Home Run for Steffen Peters and Ravel in World Cup Finals' Grand Prix

Fri, 04/17/2009 - 00:00
2009 World Cup Finals

The ecstatic American audience in the Thomas and Mack centre could not have been more thrilled with the outcome of the Grand Prix at the 2009 World Cup Finals in Las Vegas!

Home favourite, German-born U.S. rider Steffen Peters hit a home run with Akiko Yamazaki's Dutch warmblood Ravel, winning the class with a personal record of 77.914% and beating Olympic Champion Anky van Grunsven and Olympic silver medallist Isabell Werth.

The audience went completely wild after the test when Peters left the arena on long rein, waving to the crowds and not believing eyes at seeing his huge score flashing on the board.

“My emotions are hard to describe. I am beside myself," Peters commented. "I honestly kept looking up to the scoreboard to see whether this really happened. Ravel was fantastic. I didn’t have to push him. His only focus was me! He offered everything!”

The Dutch warmblood gelding Ravel (by Contango x Democraat), which is owned by Yamazaki, wife of Yahoo co-founder Jerry Yang, gave it his all in the Grand Prix. Big expressive trot half passes, super piaffe and passage, smooth transitions, great extended walk and a well balanced canter zig zag. The horse stayed soft and supple and was attentive to the aids at all times. All fives judges agreed on Peters' number one place and marked his ride between 76.383% (from Mexican judge Alonso) and a patriotic 80.000% (from American judge Zang). Peters was the only rider to receive all nines for rider and seat position and the effectiveness of his aids of all five judges.

After Peters left the arena, American interim chef d'equipe Jessica Ransehausen told Steffen, "that's what you work all your life for" and Steffen replied "yep, that's it."

Dutch judge Wim Erns commented that "this is a dressage test the way we like to see it. Steffen Peters was in this Grand Prix an true example of a rider who makes his horse perform to its capacities without pressuring it."

But the points earned in the Grand Prix do not count for winning the Final, so the pressure is now on to perform equally well in the Freestyle on Saturday:

“Anky advised me about that in Wellington at the World Dressage Masters where I won the Grand Prix as well. My mistake there was that I didn’t stick to my routine. So my plan now for Saturday is just to stick to my routine and do nothing special. I feel confident as Ravel has showed that he only focuses on me whatever reactions the crowd will give. It’s a wonderful feeling.”

Anky van Grunsven and her second choice Painted Black finished second with 74.170%. Riding to the tunes of Paint it Black in the background, Van Grunsven started her test with much flair. She definitely put her horse under pressure for him to excel. Brilliant trot extensions, which earned them one ten, very good half passes, but then the miscommunications started to happen.

A disgruntled Painted Black chewed less on the bit as usual and was against the leg in chaotic piaffe-passage transitions. Mistakes in the two-tempi's followed, but Anky rode the ones correctly. The canter pirouette to the right was a bit messy. The final trot extension was outstanding again.

Though Anky always rides with much panache and has Painted's legs flying through the air, the harmony and unity she has with Salinero is not there yet with Painted. The halo-effected 74.170% would never have been given to a "mortal" Grand Prix rider no matter how well Anky had her black stallion going in the trot tour. But it is what it is and Anky does bring excitement to the sport by saddling her second horse and still beating Isabell Werth with a personal best score in the Grand Prix. Well done!

Judge Wim Ernes quipped, "Anky always tries to find the limit of what is possible."

Early Thursday morning, Van Grunsven went to the doctor for an allergic reaction which affected her throat and voice. But treatment caught on quickly and in the afternoon, Van Grunsven was able to talk again without a hoarse voice. She was very pleased with her ride.

"I was very satisfied and the beginning was indeed very strong," she said. "Halfway through the test the internal tension in Painted Black got a bit too much, which made us make mistakes in the two tempi's. But still, calmness returned a bit later and that's why we got the highest score of 74.170% I have ever achieved with Painted Black."

It takes some adaptation to see Isabell Werth and Satchmo ranked third. They entered the ring as absolute favourites for the victory, but concentration lapses and mistakes resulted in a third place, a lesson in humility for a rider subscribed to victory. Werth and her 15-year old Hanoverian Satchmo started strong with superb trot half passes which earned her a ten.

In the piaffe Satchmo snatched his hind leg as he tends to step on his own hooves, though without loosing balance. The passage was great. In canter, however, it went downhill. Werth lost count in the zig zag, rode two one tempi's too much in the flying changes and her horse fell into walk in the first pirouette. This sloppiness resulted in a 73.744 score, which was even high considering the mistakes.

Werth choose to ride Satchmo in Las Vegas as she had already won the 2007 World Cup there with Warum Nicht.“This time I liked to give Satchmo the chance to compete in Las Vegas. I love the audience here," she said. " I felt a bit disturbed by the photographers. Therefore I rode more careful in a pirouette as I noticed Satchmo was distracted by the camera noise.”

Judge Ernes commented that, "the photographers were not far away from me and it was clear that Satchmo got distracted by them in several movements. But we as judges can't take that into account."

Hans Peter Minderhoud and Ton Kies' 14-year old Dutch warmblood mare Nadine (by Partout) landed a fourth place with 73.063% though judge Wust even had him in second! Though Minderhoud had his mare moving with much brio, especially in the forehand, a lack of accuracy has cost him points.



He had a nice contact with the bit and the mare was very expressive but she was rushed through the test. Too much speed and not enough balance. She lost the rhythm in the passage-piaffe transitions and could have taken more weight on the hind quarters in the piaffe. The zig zag looked hurried as well.

Fortunately, the judges liked what they saw and scored the pair 8s and 9s for the trot extensions and 7s and 8s for the zig zag.

Eight riders scored in the seventies, including Ashley Holzer, Jeannette Haazen, Monica Theodorescu and Jan Brink. The first part of the Grand Prix was quite a disappointed with American Jan Ebeling struggling to ride his spooky mare Rafalca and American Leslie Morse sadly being eliminated as her 17-year old Dutch stallion Kingston turned lame in the ring. Another disappointment was that the new FEI project FEI TV.org which failed to deliver its promised live streaming of the Grand Prix class and left many viewers feeling ripped off!

While almost every CDI show in Europe is now streamed live on the Internet, FOR FREE (!!!!), the World Cup Finals were one big drama concerning online accessibility. American broadcasting company Universalsports monopolized the market and only serviced Americans and FEI TV asks people to pay for streaming and doesn't deliver what it promises. Big booboo!

But back to the point, the Kur to Music on Saturday is going to be one big thriller. Will Steffen Peters make history by being the first American to win the World Cup Finals on American soil?? Debbie McDonald won the 2003 World Cup Finals in Sweden after winner Ulla Salzgeber got disqualified for doping her horse Rusty. Will Peters be the second in line to bring home the glory? We sure hope so because it'll mean that the Werth-Van Grunsven clique will finally be expanded to three riders!

All photos copyrighted Matt Carter/Eclipse Sportswire
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