Wellington, FL - Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello rode the momentum from an enthusiastic crowd on Saturday evening to claim the 2013 World Dressage Masters (WDM) CDI5* Palm Beach championship. After finishing second to Swedish Olympic teammates Patrik Kittel and Watermill Scandic H B C in Friday's Grand Prix CDI5* at WDM, Vilhelmson-Silfven and Don Auriello took it up a notch to seize victory in Saturday's Grand Prix Freestyle CDI5*. Vilhelmson-Silfven collected a personal best score of 84.075% for her electrifying freestyle performance. She received a standing ovation from the crowd as she exited the ring. "It's just such an honor to ride a horse like Don Auriello," she said. "He is so fun to ride. He was enjoying himself with me, enjoying the time, enjoying the energy. It was a great atmosphere."
Vilhelmson-Silfven has seen improvement in Don Auriello over the past months. "He's getting stronger, more mature, developing, and it gets easier and easier to use his whole potential," she explained.
Kittel was gracious in defeat. "I'm going to give Tinne the return," he said. "Yesterday she said if she should be beaten it would be from another Swedish person and I give that back today. I think it's amazing that we have now two such top horses in Sweden."
Kittel and Watermill Scandic H B C scored 82.525% for their freestyle. Their high placing tonight capped a successful string of performances at Jim Brandon Equestrian Center. Along with their victory and career-best Grand Prix score in the WDM Grand Prix on Friday, Kittel and Scandic took home wins in the Gold Coast Opener CDI-W Grand Prix and Grand Prix Freestyle (Jan. 18-20). They return to Sweden on Sunday. "It's been a fantastic event here," Kittel said. "I mean, look at the crowd, look at the riding. It's unbelievable."
Vilhelmson-Silfven and Kittel defeated two-time WDM Palm Beach champion Steffen Peters, who notched a third place finish for the United States with 80.175% on the promising Legolas 92. Peters said both he and his horse enjoyed the freestyle. "I love it when I have fun, but I can guarantee you he had a lot of fun tonight too," he said after the ride.
Stephen Clarke, the judge at "C," expressed his excitement at the 11-year-old Legolas 92's potential with Steffen Peters, describing him as "a world class horse that has a great future." Clarke said he saw "true moments of brilliance" during the test.
Heather Blitz and Paragon, the 2012 U.S. Olympic team alternates, took the fourth place spot with 74.900%. "He was really electric from the crowd and just the energy in here," Blitz said of her horse.
Five-time Danish National Champion Lars Petersen rode Mariett to take fifth place with 73.925%. Petersen, a local favorite who bases his training operation in Loxahatchee, FL, earned cheers from the crowd with his upbeat freestyle routine. Mariett, a 15-year-old Danish Warmblood mare, is owned by Marcia Pepper.
David Marcus and Chrevi's Capital impressed spectators with their piaffe and passage, scoring 70.750% to finish in sixth. The duo improved their standings from Friday's Grand Prix, in which they placed seventh.
Steffen Peters and Legolas 92
Adrienne Lyle and Wizard, winners of the Grand Prix Special CDI4* at the 2012 WDM Palm Beach, rounded out the order of finish in the Freestyle with 68.575%. Lyle trains with Debbie McDonald at Peggy and Parry Thomas's River Grove Farm in Idaho. "He's a fantastic horse and I was so happy to have the chance to compete here," said Lyle.
Hans Peter Minderhoud was scheduled to ride first in the Grand Prix Freestyle, but his horse, Withney van 't Genthof, was withdrawn from the competition. Instead, Minderhoud treated spectators to a special exhibition: he brought out Edward Gal's mount, Inter Floor Next One, for a dressage demonstration with Gal providing commentary. Gal withdrew from WDM on Friday due to illness.
The talented horses and riders in the Freestyle put on a show for spectators and judges alike. Clarke, who was recently elected the FEI Dressage Judge General, spoke highly of Vilhelmson-Silfven's ride on Don Auriello. "Tinne's horse, for me, it's absolutely what dressage should be about," Clarke said. "It's all the talk about horses that should be uphill and in balance and in complete harmony with the rider."
"The picture that she presents is, for me, truly outstanding, and I think that we were very lucky to witness that tonight."
Patrik Kittel, Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven, and Steffen Peters with World Dressage Masters sponsor Antonia Axel Johnson, Wellington Classic Dressage Show Manager Noreen O'Sullivan, and WCD Managing Partner John Flanagan
FEI Grand Prix Freestyle O CDI5* USEF HP GAIG/USDF
Sponsored by: Axel Johnson Group 70.000 Euros
1. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfven (SWE) - Don Auriello - 84.075%
2. Patrik Kittel (SWE) - Watermill Scandic H B C - 82.525%
3. Steffen Peters (USA) - Legolas 92 - 80.175%
4. Heather Blitz (USA) - Paragon - 74.900%
5. Lars Petersen (DEN) - Mariett - 73.925%
6. David Marcus (CAN) - Chrevi's Capital - 70.750%
7. Adrienne Lyle (USA) - Wizard - 68.575%