Victory for Steffen Peters in Grand Prix Freestyle

Monday, July 6, 2009

The American is the Dressage Champion of Aachen

It was pure excitement up until the very end in the dressage arena in Aachen. Would it again be the American rider who managed to beat the “Freestyle Queen“ and Olympic champion Anky van Grunsven in the Deutsche Bank Prize, Grand Prix Freestyle? Van Grunsven had set the score to beat at 84.50 percent with her highly technical choreography. And yet Steffen Peters still managed to go one better, claiming his third victory at the World Equestrian Festival, CHIO Aachen with a score of 85.60 percent. Their Freestyle performance produced a record for them of 85.600 per cent, 1.1 per cent higher than the Dutch pair Van Grunsven and IPS Salinero.

“It was almost like riding in front of a home crowd. The competition went even better than at the World Cup Final in Las Vegas,“ commented the 44-year-old rider who emigrated to California as a 20-year-old after growing up in Rhineland. Steffen Peters’ freestyle routine was packed with technically difficult exercises – it began with the canter tour with flying-changes on a curved line. Also remarkable was the direct combination of a pirouette, piaffe and the extended walk, ridden on their musical compilation of Coldplay, the Rolling Stones and Mark Knopfler.

Peters and Ravel came to Europe to the Johann Hinnemann stables near his mother for this single competition in Aachen only to show their 2008 FEI World Cup title was not a fluke. “To win in Aachen, all three classes, is incredible. This will be hard to top!”, Peters said.

And Peters added: “You only get a horse like Ravel once in a lifetime. He is very sensitive, is always on my side and ready to fight for me, but at the same time he is extremely relaxed and totally reliable, which means I can ride into the tests without being nervous!”

Aachen seems to bond the two, because Steffen Peters discovered Ravel during the FEI World Equestrian Games at the Soers in 2006. Ravel was trained by Edward Gal at intermediate level being almost ready for Grand Prix. ”It seems to be a good omen, my sponsor Akiko Yamazaki bought him for me back then. We took our time with him. He was gelded and slowly trained up to be my secret weapon. His first international tournament was the Olympic Games in Hong Kong in 2008, becoming fourth individually!”, commented Steffen Peters.

The World Championships in Kentucky are the pair’s next big goal. “We are going to take things easy now, perhaps we will compete at the World Dressage Masters in Florida. To defend my World Cup title in The Netherlands next April is also still in de stars. Otherwise we are going to wrap Ravel up in cotton wool, to make sure that he remains fit!”

After winning the Grand Prix, Grand Prix Spécial and the Grand Prix Freestyle, Ravel and Peters also secured the title of Dressage Champions Aachen 2009, which is patroned by the Liselott Schindling Foundation for the Promotion of Dressage. Liselott Schindling is the Olympic gold medallist of München 1972 and the mother of Ann Kathrin Linsenhoff, who is stepmother to Matthias Alexander Rath. Rath became the second best German rider this year in the Aachen CDIO, becoming seventh in the Freestyle. “Sterntaler-Unicef was fresher today so it felt better again”, Rath commented on his performance. “Of course it’s a shame that we couldn’t repeat our recent performance level showed in Balve at the German championships here. But Aachen is quite simply Aachen and the requirements are totally different!”

Second place in the Freestyle as well as in the Grand Prix Special went to IPS Salinero under Anky van Grunsven, ahead of compatriot Hans Peter Minderhoud with Exquis Nadine.

Olympic gold medallist Anky commented: “I am very pleased that Salinero after Grand Prix has performed better over the last two days. Unfortunately, in the Freestyle we had a small disturbance in the extended trot.” Anky van Grunsven finished second with 84.50 percent. “Of course I would have preferred to win. But it is very good and important that the sport remains exciting and that nobody knows beforehand who is going to win. I went for it and except for my mistake it couldn’t have been better,“ added the mother of two. “Whereby I am very glad that Steffen is American, so he can’t be a threat to us at the European Championships in Windsor!”, she joked.

Anky also added that coming fifth in the Grand Prix Thursday was the best motivator she could have had at this moment. At the Dutch championships being the runner up she had to think about whether to give up high performance competition with Salinero or “fight for it.” She could not find the right motivation yet. At the CHIO Rotterdam she became third in her favourite test the Freestyle, which again gave her food for thought. “However becoming fifth in Aachen really opened my eyes. I don’t want to be fifth again! I want to ride with the knife between my teeth. I enjoy riding and want both to enjoy riding, competing and win!”, she concluded.

Dutch rider, Hans Peter Minderhoud, came third on the 14-year-old KWPN mare, Exquis Nadine with a score of 80 percent in the Freestyle. Hans Peter Minderhoud who also secured  the CDI-Freestyle win aboard Exquis Escapado and had great performances with his former World Champion Young Horses Florencio in Prix St Georges and Intermediate I said: “I am very happy with my performances in Aachen! I brought three horses with me to ride seven tests. Being placed in the top three every time, was a dream,” said Minderhoud, whose partner Edward Gal is considered to be one of the favourites to win the European Championships with the Gribaldi son, Moorlands Totilas.

Fourth place went to the British rider, Emma Hindle, who lives in Odenwald. Hindle rode her Olympic Games horse, Lancet, a 16-year-old Hannoverian approved stallion by Wenzel. The consistency in judging her tests brought her in the Freestyle the best placing of the Aachen contest of this year and is also a personal best in her Freestyle.
The best German result was exceptionally low this year: a fifth place for Heike Kemmer, who received 77.90 percent for her freestyle routine on Bonaparte. Heike Kemmer being in the lead after the first dressage day Grand Prix said: “The situation now in Germany is very frustrating. The theme doping is in everyone’s mind and mouth and it is very difficult to concentrate on the sport properly at the moment.”

The 19-year-old Balagur and Alexandra Korelova became sixth in the Freestyle. Monica Theodorescu who refrained from competing in Aachen due to a small injury of her Whisper was in tears when the favourite pair of her father even reached for third position individually in Grand Prix and at that time received a ten for transitions piaffe-passage. “Balagur still immensely enjoys performing, I really enjoyed riding here!”, Alexandra Korelova commented. “We have got our targets set on the European Championships. But we decide from show to show, how fit he is and whether he is still enjoying doing dressage.”

Missing Isabell Werth, it was almost if a lot of German riders coped with some tension. Ulla Salzgeber who had a very nice season until now, in Grand Prix in Aachen simply forgot to ride while she got tensed herself after her horse Herzruf’s Erbe had some mistakes. “Too bad as I bought him in Aachen as a three year old!”, Ulla said. “However I am very happy to show him here in Aachen and to be back in the team.” In the Grand Prix Special Salzgeber had to withdraw as Herzruf’s Erbe suddenly showed an unevenness trotting around the arena. The same happened to Danish Anne van Olst and her Olympic bronze team medalist Exquis Clearwater in Grand Prix.