Emotional Olympic Selection Trials for Dressage

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    Steffen Peters and Ravel were crowned USEF National Grand Prix Dressage Champions and won the U.S. Equestrian Federation Selection Trials for the 2008 U.S. Olympic Team in Dressage with spectacular performances that wrapped up June 29 in San Juan Capistrano, Calif.

    The dressage extravaganza was held over the last two weekends, and culminated on June 29 with the Grand Prix Musical Freestyle. Peters and Ravel were hometown favorites and had the crowd on its feet when the pair finished the final test with a remarkable score of 79.500 percent.

    “I’ve never heard people scream louder than today,” said Peters after his test. “I’m so excited how well Ravel takes that pressure. At the moment, I haven’t found the limit in this horse.”

    Riding to “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones, Ravel and Peters rolled through their final test in front of a packed house. Their final freestyle score brought their two-weekends average to an impressive 75.863 percent.

    Ravel and Peters will be a serious threat in Hong Kong. Owned by Aikiko Yamazaki, Ravel, a 10-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding, made very few mistakes over the course of the competition.

    “I think that we can even turn it up a little bit in Hong Kong,” Peters said.

    Peters, a San Diego rider and veteran Olympian, withstood a serious challenge from Debbie McDonald and Brentina, and there were plenty of tears in the crowd to prove it. McDonald and Brentina, both Olympic champions, gave an emotional performance during their final Grand Prix test. With the music of Aretha Franklin’s “Respect” rocking the house, McDonald nodded her head repeatedly to the audience, a gesture that got her legions of fans clapping and singing out loud. As only she can, McDonald got the crowd to raise the roof during her test, and at the end of her performance, she broke down in tears.

    “Sometimes I just can’t contain myself,” McDonald said after her ride. “If we can pull it off at the Olympics, that would be the only thing better than this. Considering [this] may be my last freestyle with her, I really honestly could not have asked for more.”

    Brentina’s final score during the Grand Prix Freestyle was 78.750 percent and her two-weekends average score was 73.697 percent, putting she and McDonald in second place overall.

    It was announced during the weekend event that Brentina will be retired next year. Owned by Peggy and Parry Thomas of River Grove Farm in Hailey, Idaho, the 17-year-old Hanoverian mare is making her final attempt for a spot on the U.S. team in 2008. The World Equestrian Games and Olympic medalist has a sparkling resume, which also includes a World Cup title. Team McDonald is considering Brentina’s retirement plans, which are scheduled to include breeding via embryo transfer.

    Courtney King-Dye and Harmony’s Mythilus finished just behind McDonald and Brentina with a score of 78.050 percent during the Grand Prix and an overall score of 73.333 percent. In a freestyle featuring her favorite Cat Stevens song, Sad Lisa, King-Dye and Mythilus made no mistakes.

    King-Dye has only been competing at Grand Prix for one year, so her performance aboard the 14-year-old Dutch Warmblood gelding owned by Harmony Amateur Sports Foundation was all the more impressive.

    “This is the culmination of 21 years of work,” said King-Dye about the chance for a trip to her first Olympic Games. “You can work as hard as you possibly can and be a great rider and never have this chance. I’m thrilled to be on a team with Debbie and Steffen. I’ve admired them for years and years.”
    The USEF is still working out the details regarding reserve and alternate riders for the dressage team that will ultimately head to Hong Kong, and is scheduled to make an announcement shortly.
    For complete selection trials results, visit www.dressageontheroadtohongkong.com

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