Steffen Peters and Ravel win World Cup dressage title

April 19, 2009

The USA's Steffen Peters and Ravel claimed the 2009 Rolex FEI World Cup Dressage title with a show-stopping Freestyle test that raised the roof of the Thomas & Mack Center in Las Vegas yesterday (US time).

Steffen Peters and Ravel (USA) winners of the 2009 World Cup final.

Runners-up Isabell Werth and Satchmo (GER)

Anky van Grunsven and IPS Painted Black (NED) were third. © Kit Houghton/FEI

The German-born 44-year-old from San Diego, California edged Germany's double World Cup champion Isabell Werth into runner-up position with an inspirational performance, while nine-time winner Anky Van Grunsven from The Netherlands had to settle for third.

This was just the second-ever US victory in the 23-year history of the Dressage World Cup - the previous American to take title was Debbie McDonald who, on Friday, officially retired the great mare Brentina who carried her to World Cup success in 2003.

Peters - who takes home $US103,000 for the win - was chasing Werth's leading score of 84.500% when third-last into the arena. Werth's 15-year-old gelding Satchmo can be nervous and fearful on occasions, but he kept his cool to produce spectacular movements this time out and snatched the lead from Dutchman Hans Peter Minderhoud and Exquis Nadine who were real crowd-pleasers.

But there had been something magical about Peters and Ravel all week.

During Wednesday's warm-up the crowd went crazy with excitement as they watched them in practice and they went wilder still when the US duo topped Thursday's Grand Prix. If the noise level was difficult to cope with then, it faded into insignificance compared to Freestyle night, when the spectators simply could not contain their excitement. Peters admitted he was "concerned" when they started clapping and screaming with delight as he worked his way through near-perfect piaffe and passage but Ravel didn't let him down.

"I could see his ears were still pointing towards me and not to the crowd so I knew he was still listening to me. There was amazing electricity in there and it was hard for the dressage fans to hold back - honestly I appreciate it!" he said.

At the Olympic Games in Hong Kong last summer they finished just out of the medals in fourth place but everything this partnership has already achieved is extraordinary. The trip to China came just seven months after Peters started riding this horse, who continues to grow in confidence and ability.

"Ravel has improved so much and I didn't have to push him tonight, he was just so with me all the time. He's naturally a very level-headed horse," he explained. "Even before the Grand Prix when I schooled him I knew this could be good here in Las Vegas. I can't take too much credit for his mind, that's just the way he was born," he said.

The crowd exploded as he came up the center line to finish but there was an agonizing wait for the score which saw him take the lead by less than half a percentage point. Then it was time to sit back and watch van Grunsven take her turn with IPS Painted Black who earned a mark of 82.500%, which proved no danger.

"The degree of difficulty in my test could have been bigger" van Grunsven admitted, "and we did make a mistake in the changes but I'm really pleased - he tried to do well and it's great for the sport that Steffen has won.

It shouldn't always be Anky and Isabell," she saidd, referring to the long-time dominance of these two giants of the sport.

"Of course we will go home now and practice a lot to be sure we beat him the next time," she said.