Gladstone, NJ – Tina Konyot and Calecto V are looking like a sure bet to join Steffen Peters and Ravel as members of the U.S. Dressage Team that will head to the 2010 Alltech/FEI World Equestrian Games in Kentucky next month. Konyot and the 12-year-old Danish stallion maintained their lead in Grand Prix competition at the 2010 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF Festival of Champions winning the third leg of the four-phase WEG Dressage Selection Trials.
The pair scored a 71.319 percent in Friday’s Grand Prix competition edging out second-place finishers Todd Flettrich and Otto with a score of 69.787 and third-place finishers Pierre St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger with a score of 69.489. Last weekend, Konyot and Calecto took the win in both the Grand Prix and the Grand Prix Special competition giving them three straight wins in the Selection Trials competition, being held at the U.S. Equestrian Team headquarters. The duo is also on track to be crowned as this year’s National Grand Prix dressage champions. The final phase of the National Grand Prix Championships and Selection Trials competition will be held Sunday when the Grand Prix Freestyle kicks off at 9 a.m. Eastern Time.
An emotional Konyot said she couldn’t stop thinking about her father, Alex Konyot, who passed away in 2006. A native of Hungary, Alex Konyot, became one of America’s leading horsemen. Konyot said she carries with her a letter from him that she reads frequently. “My dad was such a great horseman,” Konyot said. “And my dad always said, ‘You have the talent honey, keep working and keep riding.” Her father believed in her and after her performance during this year’s Festival of Champions, it’s quite clear that faith in his daughter’s skill was well-placed.
Both Konyot and Flettrich just came off a European tour that included Aachen, and Konyot said such travel does take its toll on horses. Hence, one should not expect Calecto to be at quite the level he was in Aachen. Still, he’s clearly been on his game at Gladstone and Konyot couldn’t be happier. “Blue is my favorite color, so the winning spot is a good place to be,” she said. Still, she didn’t feel that Friday’s ride was her best. “I didn’t ride the best extended trots today. It was my weakest point. I was happy with my passage tour. My piaffe was not the best, but it was okay,” she said. “I also had a mistake in the one-tempis, but the canter tour was good.”
Still, judges Janet Foy and Hilda Gurney saw much that they liked. “Tina’s horse shows elasticity. The enthusiasm from the hind end is stunning,” Foy said. “But sometimes Tina can’t control all of that and that’s where she loses points.” Gurney felt that in some ways, Calecto was better this weekend than last. “Last weekend he was doing too much behind and lost the regularity. This weekend, the harmony was really, really fabulous,” she said.
Calecto, Konyot said, was fresh and ready to go. The errors belonged to her and there was no doubt in her mind that she and Calecto can improve and earn higher scores. “We’re a work in progress,” she said. “We can make it better and we know we can make it better.” When asked her plans once the Festival ends, Konyot said Calecto would go home to Connecticut for a rest and she was going sailing and taking a trip to Chicago to the Arlington racetrack with her boyfriend, racehorse trainer Roger Attfield.
Flettrich, who is in third-place overall after three rounds of competition, stands a good chance of joining the U.S. Dressage Team for the WEG and he said he was happy the third round of competition was over. He admitted this weekend’s competition is very important to him. During this past week, he tried to give Otto, a 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding owned by Cherry Knoll Farm, a light work week. “He’s had four busy weeks in a row” and not all of that time was in the sort of work that helps keep the horse supple and happy. Foy said that Otto had the best piaffe-passage transition of Friday’s Grand Prix competitors. If he makes the U.S. WEG team, Flettrich said he’ll give Otto a bit of down time and then start back up, hopefully with the help of coaches Hubertus Schmidt and Oded Shimoni.
St. Jacques is in fifth place overall following his third-place finish in Friday’s Grand Prix. Last weekend, he had what he called one of his best rides ever. “Lucky Tiger was so reliable, so steady and so happy. He was so happy doing his job.” This week, the Grand Prix ride was “a bit more on edge.” St. Jacques, who works with Lars Petersen, would clearly love to make the U.S. team for the WEG, but regardless of the make-up of the final team, he believes it will be a strong one. “Obviously, Steffen is our anchor, but I think we have a pretty deep team that is consistently scoring in the 70s.”
Foy and Gurney agreed. Foy said the quality of horses and riders in the U.S. has shown itself to be much better than she had thought last year. “And what is also good is that we have many good green Grand Prix horses, which means we’ll have a good future.” Among those horses are several competing at the Festival of Champions, such as Sagacious HF, ridden by Lauren Sammis. Foy said the Festival competition is also making clear that America has many good, young Grand Prix riders coming up the ranks, including Flettrich, Katherine Bateson-Chandler, currently standing second in the Selection Trials competition, and Adrienne Lyle, currently holding eighth place.
Despite the fact that Grand Prix scores were lower this weekend than last weekend, Gurney said that isn’t what matters. The important issue is that the horses are placed correctly. This weekend, she said, the panel of judges seems to be very much on the same page. “We are so intense in our judgment of the rides. We take it very serious. We’re real judges, judging real rides. We’re not playing games,” Gurney said. And she believes U.S. riders are on track for a medal at the WEG.
Foy said scores might have been quite high at some of the European selection trials, but it’s possible some countries pump up their riders as many don’t seem to get quite the same high scores in regular international competition. “We are not pumping up our riders,” she said. “At the end of the day, it’s the placings that matter. The best horse with the best training should win the class, end of story.”
What U.S. riders can do, and must do, before the WEG, is work to eliminate simple mistakes that can cost points. “At the WEG, we can’t afford to lose one point. We had a couple riders today who cut the corner and that can’t be done at WEG. That’s a lost point,” Foy said.
Also on Friday, the first leg of Junior Rider competition was held. Standing in first place after day one is Jamie Pestana who rode Winzalot to first in the Junior Team Test with a score of 68.595. Catherine Chamberlain riding Verdicci and Genay Vaughn riding Waranja, both scored 68.486. The final Junior competition takes place on Saturday, along with the first round of Young Rider competition and the Brentina Cup.