Steffen and Ravel defend title, but only just
WDM Palm Beach Exquis Grand Prix Freestyle winners Steffen Peters and Ravel.
The American rider successfully defended his title, but it wasn’t an easy victory as Dujardin and Valegro came within five one hundredths of a percentage point of toppling Peters from the center of the podium.
“I had a great night with Ravel, but I watched Charlotte after our ride,” said Peters after the awards ceremony.
“When she came out of the ring I went over and said to her, ‘I think you’ve won it.’ It is exciting to be that close to another of the world’s top horses and riders,” Peters said.
“I felt like I was a team in the play-off who kicked a field goal with one second left,” said Peters after the scores were verified.
Peters and Akiko Yamazaki’s 14-year-old KWPN gelding had received a score of 83.7%, which kept them ahead of Dujardin and Valegro, a ten-year-old KWPN gelding owned by Carl Hester and Roly Luard, by the tiniest of margins; the British pair received 83.65% for their performance.
Peters and Ravel’s dramatic freestyle was very difficult and received a standing ovation from the crowd.
“What an amazing ride,” said Peters. “Thanks again to my buddy Ravel.”
Ravel’s incredibly difficult transitions, including from canter pirouette to piaffe to walk, were seamless. His half-pass has amazing reach at both the trot and the canter and the one- time changes on the centerline were effortless. The all-around brilliance gave this pair the edge – making them back-to-back World Dressage Masters Palm Beach Champions.
“It was the ride of my lifetime, I’ve never done a better freestyle,” said Peters. “He felt absolutely amazing – if we can just keep this for the next seven months [for the Olympic Games].”
Music from Avatar proved incredibly powerful and Ravel was full of confidence, from one difficult movement to the next.
“It was great,” said Peters. “It felt wonderful. Ravel was even more powerful than last night – but relaxed in between for the walk tour.”
Dujardin rode confidently – after a slight bobble in the first centerline, she never gave up and got every conceivable point out of her Dutch gelding.
“I had a great ride,” said Dujardin. “He dealt with the atmosphere really well, today I felt like he was much more with me. Yesterday Valegro was a little bit too hot and I was hanging on for dear life.
“I felt like I had a bit more control today.”
A perennial competitor on the Florida scene, Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén of Sweden put in a dynamic effort with Antonia Ax:son Johnson’s 13-year-old Rheinlander gelding Favourit, for 78.250% and third place.
Wim Ernes was the judge at C and he was pleased with the level of the contest. To him, Ravel’s level of difficulty was what gave him the edge. And the win.
“They went to the limit,” said Ernes. “That’s real sport.”
John Goodman of IPC Palm Beach and Antonia Ax:son Johnson of Axel Johnson Group. © Sue Stickle and Marie Cobb
The FEI ground jury consisted of Stephen Clarke (GBR), Wim Ernes (NED), Isabelle Judet (FRA), Gary Rockwell (USA) and Lois Yukins (USA).
Close to 2000 people filled the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center to capacity to watch some of the world’s best dressage horses and riders perform their Grand Prix Freestyles to music. Spectators were treated to a half time laser light show from GoodWray Productions, which also provided an unprecedented level of High Definition live stream coverage which was viewed by thousands of people around the world.
Saturday night’s completely sold out evening was an unqualified success by all accounts. “This is the place in the world where it happens,” said Antonia Ax:son Johnson of Axel Johnson Group, presenting sponsor of the World Dressage Masters, which is the richest and most prestigious dressage series in the world.
“We brought nine horses to Florida last year, and we found it’s the most wonderful place for horses and riders. We now have a farm of our own here and are residents in Wellington.”
The WDM Palm Beach would not have been possible for the past two years without the support of the International Polo Club Palm Beach, which became the presenting sponsor in 2011 of the only WDM event outside Europe.
“It was such a great night tonight,” said IPC Palm Beach founder John Goodman. “I think everyone from polo and the other disciplines learned a lot tonight. I’m just honored to be a part of it.”
1. Steffen Peters (USA) Ravel – 83.700%
2. Charlotte Dujardin (GBR) Valegro – 83.650%
3. Tinne Vilhelmson-Silfvén (SWE) Favourit – 78.250%
4. Carl Hester (GBR) Wie Atlantico – 74.850%
5. Anja Plönzke (GER) Le Mont d’Or – 74.800%
6. Tina Konyot (USA) Calecto V – 73.025%
7. Ashley Holzer (CAN) Breaking Dawn – 71.325%
8. Minna Telde (SWE) Deinhardt – 71.000%