-year-old Dutch gelding put in a terrific effort and Sammis couldn't have been more pleased especially considering that Sagacious HF endured a major sinus surgery this summer.
He has only been back in work for eight weeks, and Sammis took responsibility for the glitch in the one-time changes.
"I'm not quite where I'd like to be," said Sammis. "He didn't make one mistake today, clearly it was rider error."
The Grand Prix counts for 45% of the championship, the Grand Prix Special 30% and the Freestyle 25%.
Competition continues tomorrow at 7:30 a.m. with the USEF Junior National Dressage Championships.
Complete LIVE coverage with commentary is available here: http://usefnetwork.com/featured/2011FOC.
Watch Peters and Ravel break 80% in the Grand Prix National Dressage Championship on Video on Demand at http://usefnetwork.com/featured/2011FOC.