Frederic Wandres (GER) returned to the Global Dressage Festival in Wellington, Florida, and to his customary winning ways with the elegant and powerful Bluetooth OLD. In the 4* Grand Prix Freestyle, presented by USPRE Association, the pair posted a new career high score of 81.805%.
Wandres and Bluetooth repeated their podium topping performance from the previous day’s qualifying Grand Prix class.
In a truly international podium, second-placed Morgan Barbançon (FRA) also produced a career-high freestyle score during “Friday Night Stars” on her own 17-year-old KWPN gelding Bolero (by Johnson x Vincent), notching up 77.895%. Sweden’s Caroline Darcourt was just 0.065 percentage points behind, logging 77.83% on Lord Django in the horse’s second ever Grand Prix Freestyle.
Repeat Podium Topping Performance
“I am very happy today,” beamed Wandres, who is based in Germany at Hof Kasselman but is a seasoned competitor in Wellington. “This is the first time for me this season under the lights and I am always looking forward to coming back. I was a little nervous about how it would go because with this special atmosphere you never know how the horses will handle it, but Bluetooth took it in a positive way. I had a much better feeling than in the Grand Prix; he was way fresher and forward, and it felt like one of the best tests that he has offered me.”
Bluetooth, a 13-year-old gelding by Bordeaux x Riccione, was bred by Paul Schockemöhle’s Gestüt Lewitz and was owned by Russians Sergey and Elena Knyaginichev. However, right after the start of the War in Ukraine, Hof Kasselmann took over ownership so the horse could continue to compete.
Wandres and Bluetooth won nine of their 14 international Grand Prix starts in 2022 and have kicked off 2023 with a bang. The talented pair showed exuberance and balanced power in their freestyle — even though it was originally put together for another other Wandres’ Grand Prix horses, Duke Of Britain.
“I have another freestyle in the making for Bluetooth, which maybe we can show later in the season,” added Wandres. “I am lucky that I have three Grand Prix horses with me here, so I’ll try to rotate them. But for sure Bluetooth is the one that we are looking at for the CDI5* — and we have the two World Cup shows in mind, too.”
Bolero Dances to Charles Aznavour
Barbançon was also riding to a freestyle score made for another of her horses — the stallion Sir Donnerhall II — which features the hit song “She” by Barbançon’s favourite singer, the late Charles Aznavour.
“I was really happy with my ride today,” said Barbançon, who is competing at AGDF for the first time and has brought three Grand Prix horses. “It was his first time under the lights so I was a little bit stressed about how he would react, but he coped pretty well with it.
“I love it here. I really hope I can come back in the coming years. I love the atmosphere, it’s a great experience to ride here,” she added. “I’m focusing on my young ones [Habana Libre A and Deodoro], and with Bolero I’m just enjoying the ride and having fun.”
Darcourt Takes the Spotlight
After success in her debut freestyle on the first week of competition in Wellington, Darcourt found herself on the podium again with the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding Lord Django (by Stalypso x Londonderry) despite being a newcomer to Grand Prix level freestyle competition and riding to a soundtrack that was made just two weeks earlier.
“The ride beat the overall expectation I had for him — he has really shown that he wants to do it,” said Darcourt, who has worked for Lövsta Stuteri for 20 years. “The first time I thought it was beginner’s luck, and I got a little nervous about doing it again, but he really worked with me in the ring.”
Darcourt is a return guest to Wellington as the assistant rider to Tinne Vilhelmson Silfven. Her first time competing in Florida was in 2015 aboard Grand Prix horse Paridon Magi and five years later she returned again, in 2020, to campaign licensed stallion Bon Coeur as well as Paridon Magi in his last season before his retirement from sport.
Europeans Sweep Wellington
Judge at C Sandra Hotz was impressed by the high standard of competition and the graceful riding she saw: “The winning test was lovely — in fact the first and second place tests were incredible, and the quality of the horses was very high, as well as the artistic impression. The atmosphere here is amazing, especially for these evening freestyles. The crowd really gets involved and excited. It’s a pleasure and an honour to judge horses and riders of this quality.”
In the Grand Prix Kur to Music the first four places were all taken by European riders, while in the Grand Prix the day before the top six places were capture by European snowbirds in Florida.
GDF’s Director of Sport, Thomas Baur, added: “It was another fantastic Friday night with a truly international podium — I think the U.S. riders have to step up now! The USPRE Week is always a very special week.”
--- GDF press release, edited by Eurodressage - Photo © Sue Stickle
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