By KENNETH J. BRADDICK
WELLINGTON, Florida, Jan. 10, 2019–Laura Graves and Verdades, America’s top partnership, won the the Adequan Global Dressage Festival World Cup Grand Prix Thursday in their first outing since double silver-medal pewrformances at the Tryon World Equestrian Games last September.
Laura and the Verdades that officially turned 17 years old 10 days ago, scored 80.065 per cent, for the highest score at the start of a competition year and beginning the combination’s sixth year at at Big Tour and in the first international dressage event of 2019.
Shelly Francis of the United States and Danilo placed second on 72.478 per cent and Sweden’s seven-time Olympian Tinne Vilhelmson Silfvén on Don Aurellio third on 71.587 per cent.
Laura, of the Orlando area community of Geneva, Florida and the KWPN gelding is seeking a start at the World Cup Final in Gothenburg, Sweden in April hoping to improve on two runner-up finishes to world No. 1 and double World Cup championship pair Isabell Werth and Weihegold OLD.
Michael Klimke on Royal Dancer won the CDI3* Grand Prix for the Special on a score of 68.435 per cent, the first Big Tour victory for the German rider and the 13-year-old Hanoverian gelding that began CDI Grand Prix in Wellington two years ago.
Canada’s Jill Irving on Arthur was second on 67.130 per cent and Bent Jensen, former Danish team rider who has long lived in the United States and rides under the Stars ‘n’ Stripes, on Chance in third on 66.167 per cent.
There were some big differences in the scores for Laura and Verdades, Olympic team bronze medalists, Pan American Games team gold and individual silver as well as the WEG and World Cup achievements.
Raphael Saleh at “H” awarded the pair 82.826 per cent, Carlos Lopes of Portugal and Peter Storr of Great Britain at least 80 per cent with Thomas Lang of Austria at “C” the lowest at 77.500 per cent and Hans Christian Matthiesen of Denmark at 79.783 per cent. However, three judges awarded the duo 9s for rider position, the only remaining collective mark, and one gave 9.5.
“I am relieved,” said Laura, smiling, after the ride.
“That’s always a good way to put the first show into perspective after we haven’t been out since the WEG was called off before the freestyle so it’s been quite a bit since we’ve been in the arena. It always feels like okay, we still know what we’re doing.
“He obviously still has a ton of gas in the tank so that’s also a relief. I know everyone is questioning his age and things like this, but he proves that he’s seriously in no form to be laid up in the barn yet. I’m really, really excited with how today went.”
The biggest mistake, she said, came in the zig zag where she blamed herself for poking Verdades on five, but the horse said, ‘Mom, you’ve got to wait for six.’ And so I was really lucky that he saved me there.
“…my favorite part was when I miscounted and he kept me on track. That’s hands-down something you can’t ask from a horse you don’t know. That was something this horse just gave me for free today because he’s so generous. That was my favorite part. I said, ‘Oops my leg came on before I even had a chance to think,’ and he said, ‘One more!’ That makes me laugh a little bit at him.
Three of the five judges awarded eight for the zig zag, one 7.5 and one six.
The Freestyle that Laura and “Diddy,” as she calls Verdades, will perform Friday night under lights will be the first musical performance since the World Equestrian Festival in Aachen, Germany in July as the freestyle at the Tryon WEG was cancelled because of weather concerns.
“This atmosphere is so intense, he gets more electric here than he does at any other huge venue in the world; any other World Cup it doesn’t matter,” she said. “Friday night under the lights is like max for us. So that’s really nothing you can prepare for.”
For the first time, three results instead of two are required to qualify for one of the two places allocated to the North American League at the World Cup Final, the only annual global dressage championship. This is the first of four weeks of qualifiers.
CDI-W World Cup Grand Prix
CDI3* Grand Prix
Source: Dressage News