USA poised for podium in GP dressage

The U.S. climbed to third place (76.971) in the team rankings in Rio, with bravura performances by its last two riders under pressure, Steffen Peters with Legolas (77.614) now standing sixth individually, and anchor Laura Graves on Verdades (78.071), fifth.

Legs behaved himself and was good in his bogey movement, the one-tempis. Things look bright going into Friday’s Grand Prix Special, which will decide the medals.

“It’s going to be a tight, tight horse race, so to speak,” commented Steffen, but he notes team spirit has helped boost the USA.

“There’s so much camaraderie on our team. We’ve been training together for three months, and every day, we all watch each other. Every day we come to the barn and there is a big group hug.”

Laura and Diddy got 9’s for pirouttes and passage, balancing 5.9 in the one-tempis and 6.3 for a less-than-perfect lead change out of the zig-zags.

wc freestyle april 18 no. 8700 laura graves pats verdades 300dpi
Laura Graves and Verdades have a special relationship. (Photo by Nancy Jaffer)

“My horse was really super,”  said Laura, who is coached by Olympian Debbie McDonald.

“I’m very happy with the feeling he gave me today and the way the training is reflecting in the arena.I’m really happy with the pirouettes and the passage-piaffe, which is a talent for this horse, but not so much in the arena when he’s not sure where to be with his big legs. I feel that’s really improved in the last two months.”

The other team members, Allison Brock (Rosevelt) and Kasey Perry-Glass (Dublet) who rode on the first day of the Grand Prix, also will compete in the Special

Of course, Germany was dominant, with a team mark of 81.295. Britain was able to soar into second among the teams with Valegro’s 85.071 to put the Brits at 79.252. The world record holder in everything GP dressage got bouquets of 10s from the judges for movements from halt/salute to pirouette and extended trot.

This is likely Valegro’s last competitive outing. Why not go out when you’re ahead? Expect a big retirement ceremony at London’s Olympia show. Then maybe he’ll be performing exhibitions, but it won’t be the same without the giant of the sport.

The Netherlands is without the advantage of a drop score after Adelinde Cornelissen retired Parzival yesterday when the 19-year-old horse suffered ill-effects  of a bug bite. So the Dutch stand just behind the U.S. on 76.043, which means the U.S. team has to continue to produce top scores for the GPS if they want to fulfill their dreams and stand on the podium. Sweden (75.319) and Denmark (74.270) make up the rest of the six teams that will field all their riders in the GPS, along with the top eight individuals who are not part of a qualified team.

After the GPS, the top 18 will go for the individual medals. If Valegro keeps up his side, he should win his second straight individual Olympic gold medal with Charlotte Dujardin. Hard to believe Britain had never won a dressage medal until it took double gold at the 2012 Games.

World Number one Kristina Broring-Sprehe of Germany on Desperados stands second with an 82.257, even with a 6.4 for her horse’s not ideal zig-zag.  Right behind in third was her teammate, Isabell Werth on Weiheigold, with 81.029 as her country’s anchor rider. Depending on how she does in Rio, world number two Isabell is poised to overtake the Olympic medal record of Germany’s legendary Reiner Klimke (whose daughter, Ingrid, was on Germany’s silver medal eventing team in Rio).

Standing fourth is yet another German, Dorothee Schneider on Showtime, world number three. They were marked at 80.986. Figure the individual silver and bronze medals will belong to two of those three Germans.

It was nice to see the stands with a few more people today. The weather was better and the top riders of each team were going, so that was the lure, although as I’ve said, Brazil isn’t a GP dressage country. It finished 10th of 11 teams.

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