April 3, 2007 -- Steffen Peters, of San Diego, Calif., was the odds-on favorite going into the freestyle class on April 1, and he did not disappoint. Riding Laurelyn Browning's Floriano, Peters bested second-place Courtney King by close to three percentage points to win the Freestyle Championships and U.S. League Finals in Burbank, Calif.
Reacting to his victory, and his spot on the U.S. team that will compete April 19-21 at the Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage Finals in Las Vegas, Peters said, "It is very, very special. It is an honor to represent the United States."
The 17-year-old gelding looked strong throughout the test, though Peters admitted to riding a bit on the careful side. "This was not a day to take too many risks," he said.
Peters said that he hopes to pull out a few mores eights in Las Vegas taking those risks in the extensions and piaffes. He laughed about the mistakes in his two tempis, and said that up until the day's competition, he and Floriano had completed six mistake-free tests in a row.
"Shell-shocked," was the phrase Courtney King, of Sherman, Conn., used to describe the excitement of her second-place finish. "Our goal was just to make it to the League Finals," she said. Now she will be going on to the World Cup finals.
King's mount, Idocus, owned by Christine McCarthy, is 17 years old. Responding to the age questions, King said she will never push Idocus a day beyond the time when he is happy and into his work. "Every day [with an older horse] is emotional, and every show is a blessing. I am really thrilled," she said.
Third-place finisher, Leslie Morse of Beverly Hills, Calif., took huge risks with a very high degree of difficulty in her freestyle. Riding her Swedish stallion, Tip Top 962, Morse had noticeable troubles in many spots, but put in an exciting ride to jazzy music. This will be the fourth World Cup for Morse, who has represented the U.S. twice on Kingston and now for a second time on Tip Top 962.
Peters said it was not quite the same without friend and fellow competitor Guenter Seidel who had to withdraw after his horse Aragon (owned by Dick and Jane Brown) came up lame in the warm-up following a jog earlier in the week. Donna Richardson was also forced to withdraw when her Jazzman developed a temperature.
Peters, King and Morse will spend the next few weeks working with U.S. Chef d'Equipe Klaus Balkenhol in California in preparation for the World Cup finals. They will ship together to Las Vegas on April 16 and will be joined there by Catherine Haddad who was granted a fourth spot on the U.S. team by the International Equestrian Federation (FEI) based on scores earned in Europe.
1. FLORIANO - Steffen Peters (California) 78.700. 17-year-old Westphalian gelding owned by Laurelyn Browning
2. IDOCUS - Courtney King (Connecticut) 75.500. 17-year-old Dutch stallion owned by Christine McCarthy
3. TIP TOP 962 - Leslie Morse (California) 73.000. 13-year-old Swedish stallion owned by Morse
4. WILD ONE - Arlene (Tuny) Page (Florida) 71.051. 11-year-old, Hanoverian gelding owned by Page
5. NERUDA - Michael Barisone (New Jersey) 70.750. 12-year-old Dutch gelding owned by Jane Suwalsky
6. PAROCCO - Jeremy Steinberg (Washington) 67.800. 17-year-old Wurtenberg gelding owned by Jennifer Smith