Wellington, FL - The 2011 World Dressage Masters Palm Beach presented by International Polo Club Palm Beach finished in spectacular style on the evening of Friday March 11th, as eight of the world's top dressage pairs performed Grand Prix Freestyles for a sold out audience of 1200 at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center in West Palm Beach, Florida. The performances got progressively more exciting as the evening progressed, with the final competitor, Olympic and World Equestrian Games medalist Steffen Peters of the United States, putting the crown on the evening with a dynamic and nearly flawless ride on Ravel that earned him 84.55%, the highest score ever awarded at the WDM Palm Beach. Tinne Vilhelmsson Silfven of Sweden rode Favourit to 77.975% and second place, while Peters' team-mate from the 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games Tina Konyot was third with 76.775% on Calecto V.
Peters' victory was just one of several causes for celebration for the WDM Palm Beach's sponsors, organizers and participants. The fact that the event took place at all in 2011 is a remarkable achievement in itself. Following the announcement from the hosts of the 2009 and 2010 WDM Palm Beach in late November that the event had been canceled, it appeared that the North American leg of the world's richest dressage series, which is also North America's only CDI5*, would disappear from American soil. But in January, Wellington Classic Dressage made a three year agreement to produce the WDM Palm Beach. When the Goodman family and International Polo Club Palm Beach stepped up to become presenting sponsors, the WDM Palm Beach's future was secured. Financial support also came from Ravel's owner, Akiko Yamazaki.
In little more than a month, International Polo Club, International Polo Club Catering and Wellington Classic Dressage spared nothing in their preparations. Paying attention to every detail, they created an event that served not only the dressage community, but also a wider public - giving North Americans a rare opportunity to witness top international dressage at close proximity. "I want to thank the organizers for setting up this competition in such a short time," said WDM founder and CEO Anthony M. Kies on Friday evening. "To the Goodman family, we thank you very much. Without you and Akiko this was not possible. I think we had a fantastic show tonight." The Grand Prix Freestyle, whose competitors received 60,000 of the 100,000 Euros in prize money awarded at the WDM Palm Beach, was the center piece of a Southern France-themed gala affair. Featuring a five course dinner and wine from many of France's top wine regions - from Champagne to Bordeaux - International Polo Club Catering literally transformed the arena at the Jim Brandon Center to resemble an elegant evening in the French countryside.
Carol Cohen is a member of the Host Committee for the WDM Palm Beach. She was delighted with the outcome of all the hard work and creativity that resulted in the success of the 2011 event. "I was really tickled pink to be part of the Host Committee," she said. "As a dressage rider I was thrilled that International Polo Club picked up the slack and put on such a fantastic event." The WDM Palm Beach was particularly special for Cohen because of her relationship to some of the competitors. Before and after the competition, Ravel spent his time at her stables in Wellington, where Steffen Peters gives monthly clinics throughout the winter season. Cohen was excited not only for Peters' victory, but also for the third placed horse in the freestyle, the Danish stallion Calecto V, ridden by American Tina Konyot. "Calecto is by my stallion Come Back II, so it was a kind of a double victory," she explained.
All three competitions at the WDM Palm Beach yielded exciting performances and record-breaking results. Peters, who came to Florida as the odds-on favorite, lived up to expectations with the win and the highest Grand Prix CDI result of his career on the first day. His score of 80.872% put him well ahead of his nearest rivals, second placed Konyot with Calecto V (72.213%) and third placed Tinne Vilhelmsson Silfven of Sweden on Favourit (71.340%).
The Grand Prix Special, which took place on Friday afternoon, saw the bottom nine pairs from the Grand Prix get a second chance at victory. Poland's Michal Rapcewicz made history by becoming the first rider from his country to win a major international dressage competition. With Randon, his score of 69.771% gave him a narrow lead over American Pierre St. Jacques and Lucky Tiger (69.417%). In third place was another American, Shawna Harding and Come On III (68.958%).
WDM Managing Director John Van de Laar expressed gratitude to the 17 riders from nine nations who rode at the WDM Palm Beach with such enthusiasm and sportsmanlike competitiveness. "That the riders here want to win is a sign this is a competition that needs to be here in the US. If we can do what we did in this short window of time, you can only imagine what we can do when we have more time."
Complete results from the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Special and Grand Prix Freestyle at the 2011 WDM Palm Beach presented by International Polo Club Palm Beach can be found by going to www.WorldDressageMasters.com. Past WDM results, as well as complete WDM Rider Rankings can also be found on the WDM website.
Nürnberger WDM Rider Rankings Following WDM Palm Beach 2011 (top 10):
1. Anja Ploenzke (GER)
2. Michal Rapcewicz (POL)
3. Tinne Vilhelmsson Silfven (SWE)
4. Anne Van Olst (DEN)
5. Christa Laarakkers (NED)
6. Valentina Truppa (ITA)
7. Steffen Peters (USA)
8. Adelinde Cornelissen (NED)
9. Evi Strasser (CAN)
10. Anky Van Grunsven (NED)