March 10, 2011 - Wellington, FL - Despite the weather's best attempts to delay the start of the 2011 World Dressage Masters presented by the International Polo Club Palm Beach, the competition prevailed and at 2 PM the only World Dressage Masters in the United States got underway at 2 PM at the Jim Brandon Equestrian Center after some fierce storms passed over Florida.
The field featured 17 of some of the best horses and riders in the world including veteran Olympians from Canada, Denmark, Poland, Sweden and the United States and three of the four members of the U.S. Dressage Team from last September's 2010 Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games.
Scores rose all afternoon, but the last combination in the ring stole the show as double Individual Bronze medalist from the World Games, Steffen Peters (San Diego, CA) delivered on expectations and rode Akiko Yamazaki's Ravel to a dynamite performance. From the moment they cantered into the ring, the pair was relaxed, fluid and confident. They pushed the scores over 80 at early on, settled in the high 70s but then closed the test out with huge marks for the canter work. They finished on 80.872%, a record CDI Grand Prix score for the pair. Peters received a 10 for his riding.
"I wish I had a 12 to give you," said Ground Jury President Cara Whitham to Peters after the test.
Their test featured easy one-tempi changes, relaxed walk work and powerful extensions. The canter work scores eights and nines throughout and the right pirouette was exceptional. The 13-year-old KWPN gelding seemed effortless and stormed to the lead.
"It was an amazing ride," said Peters. "It is a ride that I think I will compare all my other rides to."
Peters' left no question that this was his competition to lose. The defending champions from the 2010 World Dressage Masters in the Grand Prix will be looking to retain the top spot in the Freestyle - they finished second last year.
"I made a deal with coach Anne Gribbons (who is the U.S. Dressage Team Technical Advisor) that I would change my music after this show," said Peters. "So this will be the last time with the WEG music."
Peters' teammate from WEG, Tina Konyot (Palm City, FL) put in rock-solid effort with her own and John Bryiasen's Calecto V to finish second. The 2010 Collecting Gaits Farm/USEF National Grand Prix Dressage champions showcased incredible canter work and passage and piaffe that were improved from the previous week's tests at the Palm Beach Derby. The 13-year-old Danish Warmblood gelding and his rider have an incredible partnership which is evident by the confidence with which Konyot rides.
"I'm very, very, very happy," said Konyot. "My ride - I'm trying to improve every time, it was one of my better Grand Prix - it was the time to do it. I'm very, very happy with him."
Their score of 72.213% moved them into second place, meaning that they punched their ticket to the Grand Prix Freestyle CDI5* under the lights on Friday night.
Rounding out the top three was Tinne Vilhelmsson Silven from Sweden. The five-time Olympian who has been trading wins with Konyot this spring in Florida scored 71.298% on Antonia Ax:son Johnson and Goran Ennerfelt's Favourit.
"It's been such a great time these three months," said Vilhlmsson Silven about her time in Florida. "It's been a great opportunity to educate my horses here. Favourit was a little tense but I'm still very pleased."
President of the Ground Jury, Whitham led an international panel of judges which included Stephen Clark, Gary Rockwell, Lois Yukins and Wim Emes.
This is the first of four World Dressage Masters competitions around the globe in 2011 with stops in Munich, Falsterbo and Hickstead. The series of these events is sponsored by the Axel Johnson Group.
Please visit USEF Network at www.usefnetwork.com for photos, blogs and information about the event. Friday's Grand Prix Special begins at 1 PM and is available via live video stream.
The Freestyle will feature Peters and Ravel, Konyot and Calecto V, Vilhelmsson Silven and Favourit, Asley Holzer and Pop Art, Todd Flettrich and Otto, Anja Ploenzka and Le Mont d'Or, Anne Van Olst and Exquis Clearwater and Christa Laarakkers and Ocarion. This competition is the featured event of the World Dressage Masters Palm Beach presented by the International Polo Club Palm Beach and the festivities begin at 7:30 PM.
Don't miss a moment of the action - as the remainder of the CDI5* competition will be available on www.usefnetwork.com.